Grammatical case

Grammatical case

Overview
In grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

, the case of a noun
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

 or pronoun
Pronoun
In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun , such as, in English, the words it and he...

 is an inflection
Inflection
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

al form that indicates its grammatical function
Grammatical function
In linguistics, grammatical functions refer to functional relationships between participants in a proposition...

 in a phrase
Phrase
In everyday speech, a phrase may refer to any group of words. In linguistics, a phrase is a group of words which form a constituent and so function as a single unit in the syntax of a sentence. A phrase is lower on the grammatical hierarchy than a clause....

, clause
Clause
In grammar, a clause is the smallest grammatical unit that can express a complete proposition. In some languages it may be a pair or group of words that consists of a subject and a predicate, although in other languages in certain clauses the subject may not appear explicitly as a noun phrase,...

, or sentence. For example, a pronoun may play the role of subject
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

 ("I kicked the ball"), of direct object ("John kicked me"), or of possessor
Possession (linguistics)
Possession, in the context of linguistics, is an asymmetric relationship between two constituents, the referent of one of which possesses the referent of the other ....

 ("It is my ball"). Languages such as Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

, Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, and Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 had ways of altering or inflecting
Inflection
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

 nouns to mark roles which are not specially marked in English, such as the ablative case
Ablative case
In linguistics, ablative case is a name given to cases in various languages whose common characteristic is that they mark motion away from something, though the details in each language may differ...

 ("John kicked the ball away from the house") and the instrumental case
Instrumental case
The instrumental case is a grammatical case used to indicate that a noun is the instrument or means by or with which the subject achieves or accomplishes an action...

 ("John kicked the ball with his foot").
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Encyclopedia
In grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

, the case of a noun
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

 or pronoun
Pronoun
In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun , such as, in English, the words it and he...

 is an inflection
Inflection
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

al form that indicates its grammatical function
Grammatical function
In linguistics, grammatical functions refer to functional relationships between participants in a proposition...

 in a phrase
Phrase
In everyday speech, a phrase may refer to any group of words. In linguistics, a phrase is a group of words which form a constituent and so function as a single unit in the syntax of a sentence. A phrase is lower on the grammatical hierarchy than a clause....

, clause
Clause
In grammar, a clause is the smallest grammatical unit that can express a complete proposition. In some languages it may be a pair or group of words that consists of a subject and a predicate, although in other languages in certain clauses the subject may not appear explicitly as a noun phrase,...

, or sentence. For example, a pronoun may play the role of subject
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

 ("I kicked the ball"), of direct object ("John kicked me"), or of possessor
Possession (linguistics)
Possession, in the context of linguistics, is an asymmetric relationship between two constituents, the referent of one of which possesses the referent of the other ....

 ("It is my ball"). Languages such as Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

, Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, and Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 had ways of altering or inflecting
Inflection
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

 nouns to mark roles which are not specially marked in English, such as the ablative case
Ablative case
In linguistics, ablative case is a name given to cases in various languages whose common characteristic is that they mark motion away from something, though the details in each language may differ...

 ("John kicked the ball away from the house") and the instrumental case
Instrumental case
The instrumental case is a grammatical case used to indicate that a noun is the instrument or means by or with which the subject achieves or accomplishes an action...

 ("John kicked the ball with his foot"). In Ancient Greek those last three words would be rendered tōi podi (τῷ ποδί), with the noun pous (πούς, foot) changing to podi to reflect the fact that John is using his foot as an instrument (any adjective modifying "foot" would also change case to match). As a language evolves, cases can merge (for instance in Ancient Greek genitive and ablative have merged as genitive), a phenomenon formally called syncretism
Syncretism (linguistics)
In linguistics, syncretism is the identity of form of distinct morphological forms of a word. This phenomenon is typical of fusional languages....

.

Usually a language is said to "have cases" only if nouns change their form (decline
Declension
In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles to indicate number , case , and gender...

) to reflect their case in this way. Other languages perform the same function in different ways. English, for example, uses prepositions like "of" or "with" in front of a noun to indicate functions which in Ancient Greek or Latin would be indicated by changing (declining) the ending of the noun itself.

