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Article

James Myers

Acceptability judgments are reports of a speaker’s or signer’s subjective sense of the well-formedness, nativeness, or naturalness of (novel) linguistic forms. Their value comes in providing data about the nature of the human capacity to generalize beyond linguistic forms previously encountered in language comprehension. For this reason, acceptability judgments are often also called grammaticality judgments (particularly in syntax), although unlike the theory-dependent notion of grammaticality, acceptability is accessible to consciousness. While acceptability judgments have been used to test grammatical claims since ancient times, they became particularly prominent with the birth of generative syntax. Today they are also widely used in other linguistic schools (e.g., cognitive linguistics) and other linguistic domains (pragmatics, semantics, morphology, and phonology), and have been applied in a typologically diverse range of languages. As psychological responses to linguistic stimuli, acceptability judgments are experimental data. Their value thus depends on the validity of the experimental procedures, which, in their traditional version (where theoreticians elicit judgments from themselves or a few colleagues), have been criticized as overly informal and biased. Traditional responses to such criticisms have been supplemented in recent years by laboratory experiments that use formal psycholinguistic methods to collect and quantify judgments from nonlinguists under controlled conditions. Such formal experiments have played an increasingly influential role in theoretical linguistics, being used to justify subtle judgment claims or new grammatical models that incorporate gradience or lexical influences. They have also been used to probe the cognitive processes giving rise to the sense of acceptability itself, the central finding being that acceptability reflects processing ease. Exploring what this finding means will require not only further empirical work on the acceptability judgment process, but also theoretical work on the nature of grammar.

Article

The Romance languages are characterized by the existence of pronominal clitics. Third person pronominal clitics are often, but not always, homophonous with the definite determiner series in the same language. Both pronominal and determiner clitics emerge early in child acquisition, but their path of development varies depending on clitic type and language. While determiner clitic acquisition is quite homogeneous across Romance, there is wide cross-linguistic variation for pronominal clitics (accusative vs. partitive vs. dative, first/second person vs. third person); the observed differences in acquisition correlate with syntactic differences between the pronouns. Acquisition of pronominal clitics is also affected if a language has both null objects and object clitics, as in European Portuguese. The interpretation of Romance pronominal clitics is generally target-like in child grammar, with absence of Pronoun Interpretation problems like those found in languages with strong pronouns. Studies on developmental language impairment show that, as in typical development, clitic production is subject to cross-linguistic variation. The divergent performance between determiners and pronominals in this population points to the syntactic (as opposed to phonological) nature of the deficit.

Article

Several factors influence children’s initial choices of word-formation options––simplicity of form, transparency of meaning, and productivity in current adult speech. The coining of new words is also constrained by general pragmatic considerations for usage: Reliance on conventionality, contrast, and cooperation between speaker and addressee. For children acquiring French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, the data on what they know about word-formation for the coining of new words consist primarily of diary observations; in some cases, these are supplemented with experimental elicitation studies of the comprehension and production of new word-forms. The general patterns in Romance acquisition of word-formation favor derivation over compounding. Children produce some spontaneous coinages with zero derivation (verbs converted to nouns in French, for example) from as young as 2 years, 6 months (2;6). The earliest suffixes children put to use in these languages tend to be agentive (from 2;6 to 3 years onward), followed by instrumental, objective, locative, and, slightly later, diminutive. The only prefixes that emerge early in child innovations are negative ones used to express reversals of actions. Overall, the general patterns of acquisition for word-formation in Romance are similar to those in Semitic, where derivation is also more productive than compounding, rather than to those in Germanic, where compounding is highly productive, and emerges very early, before any derivational forms.

