LINGUIST List 7.1113

Tue Aug 6 1996

Disc: Case Re: vol-7-1102

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Peter Daniels, Re: 7.1102, Disc: Child `case' Re: vol-7-1062
  2., Re: 7.1062, Qs: Child's ergativity
  3. Dick Hudson, case and coordination

Message 1: Re: 7.1102, Disc: Child `case' Re: vol-7-1062

Date: Sat, 03 Aug 1996 13:07:30 CDT
From: Peter Daniels <>
Subject: Re: 7.1102, Disc: Child `case' Re: vol-7-1062
Here's a datum from last night's (Fri 2 Aug 96) late-night Olympics
coverage. In an athlete profile, a young American boxer, Antonio
Tarver I think was his name, mentioned that at one point he "succame"
to peer pressure and did drugs. This indicates that he knew "succumb"
aural/orally: perhaps not on anyone's top-5,000 basic vocabulary list.
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Message 2: Re: 7.1062, Qs: Child's ergativity

Date: Mon, 05 Aug 1996 13:24:09 +1000
From: <>
Subject: Re: 7.1062, Qs: Child's ergativity
Vincent de Caen's examples remind me of a recent study by Nancy Budwig
(1989): 'The linguistic marking of agentivity and control in child
language' (Journal of Child Language 16: 263-284), in which she found
that verbs expressing actions which were overtly agentive and required
some degree of control on the part of the (1st person) subject used a
subject pronoun 'my', while those which were not expressive of
agentivity were marked with a subject pronoun 'I'. There seems to be
strong semantic motivation on the part of the child to indicate a
distinction showing the degree of subject involvement in the action
expressed, but it is interesting to note that, while De Caen's
examples show what one would expect - the use of the accusative case
to mark intransitivity, e.g. 'her's sick', the reverse situation
appears to be happening with Budwig's data, in which the nominative
pronoun form is used to mark the subject of actions which involve less
control on the part of the subject.

Debra Ziegeler
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Message 3: case and coordination

Date: Mon, 05 Aug 1996 12:51:42 BST
From: Dick Hudson <>
Subject: case and coordination
Karl Teeter writes, re sentences like "Mary and me left":

>	Interesting discussion on the preferred use of the "disjunctive"
>forms of pronouns in English -- don't we all, in real life, say "me and
>him"? But I find it hard to see what this might have to do with UG or any
>modern loss of case. I seem to recall that Klima's Ph.D. thesis of
>thirty or more years ago established that this usage was common in English
>from the fourteenth century...Yours, kvt

I didn't know about Klima's thesis, and am interested to hear that
this pattern already existed in 14th century English. That makes the
whole process much more ancient, which is interesting. But the link to
UG remains. The argument goes like this. Suppose:
a. UG is innate.
b. UG includes a set of deep Cases linked to specific syntactic
c. UG includes a preference to link deep Cases to morphological cases
where the latter are available. (Otherwise why call them `Cases'?)
Now consider a child growing up in a community where sentences like
the following are common:
(1) I like her.
(2) She likes me.
Coordinate structures would be much less common, and therefore less
influential. (Ted Harding's Oxfordshire would *not* be such a
community! Lord knows what's going on there.) Given a-c, the child
would *have* to assume that "I" vs "she" and "she" vs "her" were
surface reflexes of deep Case. Therefore even if examples like (3)
occurred, as speech errors or whatever, they would simply be ignored.
(3) Her and I/me like him. Once "I" is recognised as the nominative
of "me", and nominative is recognised as the realisation of
Nominative, examples like (3) are blocked - as they are in all
languages that have real morphological case. Therefore (my
I. English does not have case even in its pronouns.
II. UG does not include abstract Case. 

I've spelt all this out more fully in JL 31:375-92 (1995). 

Richard Hudson 
Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, 
University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E
6BT work phone +171 419 3152; work fax +171 383 4108 email; web-site
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