Typology of Case Systems: Parameters of Variation

Andrej Malchukov, Andrew Spencer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The sizes of case systems vary dramatically, from the minimal (two case) systems, to the large inventories exemplified by Daghestanian. An interesting question is whether there are any constraints on the types of possible case systems in the sense that availability of one case implies availability of another. The most concrete proposal of this kind so far is Blake's case hierarchy. Another general aspect of case systems which is subject to crosslinguistic variation is the relation between morphological versus syntactic case. 'Morphological case' (m-case) refers to an (inflectional) case form of a nominal, what might be called a formal characterisation. On the other hand, 'syntactic case' refers to the case function borne by a noun phrase in a phrase, and this is defined distributionally, in terms of grammatical relations, subcategorisation, agreement, and so on. It is important to bear in mind that we are thinking of 'syntactic case' in a descriptive or pre-theoretic sense. This article discusses typological variation in case systems and case marking.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Case
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191743535
ISBN (Print)9780199206476
StatePublished - Sep 18 2012


  • Case hierarchy
  • Case marking
  • Case systems
  • Cross-linguistic variation
  • Morphological case
  • Syntactic case


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