Article

Adjectivalization is the derivation of adjectives from a verb, a noun, an adjective, and occasionally from other parts of speech or from phrases. Cross-linguistically, adjectivalization seems to be less frequent than nominalization and verbalization. In most languages adjectivalization involves suffixation, but other adjectivalization devices, such as prefixation, reduplication or zero derivation, are also attested. Adjectivalization by means of suffixation has been studied in depth for English. As for other languages in which suffixation is used for adjectivalization, topics that have been studied for English are the types of suffixes used for adjectivalization, their productivity, their semantic contribution, the category of the base to which they attach, and their etymology. For English an etymological distinction between native suffixes and suffixes with a Romance, more specifically Latinate, origin can be made, related to their bound or non-bound character, the type of base to which they attach, and the prosody of the derived word. One of the major challenges to the idea of word-class changing derivation, in this case adjectivalization, comes from polyfunctional words. Participles may function both as verbs and as adjectives, which leads to the question how these complex forms are formally and semantically related. There are also derivational suffixes that are used for the formation of both adjectives and nouns. For these cases as well the formal and semantic relation has to be established. For several Western European languages a relation has been established, in the theoretical literature, between the polyfunctionality of adjectival/nominal suffixes and their influence on the prosody or the phonological properties of the root, due to their etymology. It seems that the dichotomy between two types of suffixes that is created in this way does not always occur and that there is also a mixed case.

Article

Kristel Van Goethem

Affixation is the morphological process that consists of adding an affix (i.e., a bound morpheme) to a morphological base. It is cross-linguistically the most common process that human languages use to derive new lexemes (derivational affixation) or to adapt a word’s form to its morphosyntactic context (inflectional affixation). Suffixes (i.e., bound morphemes following the base) and prefixes (i.e., bound morphemes preceding the base) are the most common affixes, with suffixation being more frequently recorded in the world’s languages than prefixation. Minor types of affixation include circumfixation and infixation. Conversion and back-formation are related derivational processes that do not make use of affixation. Many studies have concentrated on the need to differentiate derivation from inflection, but these morphological processes are probably best described as two end points of a cline. Prototypically, derivation is used to change a word’s category (part of speech) and involves a semantic change. A word’s inflectional distinctions make up its paradigm, which amounts to the different morphological forms that correlate with different morphosyntactic functions. Form-function mapping in (derivational and inflectional) affixation is a key issue in current research on affixation. Many deviations from the canonical One Form-One Meaning principle can be observed in the field of affixation. From a diachronic point of view, it has been demonstrated that affixes often derive from free lexemes by grammaticalization, with affixoids being recognized as an intermediate step on this cline. More controversial, but still attested, is the opposite change whereby affixes and affixoids develop into free morphemes through a process of degrammaticalization.

Article

Patricia Cabredo Hofherr

Agreement is defined as the systematic covariance of one element with another. The most uncontroversial agreement configuration is that between a controller—an element intrinsically specified for a value of an agreement feature—and the target of agreement—the element reflecting a displaced feature value of the controller. The distribution of morphological agreement markers is however much wider than controller–target configurations: targets can express agreement values for features that are not visible on the controller and even show agreement morphology in the absence of a lexical controller. A second source of variation is due to the fact that in certain contexts there is a choice between syntactic agreement (with formal features of the controller) and semantic agreement (with semantic features of the referent of the controller). The choice between syntactic and semantic agreement is correlated in part with cross-linguistically observed regularities that have been formulated as the agreement hierarchy and the animacy hierarchy. Agreement morphology harnesses the same morphological devices found with derivation and inflection. Like inflectional morphology more generally, agreement morphology is only present in a subset of the world’s languages.

Article

The American descriptivist movement includes the work of Edward Sapir, Leonard Bloomfield, and their students, including Zellig Harris, Charles Hockett, and Kenneth Pike. Their work on morphology set the stage for much of the discussion of the subject in the years that followed, right up to today. In a number of ways they laid greater emphasis on the role of morphemes in morphological analysis when linguists in Europe focused more on the central role played by words in morphosyntactic paradigms.

Article

David Fertig

Analogy is traditionally regarded as one of the three main factors responsible for language change, along with sound change and borrowing. Whereas sound change is understood to be phonetically motivated and blind to structural patterns and semantic and functional relationships, analogy is licensed precisely by those patterns and relationships. In the Neogrammarian tradition, analogical change is regarded, at least largely, as a by-product of the normal operation (acquisition, representation, and use) of the mental grammar. Historical linguists commonly use proportional equations of the form A : B = C : X to represent analogical innovations, where A, B, and C are (sets of) word forms known to the innovator, who solves for X by discerning a formal relationship between A and B and then deductively arriving at a form that is related to C in the same way that B is related to A. Along with the core type of analogical change captured by proportional equations, most historical linguists include a number of other phenomena under the analogy umbrella. Some of these, such as paradigm leveling—the reduction or elimination of stem alternations in paradigms—are arguably largely proportional, but others such as contamination and folk etymology seem to have less to do with the normal operation of the mental grammar and instead involve some kind of interference among the mental representations of phonetically or semantically similar forms. The Neogrammarian approach to analogical change has been criticized and challenged on a variety of grounds, and a number of important scholars use the term “analogy” in a rather different sense, to refer to the role that phonological and/or semantic similarity play in the influence that forms exert on each other.

