In this article, I discuss Finnish case alternation adpositions from a theoretical and corpus perspective. First, I argue that postpositional PP constructions with genitive case denote the standard spatial meaning of which an extension is marked with partitive case. Also, I show how word order interacts with case assignment. Both findings are formalized in a bidirectional Optimality Theoretic framework. Second, I show that case alternating behavior does not occur unrestrictedly in newspaper corpora. Adpositions in principle tend to assign the same case to the same object over and over again, and only a small subgroup of highly frequent nouns is assigned both genitive and partitive case by the same adposition(s). This suggests that (adpositional case) alternations are only allowed for highly frequent constructions.
This paper discusses a cross-linguistic sample of spatial PPs in languages that both have adpositions and case. It is shown that the distribution of labor within these potentially complex PPs follows from two general principles only. According to the principle of Grammaticalization, less frequent meaning elements should never be expressed by more grammatical means than more frequent ones. According to the principle of Compositionality, the syntactic construction should reflect the order of semantic function application. The only viable spatial PP constructions according to these principles are those constructions in which the P simultaneously expresses configuration and directionality, and constructions in which the P expresses configuration and the case marker on the P directionality.
In this paper, we propose a uniform motivation for subject case alternations that align with distinctions in tense and aspect and those that align with a distinction between stage- and individual-level predication. We argue that both follow from an economical use of case marking that is made possible by grounding. If the argument function of an event participant can be determined on the basis of information available in the here and now, the use of case marking can be judged redundant and suspended because of economy.
The semantics of natural gender in animate nouns is modeled in the framework of bidirectional Optimality Theory (OT). This allows for the interaction of lexical, conceptual and contextual constraints and for a straightforward treatment of the effect of blocking in this domain. Two versions of bidirectional OT are discussed and related to each other in terms of Blutner’s (2007) notion of fossilization.