I'm talking about a language where say, a certain case is only expressed on the determiners/demonstrative/article?

So they might say for example:

Which-a Cat?
Which-LOC. Cat?

Rather than:

Which Cat-a?
Which Cat-LOC.?

(Where LOC is the locative for this Examplish sentence).

How (in)common is this?

  • 3
    It’s not very common to mark tense or aspect on nouns or determiners. They’re usually marked on verbs. Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 16:07
  • 1
    And to answer the corresponding question, it's very common to mark tense, mood, and aspect on auxiliary verbs and particles.
    – jlawler
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 17:43
  • 3
    Yes, now the question makes sense, and is actually quite an interesting one. The three groups usually marked for case are not equally likely to be marked: it’s nouns > determiners > adjectives, and I can’t think of a single language I know of that doesn’t follow this ordering. Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 18:06
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet Standard German is the first one that comes to mind; most of the case marking on nouns has been eroded away (so that only the genitive is commonly distinguished), but the marking on determiners and adjectives is still alive and thriving.
    – Draconis
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 22:45
  • 1
    @Draconis German does still mark it in all three, though; there’s just a higher rate of syncretism in nouns than in (strong) adjectives. (In the plural, of course, it’s the dative that’s most commonly distinguished.) There are also individual cases where a noun or adjective is indeclinable but it’s determiners aren’t, which would match what this question is about (e.g., Hebrew names in Biblical Greek), but those are just individual cases within a system that itself works differently. Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 22:54


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