Call for papers

University of Konstanz, April 5-6, 2014

Differential marking of grammatical relations has been the topic of a number of investigations. However, rather few large-scale, comprehensive studies of the historical development of the differential case-marking strategies have been carried out yet (an important exception is, for instance, Bickel et al., to appear).

The aim of the present workshop is to gather insights on the multi-factorial mechanisms leading to the rise of the differential argument marking, more specifically, to the Differential Subject- (DSM) and the Differential Object Marking (DOM).

The phenomenon of the DOM/DSM is typically conditioned by various factors such as definiteness and/or specificity, or discourse prominence, cf. Aissen (2003), Bossong (1998), Comrie (1979, 1989), Dixon (1994), von Heusinger and Kaiser (2007), Kittilä (2006), Kittilä et al. (2011), Lazard (2001), Silverstein (1976) just to mention some. Cross-linguistically, it may be differently realized formally and triggered by a variety of conditions (cf. de Hoop and de Swart 2008). Beside DOM/DSM based on formal or semantic properties of the respective NP, it may also be governed by the tense or aspectual properties of the verb phrase or the clause type (Dixon 1994, de Hoop, forthc.). The DSM/DOM phenomena are also sensitive to the thematic roles of the respective arguments (e.g., rather to agents and less to experiencers), and their inherent properties. Thus DSM often involves the marking of highly agentive subjects rather than atypical ones (cf. de Hoop and Malchukov 2007, de Hoop and de Swart 2008), in order to contrast both arguments of a transitive clause.

Striking about the DOM/DSM phenomena is the fact that the aforementioned distinctions are often morphologically expressed by assigning distinct cases, quasi-allomorph case affixes or prepositions to encode these contrasts. From the typological research we know, however, that the primary function of case is to encode relations among constituents of a clause (Blake 2001, Comrie 1989), including the thematic roles, whereas such NP properties as definiteness/specificity/non-referentiality, animacy, and discursive prominence are typically encoded by other means, e.g., by determiners primarily. We ask how this atypical functional extension of the case-related morphological inventory emerges historically.

We are not only interested in the functional history of the phenomenon; syntactic changes that lead to syntactically uniform behaviour of both alternating markings is equally interesting and unstudied. Thus, at an early developmental stage, the assignment of different cases may have impact on the syntactic properties of that argument, cf. (1) from Russian:

(1)       Ja        vypil           sok                        / sok-a
            I:NOM drink:PAST juice:ACC(=NOM) / juice-GEN
            ‘I drank up the juice / I drank (some) juice.’

The clause in (1), if uttered with the object NP sok, can be passivized, while with the (partitive) genitive-marked NP sok-a the passivization and thereby the promotion of the object NP into the subject is not available.

Essentially, while our knowledge on functional semantics of DOM/DSM and its possible integration into different approaches to grammar has considerably increased in the last decades, there has not been done much research on how DOM/DSM arise across languages and what are the triggering mechanisms for it. The whole process involving a non-trivial shift in the domain of application from the functional domain of a "typical" case, i.e. from encoding relations among constituents, into, e.g., the domain of definiteness or specificity, ontological classes or aspectually relevant opposition (e.g., partitive vs. total in Finnic), has not been extensively studied yet.

We invite contributions relating to any aspect of the DSM/DOM diachrony from any perspective. We emphasize that diachrony does not necessarily imply reconstructions of proto-stages of a language or involvement of ancient texts. Diachronic changes can be observed on a quasi-synchronic level, e.g., between the conservative and colloquial style of a present day language. Moreover, such quasi-synchronic changes can often be described and analyzed even at a more fine-grained level and, hence, provide for more insights on what kind of diachronic processes DAM systems typically undergo.

We welcome studies dealing with macro-changes (e.g., with the rise or demise of DAM) as well as studies treating micro-changes (e.g., changes in the functional semantics of a particular DAM system).

Possible questions that might be addressed includes (but are not confined to) the following:


Invited speakers



Abstracts are invited for the workshop session. Each presentation has 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes of discussion. Only one paper per participant is admitted.

Abstracts should be anonymous, maximally of one page in length, excluding references and examples (in .doc, .pdf or .docx).

Abstracts should be submitted per e-mail at

The URL of the workshop is:

The deadline for the submission of the abstract is: November 10, 2013.

Applicants will be notified of abstract acceptance by: November 20, 2013.

All contributors will be invited to submit a version of their paper to be published in the conference follow-up volume. Further details will be made available shortly.