More formally, case has been defined as "a system of marking dependent nouns for the type of relationship they bear to their heads." Cases should be distinguished from thematic role
Thematic role
Thematic role is a linguistic notion, which may refer to:* Theta role * Thematic relation...

s such as agent
Agent (grammar)
In linguistics, a grammatical agent is the cause or initiator of an event. Agent is the name of the thematic role...

 and patient
Patient (grammar)
In linguistics, a grammatical patient, also called the target or undergoer, is the participant of a situation upon whom an action is carried out. A patient as differentiated from a theme must undergo a change in state. A theme is denoted by a stative verb, where a patient is denoted by a dynamic...

. They are often closely related, and in languages such as Latin several thematic roles have an associated case, but cases are a morphological
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

 notion, while thematic roles are a semantic
Semantics
Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

 one. Languages having cases often exhibit free word order, since thematic roles are not dependent on position in a sentence.

Etymology


In many European languages, the word for "case" is cognate to the English word, all stemming from the Latin casus, related to the verb cadere, "to fall", with the sense that all other cases have fallen away from the nominative. Its proto-Indo-European root
Proto-Indo-European root
The roots of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language are basic parts of words that carry a lexical meaning, so-called morphemes. PIE roots always have verbal meaning like "to eat" or "to run", as opposed to nouns , adjectives , or other parts of speech. Roots never occur alone in the language...

 is *k^ad-1.

Similarly, the word for "declension" and its many European cognates, including its Latin source declinatio come from the root *k^lei-, "to lean".

Indo-European languages


While not very prominent in modern English, cases featured much more saliently in Old English
Old English language
Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

 and other ancient Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

, such as Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

, and Sanskrit. Historically, the Indo-European languages had eight morphological cases, though modern languages typically have fewer, using prepositions and word order to convey information that had previously been conveyed using distinct noun forms. Among modern languages, cases still feature prominently in most of the Balto-Slavic languages, with most having six to eight cases, as well as German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 and Modern Greek
Modern Greek
Modern Greek refers to the varieties of the Greek language spoken in the modern era. The beginning of the "modern" period of the language is often symbolically assigned to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, even though that date marks no clear linguistic boundary and many characteristic...

, which have four. In German, cases are mostly marked on articles and adjectives, and less so on nouns.

The eight historical Indo-European cases are as follows, with examples either of the English case or of the English syntactic alternative to case:
  • The nominative case
    Nominative case
    The nominative case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject of a verb or the predicate noun or predicate adjective, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments...

     indicates the subject of a finite verb: We went to the store.
  • The accusative case
    Accusative case
    The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

     indicates the direct object of a verb: The clerk remembered
    us.
  • The dative case
    Dative case
    The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given, as in "George gave Jamie a drink"....

     indicates the indirect object of a verb: The clerk gave
    us a discount. or The clerk gave a discount to us.
  • The ablative case
    Ablative case
    In linguistics, ablative case is a name given to cases in various languages whose common characteristic is that they mark motion away from something, though the details in each language may differ...

     indicates movement from something, or cause: The victim went
    from us to see the doctor. and He was unhappy because of depression.
  • The genitive case
    Genitive case
    In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

    , which roughly corresponds to English's possessive case and preposition of, indicates the possessor of another noun: John's
    book was on the table. and The pages of the book turned yellow.
  • The vocative case
    Vocative case
    The vocative case is the case used for a noun identifying the person being addressed and/or occasionally the determiners of that noun. A vocative expression is an expression of direct address, wherein the identity of the party being spoken to is set forth expressly within a sentence...

     indicates an addressee: John, are you alright? or simply Hello, John!
  • The locative case
    Locative case
    Locative is a grammatical case which indicates a location. It corresponds vaguely to the English prepositions "in", "on", "at", and "by"...

     indicates a location: We live in China.
  • The instrumental case
    Instrumental case
    The instrumental case is a grammatical case used to indicate that a noun is the instrument or means by or with which the subject achieves or accomplishes an action...

     indicates an object used in performing an action: We wiped the floor with a mop. and Written by hand.