Article

Patrik Bye

Morpheme ordering is largely explainable in terms of syntactic/semantic scope, or the Mirror Principle, although there is a significant residue of cases that resist an explanation in these terms. The article, we look at some key examples of (apparent) deviant ordering and review the main ways that linguists have attempted to account for them. Approaches to the phenomenon fall into two broad types. The first relies on mechanisms we can term “morphological,” while the second looks instead to the resources of the ‘narrow’ syntax or phonology. One morphological approach involves a template that associates each class of morphemes in the word with a particular position. A well-known example is the Bantu CARP (Causative-Applicative-Reciprocal-Passive) template, which requires particular orders between morphemes to obtain irrespective of scope. A second approach builds on the intuition that the boundary or join between a morpheme and the base to which it attaches can vary in closeness or strength, where ‘strength’ can be interpreted in gradient or discrete terms. Under the gradient interpretation, affixes differ in parsability, or separability from the base; understood discretely, as in Lexical Morphology and Phonology, morphemes (or classes of morphemes) may attach at a deeper morphological layer to stems (the stronger join), or to words (weaker join), which are closer to the surface. Deviant orderings may then arise where an affix attaches at a morphological layer deeper than its scope would lead us to expect. An example is the marking of case and possession in Finnish nouns: case takes scope over possession, but the case suffix precedes the possessive suffix. Another morphological approach is represented by Distributed Morphology, which permits certain local reorderings once all syntactic operations have taken place. Such operations may target specific morphemes, or morphosyntactic features characterizing a class of morphemes. Agreement marking is an interesting case, since agreement features are bundled as syntactically unitary heads but may in certain languages be split morphologically into separate affixes. This means that in the case of split agreement marking, the relative order must be attributed to post-syntactic principles. Besides these morphological approaches, other researchers have emphasized the resources of the narrow syntax, in particular phrasal movement, as a means for dealing with many challenging cases of morpheme ordering. Still other cases of apparently deviant ordering may be analyzed as epiphenomena of phonological processes and constraint interaction as they apply to prespecified and/or underspecified lexical representations.

Article

Japanese is a language where the grammatical status of arguments and adjuncts is marked exclusively by postnominal case markers, and various argument realization patterns can be assessed by their case marking. Since Japanese is categorized as a language of the nominative-accusative type typologically, the unmarked case-marking frame obtained for transitive predicates of the non-stative (or eventive) type is ‘nominative-accusative’. Nevertheless, transitive predicates falling into the stative class often have other case-marking alignments, such as ‘nominative-nominative’ and ‘dative-nominative’. Consequently, Japanese provides much more varying argument realization patterns than those expected from its typological character as a nominative-accusative language. In point of fact, argument marking can actually be much more elastic and variable, the variations being motivated by several linguistic factors. Arguments often have the option of receiving either syntactic or semantic case, with no difference in the logical or cognitive meaning (as in plural agent and source agent alternations) or depending on the meanings their predicate carry (as in locative alternation). The type of case marking that is not normally available in main clauses can sometimes be obtained in embedded contexts (i.e., in exceptional case marking and small-clause constructions). In complex predicates, including causative and indirect passive predicates, arguments are case-marked differently from their base clauses by virtue of suffixation, and their case patterns follow the mono-clausal case array, despite the fact that they have multi-clausal structures. Various case marking options are also made available for arguments by grammatical operations. Some processes instantiate a change on the grammatical relations and case marking of arguments with no affixation or embedding. Japanese has the grammatical process of subjectivization, creating extra (non-thematic) major subjects, many of which are identified as instances of ‘possessor raising’ (or argument ascension). There is another type of grammatical process, which reduces the number of arguments by virtue of incorporating a noun into the predicate, as found in the light verb constructions with suru ‘do’ and the complex adjective constructions formed on the negative adjective nai ‘non-existent.’

