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I've come across the idea of a null morpheme. There are languages with determiners that are case particles. Since a morpheme can be a particle, I would assume there might be languages with null determiners that are case particles.

Is there a language with such a property, where all noun phrases have case particles, one of which is interpreted as a null case particle and is part of its case paradigm (similar to a morphological case declension table)?

The language in question can have case particles that are either post-positions or pre-positions, and of course the number of cases in the case paradigm can be any number above 2.

EDIT: The zero particle or particle dropping in Colloquial Japanese doesn't qualify since it has stylistic/pragmatic usage.

EDIT2: The null case particle must mean only one case relation (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, etc.), and must participate in a case paradigm, where it must contrast with other overt/non-null case particles that signal different case relations. The presence or absence of the null case particle changes the case relation of the NP, and not just for differential subject/object marking.

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    Sure. All case suffixes of English are null. Or, if you think that prepositions are the English counterparts to case endings, then subjects and direct objects have null case particles in English. – Greg Lee Jan 7 '16 at 23:13
  • @GregLee, thanks, but I am looking for languages that mark case relations in one manner only, by case particles. Nonetheless, English wouldn't qualify since: (a) you said 'all case suffixes...are null'. For a language to qualify, there must be both an overt and a covert (null) marker. (b) subjects and direct objects are distinct since you can't swap their places even if both are treated as being marked by a null case particle. The null case particle must assign one case relation only. In this case, English assigns nominative and accusative cases respectively. – Noble_Bright_Life Jan 7 '16 at 23:24
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    Well, then, don't Latin and Sanskrit have a zero ending for nominative singular of at least some declensions? I guess I don't know what you mean. You want it to be a "particle" which is a separate word? – Greg Lee Jan 7 '16 at 23:43
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    Why any number above 2? If all NPs have case particles, how could there be null case particles (that means that not all NPs have case). What does it mean for something to be interpreted as a null case particle? Are you asking for languages with case marking, where case is via a separate word rather than bound morpheme, and one of the expected cases is systematically null? You might check Manchu which uses particles and has no nominative particle. If that's what you're asking for. – user6726 Jan 8 '16 at 0:16
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    Your question is unanswerable: if there were such a language L, you would have no way to prove that it is so, as it would be impossible to prove that L satisfies the condition stated in your second edit. Since null case markers are by definition indistinguishable from each other, your hypothetical L could always have TWO null case markers K, K' expressing X-ative and Y-ative (along with overt nominative, accusative, etc.), OR just ONE K syncretising X-ative and Y-ative (in violation of your functional uniqueness condition) and you would be unable to tell which state of affairs holds in L. – Sibutlasi Jan 14 '17 at 18:52
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All nouns in Aymara inflect for Case with suffixes. There are two (quase-) exceptions:

  1. nominative case is "unmarked" (or 0-marked, depending on the analysis)
  2. accusative case is marked by the deletion of the preceding vowel, as an earlier comment indicated.

The null case particle must mean only one case relation (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, etc.), and must participate in a case paradigm, where it must contrast with other overt/non-null case particles that signal different case relations. The presence or absence of the null case particle changes the case relation of the NP, and not just for differential subject/object marking.

The above criteria is met for both the nominative and accusative suffixes.

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    I have accepted this as an answer, as I was waiting for Manchu to be added as an answer but didn't happen. – Noble_Bright_Life Mar 11 '16 at 8:22
  • No problem. Let me know if you'd like some examples or minimal pairs, by the way. – MC0 Mar 12 '16 at 6:49
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Okinawan, a Japonic language related to Japanese, only marks nominative case with an overt marker (either =ga for animate referents or =nu for inanimate referents). Accusative case has a zero marker. This is what is called a marked nominative language, and there are several like it, most found in Africa (see Köning 2006).

And I would argue that differential subject and object marking in languages like Korean, Japanese, Turkish, and other languages is more than just stylistic; it has pretty clear semantic implications. A dropped nominative case particle in Japanese, for instance, implies a less specific subject than a marked subject (see Fujii and Ono 2000 and Minashima 2001, among others).

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  • thanks. I might have stated it incorrectly. What I meant is that the zero case particle must be present in all case relations that it marks, and the presence of another imply a change in case relations. For example, if it's a null nominative case particle, it must be null in all nominative NPs and any overt case particle signal a different case relation to that of the null case particle, In the case of Japanese, the presence/absence of a null case particle does have semantic implications, but those do not include case relations contrast, since either ga, o or ni can be dropped or can be null. – Noble_Bright_Life Jan 8 '16 at 1:56
  • Also, from this (ir.lib.u-ryukyu.ac.jp:8080/bitstream/123456789/24816/1/…), Okinawan uses the null case particle not only for the accusative case, in examples #3 and #4. – Noble_Bright_Life Jan 8 '16 at 2:37
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Slavic languages are full of this. The typical example of this is the genitive plural of female a-stems, which is a null morpheme. See Czech:

case: sg. / pl.
nom.: žen-a / žen-y
gen.: žen-y / žen-0
dat.: žen-ě / žen-á-m
acc.: žen-u / žen-y
voc.: žen-o / žen-y
loc.: žen-ě / žen-á-ch
ins.: žen-ou / žen-a-mi

This happens elsewhere too, e.g. most masculine declensions have nominative singular as null morpheme.

In verbs, some paradigms have null morpheme meaning 2SG imperative.

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  • I wouldn't call Slavic inflectional suffixes "case particles". – brass tacks Jan 14 '17 at 19:57
  • See this comment from the OP linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/15450/… "I am looking for either a separate word or a clitic for case relations, not an affix, suprafix or word order, although it can be declined for other features like, say definiteness, etc. The problem with the Latin and Sanskrit examples is that the null marker [...] is only found in nominative singular, but is not null in nominative plural." – brass tacks Jan 14 '17 at 19:59
  • Oh - right... totally overlooked this is about particles, hmm... – Eleshar Jan 15 '17 at 10:12

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