All of the above are just rough descriptions; the precise distinctions vary from language to language, and are often quite complex. Case is based fundamentally on changes to the noun to indicate the noun's role in the sentence. This is not how English works, where word order and prepositions are used to achieve this.

Modern English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 has largely abandoned the inflectional case system of Indo-European in favor of analytic
Isolating language
An isolating language is a type of language with a low morpheme-per-word ratio — in the extreme case of an isolating language words are composed of a single morpheme...

 constructions. The personal pronoun
Personal pronoun
Personal pronouns are pronouns used as substitutes for proper or common nouns. All known languages contain personal pronouns.- English personal pronouns :English in common use today has seven personal pronouns:*first-person singular...

s of Modern English retain morphological case more strongly than any other word class (a remnant of the more extensive case system of Old English). For other pronouns, and all nouns, adjectives, and articles, grammatical function is indicated only by word order
Word order
In linguistics, word order typology refers to the study of the order of the syntactic constituents of a language, and how different languages can employ different orders. Correlations between orders found in different syntactic subdomains are also of interest...

, by prepositions, and by the genitive clitic -'s
Saxon genitive
In English language teaching, the term "Saxon genitive" is used to associate the possessive use of the apostrophe with the historical origin in Anglo Saxon of the morpheme that it represents...

.

Taken as a whole, English personal pronouns
English personal pronouns
The personal pronouns in the English language can have various forms according to gender, number, person, and case. Modern English is a language with very little noun or adjective inflection, to the point where some authors describe it as analytic, but the Modern English system of personal pronouns...

 are typically said to have three morphological cases:
  • The nominative case
    Nominative case
    The nominative case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject of a verb or the predicate noun or predicate adjective, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments...

     (subjective pronouns such as I, he, she, we), used for the subject of a finite verb
    Finite verb
    A finite verb is a verb that is inflected for person and for tense according to the rules and categories of the languages in which it occurs. Finite verbs can form independent clauses, which can stand on their own as complete sentences....

     and sometimes for the complement
    Complement (linguistics)
    In grammar the term complement is used with different meanings. The primary meaning is a word, phrase or clause that is necessary in a sentence to complete its meaning. We find complements that function as an argument and complements that exist within arguments.Both complements and modifiers add...

     of a copula.
  • The accusative/dative case
    Dative case
    The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given, as in "George gave Jamie a drink"....

     (objective pronouns such as me, him, her, us), used for the direct or indirect object
    Object (grammar)
    An object in grammar is part of a sentence, and often part of the predicate. It denotes somebody or something involved in the subject's "performance" of the verb. Basically, it is what or whom the verb is acting upon...

     of a verb, for the object of a preposition, for an absolute disjunct, and sometimes for the complement of a copula.
  • The genitive case
    Genitive case
    In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

     (possessive pronouns such as my/mine, his, her(s), our(s)), used for a grammatical possessor.


Most English personal pronouns have five forms; in addition to the nominative and objective case forms, the possessive case has both a determiner form (such as my, our) and a distinct independent form (such as mine, ours) (with the exceptions that these are not distinct for the third person singular masculine (his car, it is his) and that the third person singular neuter it does not have the possessive independent form); and they have a distinct reflexive
Reflexive pronoun
A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun that is preceded by the noun, adjective, adverb or pronoun to which it refers within the same clause. In generative grammar, a reflexive pronoun is an anaphor that must be bound by its antecedent...

 or intensive form (such as myself, ourselves). The interrogative personal pronoun who, however, lacks both an independent possessive form and a reflexive/intensive form, but it does have an indefinite form with two variants (whoever / whosoever).

Though English pronouns can have subject and object forms (he/him, she/her), nouns show only a singular/plural and a possessive/non-possessive distinction (e.g., chair, chairs, chair's, chairs'). Note that chair does not change form between "the chair is here" (subject) and "I saw the chair" (direct object), a distinction made by word order and context.

