Case assignment

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In syntax, case assignment is used if case is assigned to an argument by a head, in particular a verb or a preposition, or by INFL (see structural case).


Such a head is called a case-assigner. V and P assign case to their complement positions, in some languages subject to structural conditions, e.g. government and adjacency. INFL on the other hand assigns case to its specifier (the surface subject) under specifier-head agreement; if INFL is +Tense, the subject is assigned Nominative Case (e.g. he), if INFL is -Tense, it assigns Null Case (the unique property of PRO).

More recently, all structural Case assignment is taken to be a matter of spec,head agreement in a different AGRP for each distinct argument (e.g. AGROP, AGRSP). In order to be assigned structural Case arguments move either overtly or covertly to an appropriate spec, AGRP position.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Chomsky, Noam A. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding. Dordrecht:Foris.
  • Chomsky, Noam A. 1986b. Barriers. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Chomsky, Noam A. 1993. A Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory. MIT occasional papers in linguistics, 1-67.
  • Chomsky, Noam A. & Lasnik, H. 1993. The theory of principles and parameters. In Syntax: an international handbook of contemporary research. von Stechow, J. Jacobs A., Sternefeld, W. & Vennemann, T. (eds.). Berlin: De Gruyter. Reprinted in: The minimalist program, ch.1. Chomsky 1995, 13-127. Cambridge MA: MIT Press

Other languages

German Kasuszuweisung