Case Theory

Fillmore[Charles Fillmore, The case for case, 1968.] proposed a theory of deep case structures, in which elements of a sentence are related to the verb by deep case[ case: an inflectional form of a noun, pronoun, or adjective indicating its grammatical relation to other words; such a relation whether indicated by inflection or not. -- Webster's 9th New Collegiate Dictionary] relationships.

Unlike some languages, English does not modify most words for different cases. Cases used in English are:

Formal Name: Description: Example: Example Use:
Nominative subject he He hit the ball.
Objective direct object him John hit him.
Dative indirect object him I gave him a book.
Genitive possessive his He lost his keys.

Although English does not make the cases obvious, Fillmore argued that the cases are still present in English:

Mother baked for three hours.
The pie baked for three hours.
* Mother and the pie baked for three hours.

Why is the third sentence anomalous?[Linguists use the * marker to indicate a bad sentence.] Although both ``Mother'' and ``the pie'' are syntactic subjects, Fillmore argued that they are in different deep cases and thus cannot be conjoined.

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