Hierarchy of cases


Cases can be ranked in the following hierarchy, in which languages tend not to have any case to the right of one they do not have:
  • Nominative > accusative or ergative > genitive > dative > locative > ablative > instrumental > prepositional > others.

Case concord systems


In the most common case concord system, only the final word (the noun) in a phrase is marked for case. This system appears in Turkic languages
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

, Mongolian
Mongolian language
The Mongolian language is the official language of Mongolia and the best-known member of the Mongolic language family. The number of speakers across all its dialects may be 5.2 million, including the vast majority of the residents of Mongolia and many of the Mongolian residents of the Inner...

, Quechua, Dravidian languages
Dravidian languages
The Dravidian language family includes approximately 85 genetically related languages, spoken by about 217 million people. They are mainly spoken in southern India and parts of eastern and central India as well as in northeastern Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, and...

, many Papuan languages
Papuan languages
The Papuan languages are those languages of the western Pacific which are neither Austronesian nor Australian. The term does not presuppose a genetic relationship. The concept of Papuan peoples as distinct from Melanesians was first suggested and named by Sidney Herbert Ray in 1892.-The...

, Indo-Aryan languages
Indo-Aryan languages
The Indo-Aryan languages constitutes a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family...

, and others. In Basque
Basque language
Basque is the ancestral language of the Basque people, who inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France. It is spoken by 25.7% of Basques in all territories...

 and various Amazonian and Australian languages, only the phrase-final word (not necessarily the noun) is marked for case. In Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

 and many Indo-European, Balto-Finnic, and Semitic languages
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

, case is marked on the noun, the determiner, and usually the adjective. Other systems are less common. In some languages, there is double-marking of a word as both genitive (to indicate semantic role) and another case such as accusative (to establish concord with the head noun).

Declension paradigms


Languages with rich nominal inflection typically have a number of identifiable declension classes, or groups of nouns with a similar pattern of case inflection. While Sanskrit has six classes, Latin is traditionally said to have five declension classes
Latin declension
Latin is an inflected language, and as such has nouns, pronouns, and adjectives that must be declined in order to serve a grammatical function. A set of declined forms of the same word pattern is called a declension. There are five declensions, which are numbered and grouped by ending and...

, and Ancient Greek three declension classes.

In Indo-European languages, declension patterns may depend on a variety of factors, such as gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

, number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

, phonological environment, and irregular historical factors. Pronouns sometimes have separate paradigms. In some languages, particularly Slavic languages
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

, a case may contain different groups of endings depending on whether the word is a noun
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

 or an adjective
Adjective
In grammar, an adjective is a 'describing' word; the main syntactic role of which is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified....

. A single case may contain many different endings, some of which may even be derived from different roots. For example, in Polish, the genitive case has -a, -u, -ów, -i/-y, -e- for nouns, and -ego, -ej, -ich/-ych for adjectives. To a lesser extent, a noun's animacy or humanness may add another layer of complication.

Latin


An example of a Latin case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Latin term for "sailor," which belongs to Latin's first declension class.
  • nauta (nominative
    Nominative case
    The nominative case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject of a verb or the predicate noun or predicate adjective, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments...

    ) "[the] sailor" [as a subject] (e.g. nauta ibi stat the sailor is standing there)
  • nautae (genitive
    Genitive case
    In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

    ) "the sailor's / of [the] sailor" (e.g. nomen nautae Claudius est the sailor's name is Claudius)
  • nautae (dative
    Dative case
    The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given, as in "George gave Jamie a drink"....

    ) "to/for [the] sailor" [as an indirect object] (e.g. nautae donum dedi I gave a present to the sailor)
  • nautam (accusative
    Accusative case
    The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

    ) "[the] sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g.nautam vidi I saw the sailor)
  • nautā (ablative
    Ablative case
    In linguistics, ablative case is a name given to cases in various languages whose common characteristic is that they mark motion away from something, though the details in each language may differ...

