Case Polysemy

Andrej Malchukov, Heiko Narrog

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

2 Citations (Scopus)


It is probably true that cases which are restricted to one specific meaning are rarer than cases subsuming several meanings. The origins of these polysemies or syncretisms vary: some are conditioned by phonetic factors, especially pervasive in the situation when a case system collapses, others have a transparent semantic basis. A semantic map is a method of capturing and accounting for regular polysemies of linguistic forms. The semantic map approach has been applied to a number of different domains including case. Although semantic maps were established on the basis of cross-linguistic patterns, it is possible to come up with a plausible map for a single language, provided that this language has several markers, or that different nominals display different types of polysemies. Australian languages are representative of this type of case asymmetry. This article explores the polysemy of case markers and its representation in maps, polysemy patterns and syntactic alignment, grammaticalisation and core case marking, Croft's causal chain model, datives and related functions, comitatives and instrumentals, spatial forms, and case functions.

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


  • Case
  • Case markers
  • Causal chain model
  • Comitatives
  • Datives
  • Grammaticalisation
  • Instrumentals
  • Polysemy
  • Semantic maps
  • Syntactic alignment


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