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Summary Details

Query:   Goal-Location-Source Ambiguities
Author:  Sander Lestrade
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Morphology

Summary:   I was searching for languages that do not make a distinction between source
and location in their spatial case system, but do have a separate case
marker for goal meaning.

Some of you referred to the very interesting work of Nikitina, which I
forgot to mention in my query (and know of course ;) ).

Latin seems to be a good example: ablative expressing both source and
location: ''Romae'' (abl) meaning ‘from/in Rome’; Romam (acc) meaning ‘to

Some Saami languages (at least Inari) should have a locative case to
express both source and location, and an illative for goal .

The directionality distinction in Cantonese is not made with case but with
the verb, and might have the ambiguity I’m after:

sinsang hai bakging ''The teachers are in Beijing''
sinsang hai bakging lai ''The teachers from Beijing come''
sinsang lai bakging ''The teachers come [to] Beijing''

These examples still need to be checked with native speakers, however, and
I’m not sure about the role of “lai” in the second example.

Then, there are many Indo-European languages languages in which
prepositions combine with different cases to distinguish between goal and
location. This could mean that source meaning patterns with the “location
case”, but it could also be that it has a specific adposition (as in
English “from” versus “on(to)”).

Thanks for all your help! Sander Lestrade

LL Issue: 19.3044
Date Posted: 08-Oct-2008
Original Query: Read original query


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