    ) "by/with/from/in [the] sailor" [in various uses not covered by the above] (e.g. sum altior nautā I am taller than the sailor).'
  • nauta (vocative
    Vocative case
    The vocative case is the case used for a noun identifying the person being addressed and/or occasionally the determiners of that noun. A vocative expression is an expression of direct address, wherein the identity of the party being spoken to is set forth expressly within a sentence...

    ) "calling to/ addressing the sailor" (e.g. "gratias tibi ago, nauta" I thank you, sailor).

Sanskrit


Grammatical case was analyzed extensively in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

. The grammarian Pāṇini identified six semantic role
Thematic role
Thematic role is a linguistic notion, which may refer to:* Theta role * Thematic relation...

s or karaka, which are related to the seven Sanskrit cases (nominative
Nominative case
The nominative case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject of a verb or the predicate noun or predicate adjective, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments...

, accusative
Accusative case
The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

, instrumental
Instrumental case
The instrumental case is a grammatical case used to indicate that a noun is the instrument or means by or with which the subject achieves or accomplishes an action...

, dative
Dative case
The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given, as in "George gave Jamie a drink"....

, ablative
Ablative case
In linguistics, ablative case is a name given to cases in various languages whose common characteristic is that they mark motion away from something, though the details in each language may differ...

, genitive
Genitive case
In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

, and locative
Locative case
Locative is a grammatical case which indicates a location. It corresponds vaguely to the English prepositions "in", "on", "at", and "by"...

), but not in a one-to-one way. The six karaka are:
  • Agent (kartri, related to the nominative)
  • Patient (karman, related to the accusative)
  • Means (karaṇa, related to the instrumental)
  • Recipient (sampradāna, related to the dative)
  • Source (apādāna, related to the ablative)
  • Locus (adhikaraṇa, related to the locative)


For example, consider the following sentence:
vrikśh-at parṇ-am bhūm-au patati
from the tree a leaf to the ground falls
"a leaf falls from the tree to the ground"


Here leaf is the agent, tree is the source, and ground is the locus, the corresponding declension
Declension
In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles to indicate number , case , and gender...

s are reflected in the morphemes -am -at and -au respectively.

Tamil


The Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

 case system is analyzed in native and missionary grammars as consisting of a finite number of cases. The usual treatment of Tamil case (Arden 1942) is one where there are seven cases—the nominative (first case), accusative (second case), instrumental (third), dative (fourth), ablative (fifth), genitive (sixth), and locative (seventh). In traditional analyses there is always a clear distinction made between postpositional morphemes and case endings. The vocative is sometimes given a place in the case system as an eighth case, although vocative forms do not participate in usual morphophonemic alternations, nor do they govern the use of any postpositions.
Tamil English Significance Usual Suffixes
First case Nominative
Nominative case
The nominative case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject of a verb or the predicate noun or predicate adjective, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments...

 
Subject of sentence [Zero]
Second case Accusative
Accusative case
The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

 
Object of action -ai
Third case Instrumental
Instrumental case
The instrumental case is a grammatical case used to indicate that a noun is the instrument or means by or with which the subject achieves or accomplishes an action...

, Social
Means by which action is done (Instrumental), Association, or means by which action is done (Social) -al, -out
Fourth case Dative
Dative case
The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given, as in "George gave Jamie a drink"....

 
Object to whom action is performed, Object for whom action is performed (u)kku,(u)kkàka
Fifth case Ablative
Ablative case
In linguistics, ablative case is a name given to cases in various languages whose common characteristic is that they mark motion away from something, though the details in each language may differ...

 of motion from
Motion from an animate/inanimate object -il, -ininru, -iliruntu, -iruntu, -itattiliruntu
Sixth case Genitive
Genitive case
In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

 
Possessive [Zero], -in, -utaiya, -inutaiya
Seventh case Locative
Locative case
Locative is a grammatical case which indicates a location. It corresponds vaguely to the English prepositions "in", "on", "at", and "by"...

