Semantic aspects of differential object marking

  • Peter de Swart
  • Helen de Hoop


Many authors have argued that there exists a relation between case morphology, on the one hand, and semantic interpretation, on the other. A recurrent pattern is that the presence of overt case corresponds with a strong interpretation, i.e., definite, specific, whereas the absence of case corresponds with a weak interpretation, i.e., indefinite, non-specific. In this paper we argue on the basis of differential object marking (DOM) data that such an across- the-board correlation between semantic interpretation and case morphology often cannot be maintained as the association between a certain case and a certain interpretation can be counteracted by the requirement of this case to occur due to the animacy of a noun. The fact that animacy takes priority over definiteness and/or specificity in DOM systems can be explained by the fact that animacy, but not definiteness/specificity, is an inherent feature of nouns, a feature which cannot be changed.
How to Cite
de Swart, P., & de Hoop, H. (2019). Semantic aspects of differential object marking. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 11, 598-611.