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Differential place marking and differential object marking

  • Martin Haspelmath EMAIL logo


This paper gives an overview of differential place marking phenomena and formulates a number of universals that seem to be well supported. Differential place marking is a situation in which the coding of locative, allative or ablative roles depends on subclasses of nouns, in particular place names (toponyms), inanimate common nouns and human nouns. When languages show asymmetric coding differences depending on such subclasses, they show shorter (and often zero) coding of place roles with toponyms, and longer (often adpositional rather than affixal) coding of place roles with human nouns. Like differential object marking, differential place marking can be explained by frequency asymmetries, expectations derived from frequencies, and the general preference for efficient coding. I also argue that differential place marking patterns provide an argument against the need to appeal to ambiguity avoidance to explain differential object marking.


The support of the European Research Council (ERC Advanced Grant 670985, Grammatical Universals) is gratefully acknowledged. I also thank the following colleagues for useful comments on an earlier version of the paper: Thomas Stolz, Silvia Luraghi, Seppo Kittilä, Ora Matushansky, Yoram Meroz, Eitan Grossman, Iker Salaberri, Marcus Barão Camarão, and others who commented on


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Published Online: 2019-09-28
Published in Print: 2019-09-25

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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