Article

Malka Rappaport Hovav

Words are sensitive to syntactic context. Argument realization is the study of the relation between argument-taking words, the syntactic contexts they appear in and the interpretive properties that constrain the relation between them.

Article

Jim Wood and Neil Myler

The topic “argument structure and morphology” refers to the interaction between the number and nature of the arguments taken by a given predicate on the one hand, and the morphological makeup of that predicate on the other. This domain turns out to be crucial to the study of a number of theoretical issues, including the nature of thematic representations, the proper treatment of irregularity (both morphophonological and morphosemantic), and the very place of morphology in the architecture of the grammar. A recurring question within all existing theoretical approaches is whether word formation should be conceived of as split across two “places” in the grammar, or as taking place in only one.

Article

Anton Karl Ingason and Einar Freyr Sigurðsson

Attributive compounds are words that include two parts, a head and a non-head, both of which include lexical roots, and in which the non-head is interpreted as a modifier of the head. The nature of this modification is sometimes described in terms of a covert relationship R. The nature of R has been the subject of much discussion in the literature, including proposals that a finite and limited number of interpretive options are available for R, as well as analyses in which the interpretation of R is unrestricted and varies with context. The modification relationship between the parts of an attributive compound also contrasts with the interpretation of compounds in other ways because some non-heads in compounds saturate argument positions of the head, others are semantically conjoined with them, and some restrict their domain of interpretation.

Article

Nilo-Saharan, a phylum spread mainly across an area south of the Afro-Asiatic and north of the Niger-Congo phylum, was established as a genetic grouping by Greenberg. In his earlier, continent-wide classification of African languages in articles published between 1949 and 1954, Greenberg had proposed a Macro-Sudanic family (renamed Chari-Nile in subsequent studies), consisting of a Central Sudanic and an Eastern Sudanic branch plus two isolated members, Berta and Kunama. This family formed the core of the Nilo-Saharan phylum as postulated by Greenberg in his The Languages of Africa, where a number of groups were added which had been treated as isolated units in his earlier classificatory work: Songhay, Eastern Saharan (now called Saharan), Maban and Mimi, Nyangian (now called Kuliak or Rub), Temainian (Temeinian), Coman (Koman), and Gumuz. Presenting an “encyclopaedic survey” of morphological structures for the more than 140 languages belonging to this phylum is impossible in such a brief study, also given the tremendous genetic distance between some of the major subgroups. Instead, typological variation in the morphological structure of these genetically-related languages will be central. In concrete terms this involves synchronic and diachronic observations on their formal properties (section 2), followed by an introduction to the nature of derivation, inflection, and compounding properties in Nilo-Saharan (section 3). This traditional compartmentalization has its limits because it misses out on the interaction with lexical structures and morphosyntactic properties in its extant members, as argued in section 4. As pointed out in section 5, language contact also must have played an important role in the geographical spreading of several of these typological properties.

Article

Adina Dragomirescu

Balkan-Romance is represented by Romanian and its historical dialects: Daco-Romanian (broadly known as Romanian), Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian (see article “Morphological and Syntactic Variation and Change in Romanian” in this encyclopedia). The external history of these varieties is often unclear, given the historical events that took place in the Lower Danubian region: the conquest of this territory by the Roman Empire for a short period and the successive Slavic invasions. Moreover, the earliest preserved writing in Romanian only dates from the 16th century. Between the Roman presence in the Balkans and the first attested text, there is a gap of more than 1,000 years, a period in which Romanian emerged, the dialectal separation took place, and the Slavic influence had effects especially on the lexis of Romanian. In the 16th century, in the earliest old Romanian texts, the language already displayed the main features of modern Romanian: the vowels /ə/ and /ɨ/; the nominative-accusative versus genitive-dative case distinction; analytical case markers, such as the genitive marker al; the functional prepositions a and la; the proclitic genitive-dative marker lui; the suffixal definite article; polydefinite structures; possessive affixes; rich verbal inflection, with both analytic and synthetic forms and with three auxiliaries (‘have’, ‘be’, and ‘want’); the supine, not completely verbalized at the time; two types of infinitives, with the ‘short’ one on a path toward becoming verbal and the ‘long’ one specializing as a noun; null subjects; nonfinite verb forms with lexical subjects; the mechanism for differential object marking and clitic doubling with slightly more vacillating rules than in the present-day language; two types of passives; strict negative concord; the SVO and VSO word orders; adjectives placed mainly in the postnominal position; a rich system of pronominal clitics; prepositions requiring the accusative and the genitive; and a large inventory of subordinating conjunctions introducing complement clauses. Most of these features are also attested in the trans-Danubian varieties (Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian), which were also strongly influenced by the various languages they have entered in direct contact with: Greek, Albanian, Macedonian, Croatian, and so forth. These source languages have had a major influence in the vocabulary of the trans-Danubian varieties and certain consequences in the shape of their grammatical system. The differences between Daco-Romanian and the trans-Danubian varieties have also resulted from the preservation of archaic features in the latter or from innovations that took place only there.

