LINGUIST List 7.263

Mon Feb 19 1996

Sum: Caseless forms

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  1. "Carsten Breul", Sum: Caseless forms (7/205;7/211)

Message 1: Sum: Caseless forms (7/205;7/211)

Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 12:09:12 GMT
From: "Carsten Breul" <>
Subject: Sum: Caseless forms (7/205;7/211)

I want to say a very hearty Thank You to the following persons for
their responses to my query:

Jai Hyun Chung, Leo A. Connolly, Uwe Junghanns, Makoto
Kondo, Eileen Prince Lou, Adam Meyers, Mark Newson, Carson
T. Schutze, Melanie Siegel, Rex A. Sprouse, Karen Stanley,
Cynthia Vakareliyska, Dieter Vermandere.

References (most of which I haven't yet had the opportunity
to consult):

Anderson, Stephen R. (1992), A-Morphous Morphology.
Cambridge: CUP. [esp. chap.5]

HOEKSTRA Teun & Rene MULDER (1990),
"Unergatives as copular verbs", The Linguistic Review 7,

Maling, J. & Sprouse, R.A. 1995. "Structural Case,
Specifier-Head Relations, and the Case of Predicate NPs." H.
Haider, S. Olsen & S. Vikner (eds). STUDIES IN COMPARATIVE
GERMANIC SYNTAX. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

MORO Andrea (1993), I predicati nominali e la struttura
della frase. Padova: Unipress.

MORO Andrea (1995), "Small clauses with predicative
nominals", in CARDINALETTI Anna & Maria Teresa GUASTI
(eds), Small Clauses. San Diego: Academic Press (Syntax &
Semantics 28).

Postal, P.M. & Pullum, G.K. (1988), "Expletive noun phrases
in subcategorized positions", in: Linguistic Inquiry 19:

A) References to the morphological case of predicative NPs
in different languages

Japanese and Korean seem to not show overt case- or topic
markers on the predicative NPs. E.g.

Japanese: sore-wa watasi da
 it-TOP I/me COP

 John-wa sugureta suugakusha da
 John-TOP fine mathematician COP

 John-ga sugurata suugakusha da
 John-NOM fine mathematician COP
 'It is (not Bill but) John that
 is a fine mathematician.'
 (Ex. by Kondo)

Korean: John-eun hulryunghan suhakca-ta.
 John-NOM fine mathematician-be
 'John is a fine mathematician.'
 (Ex. by Chung)

According to Schutze, however, "While in a positive copular sentence
you can't put any case particle on the predicate nominal in Korean, in
a negative NOM becomes obligatory".

Russian, Polish and Czech use Nom. or Instr. Case-forms for the
predicative NP, depending on which copular verb is used, on tense,
aspect (yielding semantic differences), and varietal differences
(synchronic and diachronic). E.g.

Russian: Ivan - prekrasnyj matematik.
 John-Nom fine-MascNomSg mathematician-MascNomSg

 Ivan byl prekrasnyj matematik.
 John-Nom was-MascSg fine-NomMascSg
 (the nuance being that John was a good
 mathematician his whole life and now he's dead)

 Ivan byl prekrasnyjm matematikom.
 John-Nom was-MascSg fine-InstrMascSg
 (the nuance being that John used to be a good
 mathematician but now he's either not a good
 one or not a mathematician)
 (Ex. by Vakareliyska)

B) Comments on and discussion of my assumptions and presuppositions

I restrict myself to only some aspects which I feel I can relate to my
original query without going too far afield. Furthermore, what I say
below is rather my interpretation of the discussion than a faithful
report of the respective commentors' contributions.

It is necessary to distinguish between morphological case and abstract
(structural licensing) Case (Schutze). While it is surely questionable
whether it makes sense to speak of 'morphologically caseless forms'
(Junghanns) - for, by definition, there can't be any if you classify
each occuring morphological form into case-categories -, it remains a
plausible question to ask whether each NP has to be assigned abstract
Case (resp. has to be structurally licensed).

If it is correct that only phrases that get theta-roles need Case
(visibility), then it follows that predicative NPs are Caseless, since
predicative NPs are not considered to be theta-marked by the copula by
many authors (Meyers, Newson, Schutze; according to Vermandere,
however, the works by Moro and Hoekstra & Mulder may point in another
direction). Rather, we might say that the copulative predicate assigns
a theta-role to the subject. This would be in line with Fillmore's
case-grammar (Connolly), but also with an analysis of copular clauses
as 'small-clauses' (Schutze), where, from a structure like [be [John a
fine mathematician]], 'John' raises to the subject position of 'be',
where it receives Nom.-Case.

The relation between abstract Case and morphological case is not clear
by now.

My own, personal conclusion so far is that we may well speak of
predicative NPs as 'Caseless', because they need not be structurally
licensed by abstract Case assignment. Thus, cross-linguistically, and
idiosyncratically, they may bear different morphological case
forms. And, in one and the same language, more than one morph. case
form may occur, indicating semantic differences.

Carsten Breul
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