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see inflectioninflection,
in grammar. In many languages, words or parts of words are arranged in formally similar sets consisting of a root, or base, and various affixes. Thus walking, walks, walker have in common the root walk and the affixes -ing, -s, and -er.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



inflection of a noun, pronoun, or nonfinite verb form by case. Case meanings are expressed in all languages, but not all languages have declensions. In languages with declensions, case meanings acquire a regular morphological expression—as part of a word form—that is obligatory for all or most words. Languages also have certain indeclinable words, such as pal’to (“overcoat”), Dante (“Dante”), and Chili (“Chile”) in Russian.

The grammatical content of declension varies with the morphological type of a language. In inflected languages, case inflections express not only case meaning but also the grammatical category of number; the grammatical category of gender is often expressed as well. For example, the ending -ōrum in the Latin word librōrum (“of books”) combines the meanings of genitive case, plural number, and masculine gender. In agglutinative languages, case markers express only case meanings. The declensional system in many languages is not uniform even for a particular part of speech.

Indo-European languages have several types of nominal declensions, which depend on characteristics of the stem. In the comparative historical grammar of the Indo-European languages, and especially the Slavic languages, the declensional type is determined by the characteristics of vocalic and consonantal stems: a-stem, o-stem, n-stem, s-stem, and so on. Declensions can also be differentiated according to the forms of certain principal cases. In Latin, for example, declensions are distinguished according to forms of the genitive singular, the first declension having -ae, the second declension having -ī, and so forth. Certain groups of words belong to a mixed declension, in which paradigms of various declensions are combined.

In the course of time, a declensional system may be simplified and made regular. In Russian, for example, the rich older system of substantival declension was replaced by a system of three basic types—called the first, second, and third declensions—whose differentiation is related to gender distinctions and for which the principal form is that of the nominative singular: dom (“house,” first declension), voda (“water,” second declension), and noch’ (“night,” third declension).

In certain languages, declension has been lost entirely. It may be noted that the system collapses more rapidly for nouns than for pronouns. In English and French, for example, nouns are not declined, whereas pronouns have preserved two case forms, one combining the functions of various oblique cases, as with the English “I” and “me” and the French je and me. The loss of declension reflects the development in a language of analytic means for expressing grammatical meanings, as a result of which the role of case inflections is taken over by prepositions, articles, and other auxiliary words.


Meillet, A. Vvedenie v sravnitel’noe izuchenie indoevropeiskikh iazykov, 3rd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1938. (Translated from French.)
Zalizniak, A. A. Russkoe imennoe slovoizmenenie. Moscow, 1967.
Vinogradov, V. V. Russkii iazyk, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Synchronically at least the Posterior, the Simple Anterior and the Purposive converb clearly contain case suffixes. The Posterior converb contains the Lative marker -r, the Simple Anterior converb contains the Genitive/Ablative marker -s, and the Purposive converb the Dative marker z.
Furthermore, case suffixes can be added to the participles and the Masdar in order to use them in adverbial clauses (17) or complement clauses (14).
Sometimes there are obvious formal differences between the uses of group (ii) suffixes in independent and in dependent clauses such as additional auxiliaries for periphrastic verb forms in independent clauses, the participle goia in relative clauses or Masdars with case suffixes in complement clauses.
This analysis is based on the assumption that the different phonological behavior of case suffixes is a consequence of their different status in morphosyntax, and predicts that there should be substantial morphosyntactic differences between the two types of items.
In this section, I discuss common properties of (Section 3.1) and differences between case suffixes and postpositions (Section 3.2).
Common properties of case suffixes and postpositions
Note that this property also sets case suffixes and postpositions apart from most prepositions in Indoeuropean languages which typically combine with case-marked NPs.
The third common property of case suffixes and postpositions is their agreement with pronominal heads.
Here there is no detectable contrast to postpositional adverbs since these require always case suffixes which independently license Pro-Drop.
A final property case suffixes and postpositions share is that both undergo demonstrative concord.
Apart from the different behavior with respect to vowel harmony, there are only two systematic differences between case suffixes and postpositions.
Non-ellipsis of head noun with case suffixes a haz-tol es a haz-bol [right arrow] *a haz-tol the house-from:inside and the house-from:outside es [begin strikethrough]a haz[end strikethrough]-bo 'from inside and from outside the house' (E.