Article

Natalia Beliaeva

Blending is a type of word formation in which two or more words are merged into one so that the blended constituents are either clipped, or partially overlap. An example of a typical blend is brunch, in which the beginning of the word breakfast is joined with the ending of the word lunch. In many cases such as motel (motor + hotel) or blizzaster (blizzard + disaster) the constituents of a blend overlap at segments that are phonologically or graphically identical. In some blends, both constituents retain their form as a result of overlap, for example, stoption (stop + option). These examples illustrate only a handful of the variety of forms blends may take; more exotic examples include formations like Thankshallowistmas (Thanksgiving + Halloween + Christmas). The visual and audial amalgamation in blends is reflected on the semantic level. It is common to form blends meaning a combination or a product of two objects or phenomena, such as an animal breed (e.g., zorse, a breed of zebra and horse), an interlanguage variety (e.g., franglais, which is a French blend of français and anglais meaning a mixture of French and English languages), or other type of mix (e.g., a shress is a type of clothes having features of both a shirt and a dress). Blending as a word formation process can be regarded as a subtype of compounding because, like compounds, blends are formed of two (or sometimes more) content words and semantically either are hyponyms of one of their constituents, or exhibit some kind of paradigmatic relationships between the constituents. In contrast to compounds, however, the formation of blends is restricted by a number of phonological constraints given that the resulting formation is a single word. In particular, blends tend to be of the same length as the longest of their constituent words, and to preserve the main stress of one of their constituents. Certain regularities are also observed in terms of ordering of the words in a blend (e.g., shorter first, more frequent first), and in the position of the switch point, that is, where one blended word is cut off and switched to another (typically at the syllable boundary or at the onset/rime boundary). The regularities of blend formation can be related to the recognizability of the blended words.

Article

Franz Rainer

Blocking can be defined as the non-occurrence of some linguistic form, whose existence could be expected on general grounds, due to the existence of a rival form. *Oxes, for example, is blocked by oxen, *stealer by thief. Although blocking is closely associated with morphology, in reality the competing “forms” can not only be morphemes or words, but can also be syntactic units. In German, for example, the compound Rotwein ‘red wine’ blocks the phrasal unit *roter Wein (in the relevant sense), just as the phrasal unit rote Rübe ‘beetroot; lit. red beet’ blocks the compound *Rotrübe. In these examples, one crucial factor determining blocking is synonymy; speakers apparently have a deep-rooted presumption against synonyms. Whether homonymy can also lead to a similar avoidance strategy, is still controversial. But even if homonymy blocking exists, it certainly is much less systematic than synonymy blocking. In all the examples mentioned above, it is a word stored in the mental lexicon that blocks a rival formation. However, besides such cases of lexical blocking, one can observe blocking among productive patterns. Dutch has three suffixes for deriving agent nouns from verbal bases, -er, -der, and -aar. Of these three suffixes, the first one is the default choice, while -der and -aar are chosen in very specific phonological environments: as Geert Booij describes in The Morphology of Dutch (2002), “the suffix -aar occurs after stems ending in a coronal sonorant consonant preceded by schwa, and -der occurs after stems ending in /r/” (p. 122). Contrary to lexical blocking, the effect of this kind of pattern blocking does not depend on words stored in the mental lexicon and their token frequency but on abstract features (in the case at hand, phonological features). Blocking was first recognized by the Indian grammarian Pāṇini in the 5th or 4th century bc, when he stated that of two competing rules, the more restricted one had precedence. In the 1960s, this insight was revived by generative grammarians under the name “Elsewhere Principle,” which is still used in several grammatical theories (Distributed Morphology and Paradigm Function Morphology, among others). Alternatively, other theories, which go back to the German linguist Hermann Paul, have tackled the phenomenon on the basis of the mental lexicon. The great advantage of this latter approach is that it can account, in a natural way, for the crucial role played by frequency. Frequency is also crucial in the most promising theory, so-called statistical pre-emption, of how blocking can be learned.

