Miriam Butt in Manchester

Posted on March 19, 2014 by



This coming Wednesday (26th), Miriam Butt (Konstanz) will be giving an extra research seminar talk in Manchester, on the topic of Differential Case Marking as a primarily semantic strategy: Evidence from South Asia. Though the talk is on a Wednesday, it’s at the usual time (4.15pm) and in the usual place (Ellen Wilkinson A2.16). Here’s the abstract:

This talk takes on the empirical observation that languages can start out with perfectly good case systems and then either lose the original case marking system (due to the usual processes of erosion) and fail to innovate a new one (e.g., English, German, Romance languages) or lose the original case marking system (due to the usual processes of erosion) and then begin use new forms, replacing the old ones (though not necessarily in a one-to-one relationship) (e.g., Hindi/Urdu, Nepali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati). In this talk I suggest that the primary reason for case markers to be innovated in language families like Indo-Aryan is to keep alive a system of semantic distinctions made by the case system. In languages where new case markers fail to innovate, the semantic burden is instead taken up by other elements of a grammar such as an article system or a more complex verbal inventory. In contrast, approaches which try to explain the innovation of case marking only in terms of markedness, argument indexing or distinguishability are too simplex and cannot account for the range of data found in Indo-Aryan.

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