From indexical to symbolic case in Danish: A content analysis

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In late Middle Danish, case was reduced to pronominal case, but in spite of this, Middle Danish case preserved features of a system typologically different from modern Danish. Case grammaticalised semantic roles, with considerable polysemy. Along with the transitivity system, Middle Danish preserved inactive (impersonal) constructions and the polysemy of the case forms was resolved according to construction type. Such a system is indexical in the sense that the case forms point to their predicate types as the locus from which their polysemy is resolved. From this stance, it makes sense to maintain a sharp distinction between predicational structure (argument(s) and predicate), grammatical relations (subject and object) and case paradigms. Inactive constructions do not have oblique subjects, but objects as their basic argument, and subjects are everywhere in the nominative case. So-called oblique subjects cannot be agents. In accordance with this claim by Jan Terje Faarlund, I propose an analysis of the grammaticalised semantic role systems of transitivity and inactivity. The rise of categorical sentence structure, including the alignment of subjecthood, status as the primary
argument, subject position and a kind of structural nominative case is a development of post-Reformation Danish.
TidsskriftActa Linguistica Hafniensia: International Journal of Linguistics
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 4 okt. 2021


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