Casally modulated preposition

Casally modulated prepositions are prepositions whose meaning is modified by the grammatical case they are taking. The most common form of this type of preposition is bigovernate; that is the preposition may take one of two cases.

Bigovernate prepositions in German

There exist a reasonable number of bigovernate prepositions in German; these are an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor and zwischen.[1] These prepositions can take either the accusative or dative grammatical cases. The accusative case is used when there is movement relative to the object with which the preposition agrees (e.g. I go into the cinema, "Ich gehe in das Kino") whereas the dative case is used when the subject of the preposition is static in relation to the object with which the preposition agrees (e.g. I am in the cinema, "Ich bin in dem Kino"), the difference here being between the definite article (das/dem).

Bigovernate prepositions in Latin

There are fewer bigovernate prepositions in Latin, the most common of which are in, sub, subter and super. These can take either the accusative or ablative cases. The meaning is modified in a similar way to German. If the preposition takes the accusative then it carries connotations of motion whereas if it takes the ablative then it suggests that the subject of the preposition is at rest. Compare "eram in horto" (I was in the garden) with "veni in hortum" (I came into the garden). Unlike German the difference between these two examples is expressed through the case-endings on the nouns (horto[ABL]/hortum[ACC]). It is much easier to distinguish between the two examples in Latin because the ablative endings are always different from the accusative endings.

It has been suggested that the use of the ablative in this way arose on account of the merging of the locative and ablative cases.[2]

Polygovernate prepositions in Russian

Some prepositions in Russian are monogovernate, one such preposition being к 'towards' governing only the dative case. The great majority, if not almost all prepositions govern two or even three cases.

As is the case in German and Latin, most spatial prepositions govern the locative case when there is no movement (some prepositions however govern the instrumental case). The same spatial prepositions govern the accusative case when their complement is the target of a movement. Examples:

There are, however, prepositions whose meaning drastically changes when the case of their complement changes. The most frequently used such preposition is с(o) meaning [together] with with instrumental case, from with genitive case and like with accusative case. Examples:

Note: The ablative and genitive cases conflated in Balto-Slavic and for this reason the genitive case has far more meanings and usages in the Slavic languages and Russian in particular, than in Latin, Greek or German. One particular example are the prepositions от (ot, from) and до (do, to) which although having opposite meanings both govern the genitive.

Other less frequently used bigovernate prepositions are по (dative for on, along and accusative for up to) and о(б) (prepositional for about and accusative when the complement denotes an object of a clash or touch)

Тhe preposition в(о) in normally governs either the locative or the accusative case as with any other spatial preposition. However, when someone is elected, his post is the complement of the same preposition in nominative plural. The following example contains both usages:

Polygovernate prepositions in classical Greek

There exist in Classical Greek several polygovernate prepositions in addition to bigovernate and monogovernate prepositions.

ἐπί - the meaning of which varies according to three cases: accusative, genitive and dative.


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