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Linguistic Typology

Ed. by Plank, Frans

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Volume 18, Issue 1 (May 2014)


A and O as each other's mirror image? Problems with markedness reversal

Stefanie Fauconnier
  • Faculteit Letteren, KU Leuven, Blijde-Inkomststraat 21, Bus 3308, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
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/ Jean-Christophe Verstraete
  • Faculteit Letteren, KU Leuven, Blijde-Inkomststraat 21, Bus 3308, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
  • Email:
Published Online: 2014-05-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingty-2014-0002


This article provides a critical examination of the widespread idea that A and O (and Agents and Patients) are each other's mirror image in terms of case marking and semantic features. We examine patterns of differential case marking for nouns in a sample of 185 languages, showing that the behaviour of A cannot be captured in terms of markedness reversal based on models for O marking. We highlight pecularities of A marking that are not found with O marking, like sensitivity to the feature of motivity, and syntactic restrictions on use as A, and use these to develop an independent account of A marking.

Keywords: animacy; definiteness; differential object/subject marking; focus; grammatical relations; markedness; referential hierarchy; syntax; topicality

About the article

Received: 2012-10-08

Revised: 2013-09-09

Published Online: 2014-05-09

Published in Print: 2014-05-01

Citation Information: Linguistic Typology, ISSN (Online) 1613-415X, ISSN (Print) 1430-0532, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingty-2014-0002. Export Citation

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