Case grammar

John Anderson
Table of contents

The label ‘case grammar’ has been attached to several strands of work on syntax, semantics and their interrelation which can be seen to share not merely a concern with the role in the grammar of semantic relations, such as agent or location, but a conviction of their fundamental role in the syntax and lexicon. This has been sufficient, until recently at any rate, to differentiate case grammars from work in the central generative tradition concerned with theta-roles. But some developments of the case grammar tradition (like lexicase, see below) have much in common with other frameworks, such as Dik’s functional grammar, wherein semantic functions have been accorded a significant role; and demarcation of traditions is often more socio-historical than conceptual. However, we can distinguish a core case grammar tradition for which semantic functions are uniquely basic to the syntax, such that other aspects of syntax, otherwise regarded as themselves basic, are held to be derivative of the array of semantic relations associated with a predicator. These would include assignment of grammatical relations such as subject and object and determination of basic word order. This is embodied in the claim made from the very beginning of case grammar (in the second half of the 1960s) that predicators are subcategorised with respect to semantic relations rather than categories such as NP and PP and that such subcategorisations induce basic or initial syntactic structures which are thus very different from the deep structures envisaged by the main generative tradition of the time.

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