Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2589-1588
  • E-ISSN: 2589-1596
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



In case-marking languages with nominative-accusative alignment the subject of a sentence is usually marked by nominative case. In some of these languages, however, the subject of a number of verbs is either consistently or alternately marked by another, non-nominative case. Such non-canonical case marking has often been approached in the linguistic literature as a phenomenon at the interface between syntax and semantics. Yet the predictions of this kind of approach seem more probabilistic than regular. This paper offers a new perspective to analyse the phenomenon, which encompasses the role of information structure in case marking. Drawing on Silverstein’s (1976) theory of differential subject marking and Dalrymple & Nikolaeva’s (2011) approach to differential object marking, it is argued that non-canonically case-marked subjects can be better analysed as instances of either non-topical subjects or subjects lacking one or more semantic features typical of topicality. The approach outlined in the paper is tested on a number of constructions in Russian and Lithuanian. It is shown how, in both languages, the analysed instances of non-canonically case-marked subjects exhibit a complex interplay among grammatical, semantic and discourse-pragmatic factors.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Aikhenvald, A. Y., Dixon, R. M. W. & Onishi, M.
    (Eds.) (2001) Non-canonical marking of subjects and objects. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/tsl.46
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.46 [Google Scholar]
  2. Babby, L. H.
    (1993) A Theta-theoretic Analysis of Adversity Impersonal Sentences in Russian. InS. Avrutin, S. Franks & L. Pogovac (Eds.), Annual Workshop on Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics 2: The MIT meeting (pp.25–67). Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Barðdal, J., Smitherman, T., Bjarnadóttir, V., Danesi, S., Jenset, G. B. & McGillivray, B.
    (2014) Reconstructing Constructional Semantics: The Dative Subject Construction in Old Norse-Icelandic, Latin, Ancient Greek, Old Russian and Old Lithuanian. InN. Gisborne & W. B. Hollmann (Eds.), Theory and data in cognitive linguistics (pp.49–85). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/bct.67.03bar
    https://doi.org/10.1075/bct.67.03bar [Google Scholar]
  4. Benincà, P. & C. Poletto
    (2004) Topic, Focus and V2: Defining the CP Sublayers. InL. Rizzi (Ed.), The Structure of CP and IP. The Cartography of Syntactic Structures, Volume 2 (pp.52–75). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Butt, M. & King, T. H.
    (1996) Structural Topic and Focus without Movement. InButt, Miriam, and King, Tracy Holloway (Eds.), On-line Proceedings of the LFG96 Conference.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Chomsky, N.
    (1981) Lectures in Government and Binding. Dordrecht: Foris.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. (1986) Knowledge of language. New York: Praeger.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Comrie, B.
    (1984) Reflections on verb agreement in Hindi and related languages. Linguistics, 22, 857–864. 10.1515/ling.1984.22.6.857
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.1984.22.6.857 [Google Scholar]
  9. Dahl, E.
    Ed. in press. Alignment and Alignment Change in the Indo-European family. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Dalrymple, M. & Nikolaeva, I.
    (2011) Objects and Information Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511993473
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511993473 [Google Scholar]
  11. Danesi, S. C., Johnson, A. & Barðdal, J.
    (2017) Between the Historical Languages and the Reconstructed Language: An Alternative Approach to the Gerundive + “Dative of Agent” Construction in Indo-European. Indogermanische Forschungen, 122, 143–188. 10.1515/if‑2017‑0007
    https://doi.org/10.1515/if-2017-0007 [Google Scholar]
  12. Erteschik-Shir, N.
    (2007) Information Structure: The Syntax-Discourse Interface. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Fici, F.
    (2008) I costrutti riflessivi nelle lingue slave. Propensioni e disposizioni. Linguistica e filologia, 26, 57–74.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Fici, F. & Žukova, N.
    (2011) Riflessioni sulle specificità lessico-semantiche del costrutto Vcera mne ne rabotalos. InV. Benigni & A. Sacalone (Eds.), Ulica Sevcenko 25, korpus 2 (scritti in onore di Claudia Lasorsa) (pp.53–61). Cesena / Roma: Caissa Italia S.c.a.r.l.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Franks, S.
    (1995) Parameters of Slavic Morphosyntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Frascarelli, M.
    (2008) The Fine Structure of the Topic Field. InC. De Cat & K. Demuth (Eds.), The Bantu-Romance Connection. A comparative investigation of verbal agreement, DPs, and information structure (pp.261–292). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/la.131.15fra
    https://doi.org/10.1075/la.131.15fra [Google Scholar]
  17. Givón, T.
    (Ed) (1983) Topic Continuity in Discourse: A Quantitative Cross-Language Study. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/tsl.3
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.3 [Google Scholar]
  18. Gundel, Jeanette K. and Thorstein Fretheim
    (2004) Topic and focus. InL. R. Horn & G. Ward (Eds.), The Handbook of Pragmatics (pp.175–196). Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Knjazev, Ju. P.
    (2007) Grammatičeskaja semantika. Russkij jazyk v tipologičeskoj perspective. Moskva: Jazyki Slavjanskich Kultur.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Komar, E.
