In linguistics, a case is how a noun declines with respect to its grammatical function within a given phrase, clause, or sentence. Is there a linguistics term to refer to the “state” of a noun within a given sentence? (For example, it can be the subject, or the object, etc.) Or is it simply referred as the state of a noun?

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    I think you're asking about 'functions'. Nouns typically head phrases functioning as subject, object of a verb or preposition, or as predicative complement.
    – BillJ
    Oct 27, 2020 at 13:12
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    No, the grammatical function is not referred to as the "state" of the noun, and if you do so you are likely to be misunderstood. In many Semitic languages "state" refers to a property of a noun which changes its phonetic shape, and relates to its function in a sentence; state is separate from case.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 27, 2020 at 16:01
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    "role" also is also commonly used
    – Tristan
    Oct 27, 2020 at 18:00
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    Starting from the verb in the sentence, there are arguments of a verb. So argument can be a hypernym for subject and the different kinds of objects (direct, indirect, prepositional ...) Oct 27, 2020 at 20:03
  • @Tristan I like the term role; between role and function (or, grammatical function), would you have a reason to prefer one over another?
    – blackened
    Oct 28, 2020 at 4:41

1 Answer 1


You're perhaps looking for the term Part of Speech. It's a rather vague term, and in syntax theory you usually wanna specify the noun by stating its thematic role (agent, patient, experiencer, theme, etc.) and its syntactic function (subject, object, etc.). Theories like LFG (Bresnan, doi.org/10.1002/9781119105664) have "subject" as an atomic concept (a "function"), but Bare Phrase Structure (aka Minimalism, Chomsky http://dx.doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/9780262527347.001.0001) does not.

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