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>I'm just curious, but those of you who do use case in your language, how
>many do you have?  Where does it go from being "cool" to just plain
>unworkable?

Tokana gets by with five cases - ergative, absolutive, dative, ablative,
and instrumental.  The ergative case is used to mark agentive subjects
(usually the subjects of transitive verbs), while the absolutive case
is used to mark patients and themes (direct objects of transitive verbs
and subjects of many intransitive verbs).  The other three cases each
have a variety of functions, generally involving spatial relationships
(or other functions which are metaphorically related to spatial
relationships).

The DATIVE case is used to mark:
-- Recipients/goals of ditransitive verbs (I gave the book *to John*)
-- Experiencer arguments of verbs of perception or emotion
        (*John* is happy, *John* saw me)
-- Standards of comparison (John is taller *than Bill*)
-- Goals (John went *to the river*)
-- Locations (John ate lunch *at the river*)
-- Times (John ate lunch *at noon*)

The ABLATIVE case is used to mark:
-- Sources (John returned *from the village*, I got the book *from John*)
-- Supersets in a partitive relation (some *of the books*, three *of my
        friends*)

The INSTRUMENTAL case is used to mark
-- Instruments (I hit the nail *with the hammer*)
-- Paths/routes (I went *through the woods*, I slid *across the ice*,
        the bird flew *over the tree*, we travelled *via Boston*)
-- Measures (I live *twelve miles* from here, John is *three feet*
        taller than Bill, I am *seven years* older than Bill)

So, rather than coming up with lots of different cases, as other people
do, I enjoy limiting myself to a few cases, and then figuring out which
semantic relations to assign to each one.  The resulting semantic
mappings can be rather intriguing.  I find the implied connection
between the PATH, INSTRUMENT, and MEASURE relations rather pleasing,
for example:  "I hit the nail BY MEANS OF the hammer", "I walked BY MEANS
OF the woods", "I am taller than Bill BY MEANS OF three feet"...

Matt.


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Matt Pearson
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UCLA Linguistics Department
405 Hilgard Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1543
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