    (1999) Dative subjects in Russian revisited: Are all Datives created equal?InK. Dziwirek, H. Coats & C. M. Vakareliyska (Eds.), Proceedings of Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics, 7, (pp.245–264). Ann Arbor MI: Michigan Slavic Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Kortlandt, F.
    (2009) Baltica & Balto-Slavica. Brill Rodopi. 10.1163/9789042026537
    https://doi.org/10.1163/9789042026537 [Google Scholar]
  22. Lambrecht, K.
    (1994) Information Structure and Sentence Form: Topic, Focus, and the Mental Representation of Discourse Referents. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511620607
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511620607 [Google Scholar]
  23. Levin, L. & Simpson, J.
    (1981) Quirky Case and lexical representations of Icelandic verbs. Papers from the Seventeenth Regional Meeting, Chicago Linguistics Society, 17, 185–196.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Malčukov, A. & Ogawa, A.
    (2011) Towards a typology of impersonal constructions: a semantic map approach. InA. Malčukov & A. Siewierska (Eds.), Impersonal constructions: a cross-linguistic perspective (pp.19–56). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.124.02mal
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.124.02mal [Google Scholar]
  25. Malčukov, A. & Siewierska, A.
    (Eds.) (2011) Impersonal constructions: a cross-linguistic perspective. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.124
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.124 [Google Scholar]
  26. Malčukov, A. & Spencer, A.
    (Eds.) (2009) The Oxford Handbook of Case. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. McGinnis, M.
    (1996) Projection and position. InJ. Costa, R. Goedemans & R. van der Vijver (Eds.), Proceedings of ConSole IV (pp.203–220). Leiden: HIL.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. (1998) Case and locality in L-Syntax: Evidence from Georgian. MITWPL, 32, 139–158.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. (2001) Semantic and morphological restrictions in experiencer predicates. InJ. T. Jensen & G. van Herk (Eds.): Proceedings of the 2000 CLA Annual Conference, Cahiers Linguistiques d’Ottawa, Department of Linguistics, University of Ottawa, 245–256.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Mel’čuk, I. A.
    (1974) O Sintaksičeskom Nule. InA. A. Xolodovič (Ed.), Tipologija Passivnyx Konstrukcij (Diatez I Zalogi) (pp.343–361). Leningrad.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Mrázek, R.
    (1964) Sintaksis Russkogo Tvoritel’nogo, Opera Universitatis Purkynianae Brunensis Facultas Philosophica94, Prague.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Penčev, J.
    (1996) Functions of the formant se/si in Bulgarian. Revue des Études Slaves, 68, 4. 10.3406/slave.1996.6362
    https://doi.org/10.3406/slave.1996.6362 [Google Scholar]
  33. Prince, E.
    (1981) Topicalization, Focus-Movement, and Yiddish-Movement: A Pragmatic Differentiation. InProceedings of the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (pp.249–264). Berkeley Linguistics Society.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Rögnvaldsson, E.
    (1991) Quirky Subjects in Old Icelandic. InH. Á. Sigurðsson (Ed.), Papers from the Twelfth Scandinavian Conference of Linguistics (pp.369–378).
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Reinhart, T.
    (2002) The Theta System: an overview. Theoretical Linguistics, 28, 229–290.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Rizzi, L.
    (1997) The Fine Structure of the Left Periphery. InL. Haegeman (Ed.), Elements of Grammar (pp.281–337). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 10.1007/978‑94‑011‑5420‑8_7
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-5420-8_7 [Google Scholar]
  37. Sal’nikov, N.
    (1977) Bezličnye Predloženija Tipa ‘Kryšu sorvalo vetrom’, Russian Linguistics, 3, 271–292.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Seržant, I. A.
    (2014) The independent partitive genitive in Lithuanian. InA. Holvoet & N. Nau (Eds.), Grammatical Relations and their Non-Canonical Encoding in Baltic (pp.257–299). Amsterdam &0 Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/vargreb.1
    https://doi.org/10.1075/vargreb.1 [Google Scholar]
  39. (2015) Independent partitive as a Circum-Baltic isogloss, Journal of Language Contact, 8, 341–418. 10.1163/19552629‑00802006
    https://doi.org/10.1163/19552629-00802006 [Google Scholar]
  40. Senn, A.
    (1966) Handbuch der litauischen Sprachen. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Silverstein, M.
    (1976) Hierarchy of features and ergativity. InR. M. W. Dixon (Ed.): Grammatical Categories in Australian Languages (pp.112–171). New Jersey: Humanities Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Soschen, A.
    On Subject and Predicates in Russian. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Ottawa.
  43. Vallduví, E.
    (1992) The Informational Component. New York: Garland.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Woolford, E.
    (2008) Differential Subject Marking at Argument Structure, Syntax, and PF. InH. de Hoop and P. de Swart (Eds.), Differential Subject Marking (pp.17–40). Dodrecht: Springer.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Xodova, K. I.
    (1958) Tvoritel’nyj Padež v Stradatel’nyx Konstrukcijax I Bezličnyx Predloženijax. InS. B. Bernstein (Ed.), Tvoritel’nyj Padež v Slavjanskix Jazykax (pp.127–158). Moskva: Izd. Akad. Nauk SSSR.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error