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Fillmore Case Grammar

Introduction to the Theory

Seminararbeit 2009 10 Seiten

Anglistik - Linguistik


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. `Deep structure´ vs. `surface structure´

3. The different `deep cases´

4. `Case frames´ for verbs

5. The categorization of nouns

6. The subject selection rule

7. Conclusion

1. Introduction

The world-famous grammarian Charles J. Fillmore is emeritus professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. First and foremost he became known for his works on semantics and syntax. One of his well-known works is The Case for Case, published in the year 1968, in which he introduces the case grammar theory, .

Fillmore himself modified this paper several times, inter alia in a publication in the year 1971, and many other linguists since then have worked on his approach. The case grammar has gone through many changes until today, however this assignment concentrates on the original 1968-paper, the basic work concerning the case grammar theory. Below the main aspects of Fillmore's approach are introduced and explained.

2. `Deep structure´ vs. `surface structure´

The basic and fundamental principle that has to be understood before dealing with the theory of case grammar itself, is the differentiation between `deep structure´ and `surface structure´.

These two notions are known from Noam Chomsky, who introduced them in his work Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965) (Cook 1989: 4). However, the idea of two distinct structural levels of language is an old one. It can be found as early as in the works of the Indian grammarian Panini, who lived in the 4th century BCE, and later in the works of Humboldt and others.

The `deep structure´ is the idea that exists before a sentence is realised. It is the underlying structure that includes the relevant lexemes needed for the sentence and specifies their grammatical relations to each other.

Fillmore states in The Case for Case:

In the basic structure of sentences, then, we find what might be called the

`proposition´, a tenseless set of relationships involving verbs and nouns (...), separated from what might be called the `modality´ constituent. This latter will include such modalities on the sentence-as-a-whole as negation, tense, mood, and aspect.

(Fillmore 1968: 23)

He then goes on: „The P constituent is `expanded´ as a verb and one or more case categories.“ (Fillmore 1968: 23)

Thus the `deep structure´ is characterised by three features:

1. The sentence is separated into a proposition and a modality.
2. The proposition consists of a verb and several cases.
3. Prepositions or case markers occur in the `deep structure´.

(Cook 1989: 4)

Fillmore formulates the points mentioned above in the following rule:

S → M + P

The P constituent is described by the second rule:

P → V + C1 + ... + Cn

Part of each case is a case marker K, which “is a universal element of language which may be realized as preposition, postposition, or case affix“ (Cook 1989: 5). The second component is a noun phrase NP. Consequently, the third rule reads:

C → K + NP

These rules are applied in the above order and combined with fitting lexemes to get what is called the `surface structure´. It is the result of the transformation of the `deep structure´.

3. The different `deep cases´

`Deep cases´ are structural slots that are provided by a verb in a sentence. These slots have specific semantic roles in the sentence. (Polzenhagen 2008: 51)

Fillmore defines the notion of `deep case´ as follows:

(...) a set of universal, presumably innate, concepts which identify certain types of judgments human beings are capable of making about the events that are going on around them, judgments about such matters as who did it, who it happened to, and what got changed.

(Fillmore 1968: 24)

The case system should consist of the smallest possible number of cases that are satisfactory for the classification of all verbs of a language. Furthermore the case system should have universal character, meaning that it is applicable in every language. (Cook 1989: 8)

In his 1968 – paper Fillmore introduces six `deep cases´, admitting that “additional cases will surely be needed”. (Fillmore 1968: 24) The number of cases in later modifications of his approach varies. Sometimes cases are added, modified or erased.

The six basic cases are Agentive (A), Instrumental (I), Dative (D), Factitive (F), Locative (L) and Objective (O) case. It follows Fillmore´s definitions plus a short explanation, illustrating example sentences and the appropriate prepositions (however there may be exceptions due to the requirements of specific verbs) (Fillmore 1968: 30):

The first case is the Agentive, which is “the case of the typically animate perceived instigator of the action identified by the verb.“ (Fillmore 1968: 24) This wording includes doers that are not animate like robots or institutions (Fillmore 1968: 31). The usual A preposition is by.

Jafar is A in both example sentences.

Jafar drinks a lemonade.

The lemonade is drunken by Jafar.

The Instrumental is „the case of the inanimate force or object causally involved in the action or state identified by the verb.“ (Fillmore 1968: 24) This definition can be paraphrased in these words: The I is the usually inanimate thing with which something is done to somebody or something. The term usually is inserted because the I need not be inanimate, as Paul Postal showed with the sentence: I rapped him on the head with a snake. (Fillmore 1968: 31) The usual I preposition is by if there is no A. If there is an A the I preposition is with.

Nutcracker is I in both example sentences.

The nutcracker cracked the walnut.

Paul uses the nutcracker to threaten his neighbour.

The Dative is the case of the animate being affected by the state or action identified by the verb.“ (Fillmore 1968: 24) The difference between A and D is that the A is the instigator of an action and D is only affected by some action. The D preposition is to.

Peter is D in both example sentences.

Peter believed the story.

Frank gave the watch to Peter.

The Factitive is „the case of the object or being resulting from the action or state identified by the verb, or understood as a part of the meaning of the verb.“ (Fillmore 1968: 24) So, F is basically the product of something.

House is F in both example sentences.

The construction worker builds the house.

The house is built by the construction worker.

The Locative is the case which identifies the location or spatial orientation of the state or action identified by the verb.“ (Fillmore 1968: 24) Fillmore sees no difference between directional elements and locational elements in the `deep structure´ – for him the difference is superficial and the elements are in complementary distribution. (Cook 1989: 11) Hence, in the store and to the store are both L in the example sentences.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
530 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg – Anglistik
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case grammar filmore fillmore charles the case for case deep structure surface structure case frame subject selection rule kasusgrammatik tiefenkasus Agentive instrumental dative locative factitive objective




Titel: Fillmore Case Grammar