The incidence of explicit case marking.

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Zyxoas, Oct 26, 2007.

  1. Zyxoas Registered Senior Member

    Hello all. I'm new here and wanted to introduce myself in the announcements board but I just saw a whole bunch of "Who is the weirdest member" polls. Anyways, I'm a South African, a native speaker of Sesotho, and self-taught in linguistics (especially comparative Bantu stuff).

    My question for discussion is: what portion of the world's languages have case marking on the nouns to indicate predicate rĂ´les? Of course, IE languages (except English and others) have case marking, so it is understandable that European linguists my take this for granted. In Africa, apart from Niger-Congo, the other language families (Afro-Asiatic, the disputed Khoisan, and, IIRC, Nilo-Saharan) all have case-marking. The same seems to be true of most (if not all) Australian and American languages. Is Niger-Congo somewhat weird in this regard?

    A bigger question, though one I doubt anyone will give a satisfactory answer to, is WHY do languages want to change nouns depending on how they're related to the verb, and how could different forms of morphosyntactic alignment have arisen? Of course, one could just as easily ask why the Bantu languages have so many noun genders (about 17 in Sesotho -- see the "Sesotho nouns" article on Wikipedia which I wrote) or any other aspect of language, especially since linguistics is a very young and badly understood science.

    In the Bantu languages, it is the VERB that's marked to agree with the subject and (usually optionally) the object, so it may not be necessary to mark the nouns (or even have strong word-order rules -- Bantu languages are also famous for their relatively unrestricted word orders), but this is not always the case in non-Bantu Niger-Congo languages since many of them lack either a gender system or a concord (agreement) system, or both.

    Does anyone have any input they may like to give?

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