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Review of  Differential Subject Marking

Reviewer: Mohammad Rasekh Mahand
Book Title: Differential Subject Marking
Book Author: Helen de Hoop Peter De Swart
Publisher: Springer
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Book Announcement: 19.3409

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EDITORS: de Hoop, Helen; de Swart, Peter
TITLE: Differential Subject Marking
SERIES: Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory
YEAR: 2008

Mohammad Rasekh Mahand, Linguistics Department, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan,

Differential Subject Marking is a phenomenon which may take many forms. This
book tries to unify formal approaches to language with the typological
enterprise. It is composed of eleven papers, including case studies of
Differential Subject Marking and theoretical discussions, and an introductory
chapter written by the editors. The editors in their introduction to the book
give a review of past and present studies on Differential Subject Marking in
different research fields.

Ellen Woolford in her paper, ''Differential Subject Marking at argument
structure, syntax and PF'', argues that all Differential Subject Marking effects
that involve case marking do not have the same cause, and the cannot have a
unified theoretical account. She distinguishes four types of Differential
Subject Marking effects: 1) depending on the lexical selection properties of the
verbs, 2) triggered by different syntactic contexts such as transitivity, 3)
phonological constraints on the morphological realization of certain case
features, and 4) person or animacy effects.

''Quantitative variation in Korean case ellipsis: implications for case theory'',
is a chapter written by Hanjung Lee. The situation in Korean is a clear example
of Aissen's (2003) model of Differential Subject Marking. The writer shows that
cases are most frequently omitted from objects low in animacy and from subjects
high in animacy, and the same holds with respect to person and definiteness
features. These findings support the mirror image analysis between Differential
Subject Marking and Differential Object Marking effects as proposed by Aissen

In the next paper Helen de Hoop and Bhurana Narasimahan in their chapter
entitled ''Ergative case marking in Hindi'' argue that subjects in this language
are not low prominent, but high prominent arguments; thus, providing clear
evidence against the fact that differential case marking on subjects is always
motivated by the need to disambiguate subjects from objects. They conclude that
case marking can also have the function of marking high prominent subjects or

Jaklin Kornfilt's paper is ''Differential Object Marking and two types of
Differential Subject Marking in Turkish''. Regarding Turkish data, Kornfilt
argues that case marking is in principle used to mark high prominent arguments,
but can be overruled in both directions by syntactic requirements. Thus, she
strongly rejects Aissen's (2003) mirror image approach to Differential Object
Marking and Differential Subject Marking.

Joanna Blaszczak examines the alternation between genitive and nominative
subjects in her chapter on ''Differential Subject Marking in Polish, the case of
genitive vs. nominative subjects in 'X was not at Y' constructions''. She shows
that in Polish the subject of a negated locative sentence bears genitive or
nominative cases depending on aspectual specific context, as in affirmative
contexts the subject is marked as nominative. She argues that the Differential
Subject Marking effect in this type of intransitive constructions is in fact due
to a prominence distinction in the argument input.

Peter M. Arkadiev in his chapter ''Differential argument marking in two-term case
systems and its implications for the general theory of case marking'' argues that
the distinguishing function is certainly not the primary function of case
marking. He shows that in several languages, Like Vafsi, an Iranian language,
and Hindi/Urdu and the like, the function of marking specific semantic or
pragmatic information is more important.

Dimitry ganenkov, Timur Maisak and Solmaz Merdanova have discussed the rich case
system of Agul, an East-Caucasian language, in their paper, ''Non-canonical agent
marking in Agul''. They show that in Agul the two locative cases can be viewed as
a general means to express low agentivity of an agentive participant.

Chapter nine of this collection is a paper by Yukiko Morimoto entitled ''From
topic to subject marking: implication for a typology of subject marking''. This
paper deals with the conflict between marking the grammatical role and marking a
prominence distinction.

Jason brown and Tyler Peterson in their chapter on ''Grammaticalization and
strategies in resolving subject marking paradoxes: the case of Tsimshianic''
present two case studies of ergative/nominative paradoxes. These case studies
approach the issue of grammaticalization and Differential Subject Marking. They
show that the reorganization of case and agreement morphology into paradoxes
will be accompanied by a new paradigm of Differential Subject Marking.

In the eleventh chapter, Mark Donohue on ''Different subjects, different
markings'' argues that in Tukang Besi, subject marking on the verb follows
different paradigms.

In the last paper, Marian Klamer in ''Differential marking of intransitive
subjects in Kambera (Austronesian) presents five different ways in which the
subject of an intransitive clause in Kambera may be cross-referenced on the verb
by pronominal clitics. There is no case-marking on noun phrases in Kambera.

Languages differ in the type of marking systems they have at their disposal.
This collection and the research reported in this study provide an important
step forwards in our understanding of the complex phenomenon of Differential
Subject Marking. It evaluates previous work that directly or indirectly deals
with Differential Subject Marking, and it raises some main questions and tries
to answer them in different papers. On the whole, the volume opens a new
research area, providing minimal grounds for its future developments.

Aissen, J. (2003). Differential object marking: iconicity vs. economy. _Natural
Language and Linguistic Theory_ 21, 435-483.

Mohammad Rasekh Mahand is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Bu-Ali Sina
University, Hamadan, Iran. His research interests include syntax, cognitive
linguistics and typology.

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