 
Place in which, On the person of (animate) in the presence of -il,itam
Eighth case Vocative
Vocative case
The vocative case is the case used for a noun identifying the person being addressed and/or occasionally the determiners of that noun. A vocative expression is an expression of direct address, wherein the identity of the party being spoken to is set forth expressly within a sentence...

 
Addressing, calling e, a

Evolution


As languages evolve, case systems change. In Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

, for example, the genitive and ablative cases became combined, giving five cases, rather than the six retained in Latin. In modern Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

, the Sanskrit cases have been reduced to two: a direct case (for subjects and direct objects) and an oblique case
Oblique case
An oblique case in linguistics is a noun case of synthetic languages that is used generally when a noun is the object of a verb or a preposition...

. In English, apart from the pronouns discussed above, case has vanished altogether except for the possessive/non-possessive dichotomy in nouns.

The evolution of the treatment of case relationships can be circular. Adposition
Adposition
Prepositions are a grammatically distinct class of words whose most central members characteristically express spatial relations or serve to mark various syntactic functions and semantic roles...

s can become unstressed and sound like they are an unstressed syllable of a neighboring word. A postposition can thus merge into the stem of a head noun, developing various forms depending on the phonological shape of the stem. Affixes can then be subject to various phonological processes such as assimilation
Assimilation (linguistics)
Assimilation is a common phonological process by which the sound of the ending of one word blends into the sound of the beginning of the following word. This occurs when the parts of the mouth and vocal cords start to form the beginning sounds of the next word before the last sound has been...

, vowel centering to the schwa
Schwa
In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...

, phoneme loss, and fusion, and these processes can reduce or even eliminate the distinctions between cases. Languages can then compensate for the resulting loss of function by creating adpositions, thus coming full circle.

Linguistic typology


Languages are categorized into several case systems, based on their morphosyntactic alignment — how they group verb agents and patients into cases:
  • Nominative–accusative (or simply accusative): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb is in the same case as the agent (subject) of a transitive verb; this case is then called the nominative case
    Nominative case
    The nominative case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject of a verb or the predicate noun or predicate adjective, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments...

    , with the patient (direct object) of a transitive verb being in the accusative case
    Accusative case
    The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

    .
  • Ergative–absolutive (or simply ergative): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb is in the same case as the patient (direct object) of a transitive verb; this case is then called the absolutive case
    Absolutive case
    The absolutive case is the unmarked grammatical case of a core argument of a verb which is used as the citation form of a noun.-In ergative languages:...

    , with the agent (subject) of a transitive verb being in the ergative case
    Ergative case
    The ergative case is the grammatical case that identifies the subject of a transitive verb in ergative-absolutive languages.-Characteristics:...

    .
  • Ergative–accusative (or tripartite): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb is in its own case (the intransitive case
    Intransitive case
    The intransitive case is a grammatical case used in some languages to mark the argument of an intransitive verb, but not used with transitive verbs...

    ), separate from that of the agent (subject) or patient (direct object) of a transitive verb (which is in the ergative case or accusative case, respectively).
  • Active–stative (or simply active): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb can be in one of two cases; if the argument is an agent, as in "He ate," then it is in the same case as the agent (subject) of a transitive verb (sometimes called the agentive case), and if it's a patient, as in "He tripped," then it is in the same case as the patient (direct object) of a transitive verb (sometimes called the patientive case).
  • Trigger: One noun in a sentence is the topic or focus. This noun is in the trigger case, and information elsewhere in the sentence (for example a verb
    Verb
    A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

     affix
    Affix
    An affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word. Affixes may be derivational, like English -ness and pre-, or inflectional, like English plural -s and past tense -ed. They are bound morphemes by definition; prefixes and suffixes may be separable affixes...

     in Tagalog
    Tagalog language
    Tagalog is an Austronesian language spoken as a first language by a third of the population of the Philippines and as a second language by most of the rest. It is the first language of the Philippine region IV and of Metro Manila...

    ) specifies the role of the trigger. The trigger may be identified as the agent, patient, etc. Other nouns may be inflected for case, but the inflections are overloaded; for example, in Tagalog, the subject and object of a verb are both expressed in the genitive case
    Genitive case
    In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

     when they are not in the trigger case.


