UiB : HF : LLE

Indo-European Case and Argument Structure in a Typological Perspective


Conference: Non-Canonically Case-Marked Subjects within and across Languages and Language Families: Stability, Variation and Change


In collaboration with the Institute of Linguistics at the University of Iceland, the IECASTP/NonCanCase project at the University of Bergen organizes a conference on "Non-Canonically Case-Marked Subjects within and across Languages and Language Families: Stability, Variation and Change"

Invited Speakers:

  • Miriam Butt (University of Constance)
  • Thórhallur Eythórsson (University of Iceland)
  • Julie Ann Legate (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Andrej Malchukov (Max Planck Institute, Leipzig)
Date: 4.–8. June 2012
Location: Reykjavík and Hótel Fljótshlíð (near Eyjafjallajökull)
Website: http://subjectcase.wordpress.com
Contact Person: Tonya Kim Dewey (University of Bergen)
Official Email: SubjectCase@gmail.com
Call for papers: Oblique, "quirky", or non-canonically case-marked subjects have been the focus of enormous interest and massive research ever since Andrews (1976) and Masica (1976). Early on, research in this area was mainly carried out within the generative tradition, but by now interest in oblique subjects has spread to all other frameworks (cf. papers in Aikhenvald, Dixon & Onishi 2001, Bhaskararao & Subbarao 2004, and Malchukov & Spencer 2009). The attention has generally been on the syntactic behavior of oblique subjects, such as their ability to be left unexpressed in conjoined clauses and control infinitives, their ability to figure in object and subject raising, and to control reflexives, as well as on their word order properties (e.g. Zaenen, Maling & Thráinsson 1985, Sigurðsson 1991). Nevertheless, the validity of certain tests for subjecthood remains controversial, especially in diachronic studies (e.g. Eythórsson & Barðdal 2005).

Recent research has increasingly turned to the semantics of oblique subjects, both within individual languages and within language families. Barðdal et. al (2011), for instance, show that there is a host of lexical-semantic verb classes associated with oblique subjects in several of the ancient/archaic Indo-European languages, ranging from experiencer, cognition, perception, and attitudinal predicates, to all kinds of happenstance predicates and predicates denoting purely relational and ontological states. Oblique subjects may also denote possession, modality and evidentiality, as well as featuring in the intransitive variant of causative pairs (anticausatives) in some Indo-European languages (e.g. Cennamo, Eythórsson & Barðdal 2011). In a wider typological perspective, it remains to be established which semantic features are language-family-specific and which are generally found cross-linguistically.

The conference will start in Reykjavík, followed by a one-day tour in Southern Iceland, visiting Thingvellir, Geysir, Gullfoss and other places of great natural beauty and historical interest. The concluding part of the conference will take place at Hótel Hekla, a charming country hotel about 70 km east of the capital, Reykjavík, with a marvelous view of (in)famous volcanoes such as Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull.

We welcome contributions focusing on a specific language, language family or cross-linguistic comparison, from different theoretical frameworks, on all aspects of oblique subjects, synchronic, diachronic and typological, including the following:

  • The semantics of the oblique subject construction, for instance in terms of lexical semantics, within a single language, or in a comparative or a typological perspective
  • The syntactic behavior of oblique subjects within a language, a language family, or across languages
  • The validity of particular tests for subjecthood, both in modern languages as well as corpus languages (e.g. the older Indo-European languages).
  • The dichotomy between oblique subjects and subject-like obliques which pass some, but perhaps not all, of the subject tests, and its practical and theoretical implications
  • The origin and emergence of non-canonical subject case marking
  • The potential role of oblique anticausatives in the emergence of oblique subjects
  • The syntax and semantics of oblique subjects in non-Indo-European languages
Please submit your abstracts of 500 words or less through http://www.easychair.org/conferences/?conf=subjectcase2012, no later than November 15th, 2011. A response on abstracts will be sent out on December 15th, 2011.


  • Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y., R.M.W. Dixon & M. Onishi (eds.). 2001. Non-Canonical Marking of Subjects and Objects. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Andrews, Avery D. 1976. The VP complement analysis in Modern Icelandic. North Eastern Linguistic Society 6:1–21.
  • Barðdal, Jóhanna, Valgerður Bjarnadóttir, Gard B. Jenset & Thomas Smitherman. 2011. Reconstructing Constructional Semantics: The Dative Subject Construction in Old Norse-Icelandic, Latin, Ancient Greek, Old Russian and Lithuanian. Submitted to a thematic volume in Studies in Language, entitled “Theory and Data in Cognitive Linguistics”, Nikolas Gisborne & Willem Hollmann (eds).
  • Bhaskararao, Peri & K. V. Subbarao (eds.) 2004. Non-Nominative Subjects. (2 vols.) (Typological studies in language 60–61.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Cennamo, Michela, Thórhallur Eythórsson & Jóhanna Barðdal. 2011. The Rise and Fall of Anticausative Constructions in Indo-European: The Context of Latin and Germanic. Submitted to a thematic volume in Linguistics, entitled “Typology of Labile Verbs: Focus on Diachrony”, Leonid Kulikov & Nikolaos Lavidas (eds).
  • Eythórsson, Thórhallur & Jóhanna Barðdal. 2005. Oblique Subjects: A Common Germanic Inheritance. Language 81(4): 824–881.
  • Malchukov, Andrej & Andrew Spencer (eds.). 2009. In The Oxford Handbook of Case. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Masica, Colin P. 1976. Defining a Linguistic Area: South Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Sigurðsson, Halldór Ármann. 1991. Icelandic Case-Marked PRO and the Licensing of Lexical Arguments. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 9:327–362.
  • Zaenen, Annie, Joan Maling & Höskuldur Thráinsson. 1985. Case and Grammatical Functions: The Icelandic Passive. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 3: 441–483.











Jóhanna Barðdal, Principal Investigator
Dept. of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies, UiB
Box 7805
NO-5020 Bergen
Phone +47-55 58 24 38
Fax +47-55 58 96 60
johanna.barddal at uib.no

    Updated February 9, 2012 by JB