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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: May 2013

4 - Pronominal case


This chapter continues our exploration of pronominal forms, but approaches them from the perspective of case marking. In English, we find case-marked pronouns such as I/me, he/him, she/her, and so on and so forth. We begin with a general overview of case marking as a grammatical category, and then turn to a description of pronominal case in standard English. This will include a description of the distributional variation in the use of case forms, as such variation can be observed even in the standard varieties. The subsequent section will be devoted to pronominal case form variation across regional varieties, including an appraisal of what is known as ‘pronoun exchange’, i.e. the systematic replacement of subject forms by object forms and vice versa. Following this, there will be an assessment of English case marking against the backdrop of cross-linguistic variation.


The linguistic term ‘case marking’ concerns a specific kind of typically morphological marking in the nominal domain. In Table 4.1 we illustrate this point on the basis of Latin, which is often used for this purpose. You will probably be familiar with these examples, including the relevant terminology.

Nouns in Latin, when used in certain syntactic positions in a sentence, need to carry certain suffixes. In the examples provided above, these are the suffixes -us, -um, -i, and -o. These ‘case markers’ signal, in the order just given, the nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative cases respectively.

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Further reading
Blake, Barry J. 1994. Case. CambridgeUniversity Press.
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Hancock, Jan. 1991. St Helena English. In Byrne, Francis and Huebner, Thom (eds.), Development and Structures of Creole Languages, 17–28. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
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Quinn, Heidi. 2005. The Distribution of Pronoun Case Forms in English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Shorrocks, Graham. 1992. Case assignment in simple and coordinate constructions in present-day English. American Speech 67(4). 432–44.
Spencer, Andrew. 2009. Typology of case systems: Parameters of variation. In Malchukov, Andrej and Spencer, Andrew (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Case, 651–67. OxfordUniversity Press.