The following are systems that some languages use to mark case instead of, or in addition to, declension:
  • Positional: Nouns are not inflected for case; the position of a noun in the sentence expresses its case.
  • Adposition
    Adposition
    Prepositions are a grammatically distinct class of words whose most central members characteristically express spatial relations or serve to mark various syntactic functions and semantic roles...

    al: Nouns are accompanied by words that mark case.


Some languages have very many cases; for example, a Northeast Caucasian language
Northeast Caucasian languages
The Northeast Caucasian languages constitute a language family spoken in the Russian republics of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, northern Azerbaijan, and in northeastern Georgia, as well as in diaspora populations in Russia, Turkey, and the Middle East...

, Tsez
Tsez language
Tsez, also known as Dido is a Northeast Caucasian language with about 15,354 speakers spoken by the Tsez, a Muslim people in the mountainous Tsunta district of southern and western Dagestan in Russia. The name is said to derive from the Tsez word for "eagle", which is most likely a folk etymology...

 can be analyzed as having 128 - 64 for singular and 64 for plural, with a few exceptions.

With a few exceptions, most languages in the Finno-Ugric
Finno-Ugric languages
Finno-Ugric , Finno-Ugrian or Fenno-Ugric is a traditional group of languages in the Uralic language family that comprises the Finno-Permic and Ugric language families....

 group make extensive use of cases. Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

 has 15 cases according to the traditional understanding (or up to 30 depending on the interpretation). However, only 10 are commonly used in speech (see Finnish noun cases). Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

 has 14 and Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

 has 18.

John Quijada's constructed language
Constructed language
A planned or constructed language—known colloquially as a conlang—is a language whose phonology, grammar, and/or vocabulary has been consciously devised by an individual or group, instead of having evolved naturally...

 Ithkuil
Ithkuil
Ithkuil is a constructed language marked by outstanding grammatical complexity, expressed with a rich phonemic inventory or through an original, graphically structured, system of writing....

 has 81 noun cases, and its descendent Ilaksh has a total of 96 noun cases.

The lemma form of words, which is the form chosen by convention as the canonical form of a word, is usually the most unmarked
Markedness
Markedness is a specific kind of asymmetry relationship between elements of linguistic or conceptual structure. In a marked-unmarked relation, one term of an opposition is the broader, dominant one...

 or basic case, which is typically the nominative, trigger, or absolutive case, whichever a language may have.

See also

  • Agreement (linguistics)
    Agreement (linguistics)
    In languages, agreement or concord is a form of cross-reference between different parts of a sentence or phrase. Agreement happens when a word changes form depending on the other words to which it relates....

  • Case hierarchy
    Case hierarchy
    In linguistic typology, the case hierarchy states grammatical cases in order of their prominence. It should therefore be concluded that a language which makes use of any given case will also make use of all the cases which are higher on the hierarchy.- An example hierarchy :The following example...

  • Declension
    Declension
    In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles to indicate number , case , and gender...

  • Differential object marking
    Differential object marking
    Differential object marking is a linguistic phenomenon that is present in more than 300 languages; the term was coined by Georg Bossong. In languages where DOM is active, direct objects are divided in two different classes, depending on different meanings, and, in most DOM languages, only one of...

  • Inflection
    Inflection
    In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

  • List of grammatical cases
  • Thematic relation
    Thematic relation
    In a number of theories of linguistics, thematic relations is a term used to express the role that a noun phrase plays with respect to the action or state described by a sentence's verb. For example, in the sentence "Susan ate an apple", Susan is the doer of the eating, so she is an agent; the...

  • Voice (grammar)
    Voice (grammar)
    In grammar, the voice of a verb describes the relationship between the action that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments . When the subject is the agent or doer of the action, the verb is in the active voice...

  • Phi features
    Phi features
    Phi features is a linguistic term to describe the semantic features of person, number and gender, as encoded in words such as nouns and pronouns...