Chapter published in:Non-Canonically Case-Marked Subjects: The Reykjavík-Eyjafjallajökull papers
Edited by Jóhanna Barðdal, Na'ama Pat-El and Stephen Mark Carey
[Studies in Language Companion Series 200] 2018
► pp. 115–132
Dative case and oblique subjects
Oblique subjects often occur in the dative case in many languages, and given that dative subjects frequently co-occur with experiential verbs, this has led to the view that dative signals ‘experiencer’, along with its ‘recipient’ meaning with verbs of giving. There are, however, many other uses of the dative which do not fall into either of these categories. This article argues that when one considers the full range of uses of the dative case across languages, it becomes clear that the dative is not associated with any particular grammatical function or with any particular meaning or thematic role. Because of the lack of any consistent grammatical function or meaning, it will be argued that dative is a default case, a kind of ‘elsewhere’ case, which is assigned when no other case rules can apply (Silverstein 1976, 1993). The appearance of a consistent semantics for some uses of the dative, e.g. marking experiencers, could be analyzed as the result of the blocking of the nominative rule to indicate deviation from the transitive prototype. An analysis of these phenomena in terms of Role and Reference Grammar is presented. Further evidence for the lack of an inherent meaning for the dative comes from alternations involving the case marking of causees in monoclausal causative constructions.
Published online: 02 November 2018
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