The Development of the Declension System

  • Lene Schøsler
Part of the Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory book series (SNLT, volume 88)


The traditional understanding of case systems is that morphological case is needed to mark NPs in order for the speakers to identify their syntactic function. Accordingly, if changes in case systems occur, they are considered to be linked to fundamental reorganizations of the grammatical structure of a language. In contrast to the traditional view, the line of thinking adopted here takes into account the role of the case system with respect to other parts of the grammar. Moreover, our approach is anchored in variational linguistics, implying that synchronic and diachronic variation is both the result of, and the reason for, change. Indeed, the interpretation of variation is one of the greatest challenges for diachronic linguistics. With respect to the break-down of the Old French case system, it is difficult to uncover the underlying tendencies that might explain the apparently chaotic morphological variation. I show in this chapter that diasystematic variation parameters provide clues for the correct interpretation of this system. Finally, I propose that the ultimate break-down of case has proceeded via an intermediate system of case marking on articles.


Noun Phrase Word Order Text Type Case System Twelfth Century 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English, Germanic and Romance StudiesThe University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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