LINGUIST List 7.211

Thu Feb 8 1996

Qs: Caseless Forms, New England French, Armenian erku

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  1. "Carsten Breul", Caseless forms?
  2. rwilliamsSMCVAX.SMCVT.EDU, New England French
  3. Alexis Manaster Ramer, Armenian erku

Message 1: Caseless forms?

Date: Mon, 05 Feb 1996 09:14:36 GMT
From: "Carsten Breul" <>
Subject: Caseless forms?
Dear linguists,

the visibility condition for theta-marking seems to imply
that not all overt NPs are Case-marked. Chomsky (Knowledge
of Language, p. 95) writes: "the visibility condition does
not require Case assignment to an NP that is not
[theta]-marked (unless this NP must 'transfer' Case to an

I assume that the copula complements in such 'identifying'
sentences as

(1) It's me/?I.
(2) C'est moi (French)

are not theta-marked and need not 'transfer' Case, and are
thus not assigned Case, i.e. are ultimately Case-less.

My assumption seems to be compatible with Chomsky's (ibid.)
remark that the visibility condition does not require that
the bracketed NP in (3) is assigned Case:

(3) John is [a fine mathematician].

On the other hand, this remark of Chomsky's and my
assumption seem to be incompatible with Chomsky's
statement that "Complements of a head always occupy
[theta]-positions" (ibid., p.93). I mean, obviously
'me/I', 'moi' and 'a fine mathematician' in (1)-(3) are
complements of copulas which head a VPs; and does
the notion of 'theta-position' not imply that elements
that occur in them are theta-marked?

My idea now is that Chomsky's statement that "Complements
of a head always occupy [theta]-positions" is not true for
copulas as heads (as in (1)-(3)), and that the
inconsistency referred to above can be remedied by
acknowledging this.

My question now is this: Are there any languages in which
the copula complements in sentences analogous to
(1)-(2)/(3) have forms that are MORPHOLOGICALLY NOT
IDENTICAL with any of the obviously Case-marked forms. In
other words: Are there any languages which distinguish
morphologically between Case-marked forms and (what I
assume to be) Case-less forms.

If such languages exist, this would, I think, provide a
good empirical argument for my assumption.

I would be very grateful for answers to my question as well
as comments on my idea, and for eliminations of
misunderstandings which I may be subject to. References to
relevant literature would be welcome as well.

Carsten Breul
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Message 2: New England French

Date: Thu, 08 Feb 1996 09:11:59 -0400
From: rwilliamsSMCVAX.SMCVT.EDU <rwilliamsSMCVAX.SMCVT.EDU>
Subject: New England French

I am beginning research on the structural consequences of language
obsolescence on the variety of French spoken in northern New England.
Can anybody recommend a descriptive grammar of Canadian French or New
England French?

Bob Williams <>
Saint Michael's College
Colchester, VT
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Message 3: Armenian erku

Date: Thu, 08 Feb 1996 08:51:14 EST
From: Alexis Manaster Ramer <amrCS.Wayne.EDU>
Subject: Armenian erku
I don't know if I am the only one who feels ready to scream
after seeing the zillionth reference to Armenian erku '2'
as somehow proving that languages that are REALLY related
are bound to look completely dissimilar (since erku is
cognate with forms like Russian dva, for example). But
having just come across the zillionth reference, I am, and
I thought it might be useful to point out that Armenian
also has forms like berem (Russian beru, Sk. bhara:mi, etc.).
'I carry' (in Russian 'I take').
Alexis Manaster Ramer
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