Rethinking Amharic prepositions as case markers inserted at PF

Mark C. Baker, Ruth Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In this paper we consider the morphosyntax of so-called prepositions (PrePs) in Amharic. It is typologically anomalous that Amharic should have prepositions, since it is otherwise a fairly canonical head-final language. Instead, we argue that the PrePs are really morphological prefixes that express the oblique case assigned to NP by a postposition (null or overt). What is somewhat unusual about Amharic, then, is where this prefix shows up in complex nominals. We argue that the case feature is not manifested on the first word of the NP, or the last word, or the noun head, but rather on the structurally highest element of the nominal, defined recursively. This explains the position of the PreP in nominals that have one or more adjectival modifiers, demonstratives, possessor expressions, and relative clauses, as well as its special location in verbal noun constructions. We briefly contrast our analysis with one that makes use only of leftward movement in the syntax, and we compare the distribution of the oblique case prefixes with that of the definiteness suffix - u and the accusative case suffix - n.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-172
Number of pages32
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Amharic
  • Head finality
  • Oblique case
  • PF insertion
  • Word order


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