Article

Bracketing paradoxes—constructions whose morphosyntactic and morpho-phonological structures appear to be irreconcilably at odds (e.g., unhappier)—are unanimously taken to point to truths about the derivational system that we have not yet grasped. Consider that the prefix un- must be structurally separate in some way from happier both for its own reasons (its [n] surprisingly does not assimilate in Place to a following consonant (e.g., u[n]popular)), and for reasons external to the prefix (the suffix -er must be insensitive to the presence of un-, as the comparative cannot attach to bases of three syllables or longer (e.g., *intelligenter)). But, un- must simultaneously be present in the derivation before -er is merged, so that unhappier can have the proper semantic reading (‘more unhappy’, and not ‘not happier’). Bracketing paradoxes emerged as a problem for generative accounts of both morphosyntax and morphophonology only in the 1970s. With the rise of restrictions on and technology used to describe and represent the behavior of affixes (e.g., the Affix-Ordering Generalization, Lexical Phonology and Morphology, the Prosodic Hierarchy), morphosyntacticians and phonologists were confronted with this type of inconsistent derivation in many unrelated languages.

Article

Case  

Andrej L. Malchukov

Morphological case is conventionally defined as a system of marking of a dependent nominal for the type of relationship they bear to their heads. While most linguists would agree with this definition, in practice it is often a matter of controversy whether a certain marker X counts as case in language L, or how many case values language L features. First, the distinction between morphological cases and case particles/adpositions is fuzzy in a cross-linguistic perspective. Second, the distinctions between cases can be obscured by patterns of case syncretism, leading to different analyses of the underlying system. On the functional side, it is important to distinguish between syntactic (structural), semantic, and “pragmatic” cases, yet these distinctions are not clear-cut either, as syntactic cases historically arise from the two latter sources. Moreover, case paradigms of individual languages usually show a conflation between syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic cases (see the phenomenon of “focal ergativity,” where ergative case is used when the A argument is in focus). The composition of case paradigms can be shown to follow a certain typological pattern, which is captured by case hierarchy, as proposed by Greenberg and Blake, among others. Case hierarchy constrains the way how case systems evolve (or are reduced) across languages and derives from relative markedness and, ultimately, from frequencies of individual cases. The (one-dimensional) case hierarchy is, however, incapable of capturing all recurrent polysemies of individual case markers; rather, such polysemies can be represented through a more complex two-dimensional hierarchy (semantic map), which can also be given a diachronic interpretation.

Article

Jessica Coon and Clint Parker

The phenomenon of case has been studied widely at both the descriptive and theoretical levels. Typological work on morphological case systems has provided a picture of the variability of case cross-linguistically. In particular, languages may differ with respect to whether or not arguments are marked with overt morphological case, the inventory of cases with which they may be marked, and the alignment of case marking (e.g., nominative-accusative vs. ergative-absolutive). In the theoretical realm, not only has morphological case been argued to play a role in multiple syntactic phenomena, but current generative work also debates the role of abstract case (i.e., Case) in the grammar: abstract case features have been proposed to underlie morphological case, and to license nominals in the derivation. The phenomenon of case has been argued to play a role in at least three areas of the syntax reviewed here: (a) agreement, (b) A-movement, and (c) A’-movement. Morphological case has been shown to determine a nominal argument’s eligibility to participate in verbal agreement, and recent work has argued that languages vary as to whether movement to subject position is case-sensitive. As for case-sensitive A’-movement, recent literature on ergative extraction restrictions debates whether this phenomenon should be seen as another instance of “case discrimination” or whether the pattern arises from other properties of ergative languages. Finally, other works discussed here have examined agreement and A’-extraction patterns in languages with no visible case morphology. The presence of patterns and typological gaps—both in languages with overt morphological case and in those without it—lends support to the relevance of abstract case in the syntax.