The resilient dative and other remarkable cases in Scandinavian vernaculars

Östen Dahl and Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm


In this paper we look at the case systems in three Scandinavian vernaculars spoken in Sweden, viz. Elfdalian, Skelleftemål and Vätömål in relation to (i) problems concerning possible case systems and ways in which they can break down; (ii) earlier claims about case hierarchies; (iii) the interaction of case, number and definiteness in nominal paradigms. One type of system considered in the paper is based on the opposition between a default case (nominative/accusative) and a dative – an option excluded by previously suggested generalizations on possible case systems. Our data illustrate several different ways in which one and the same older four-member case system has been reduced, and our conclusion is that a strict hierarchy here cannot be established. The vernaculars studied are also relevant to the question of markedness relations in nominal paradigms: they give additional support to the claim that definite nouns may show more distinctions than indefinite ones, and counter to usual assumptions, singular nouns sometimes show fewer case distinctions than plural nouns, which may be explained by the uniform marking of the dative plural across all paradigms.

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STUF is a forum for scholarly articles in the realm of linguistic typology and universals research. The journal covers original empirical as well as theoretical studies of the structural diversity and/or of the invariants of human language(s). Contributions in the areas of areal typology and diachronic typology are also welcome.