Case Valuation in Transitive Clauses: A Comparative Study of Punjabi and English Syntax


Abdul Rafay Khan
Ghazala Kausar


Case is a morphological realization on a noun phrase (NP) to represent the NP's grammatical relationship with the main verb of the clause. With respect to case, languages, in many cases, can be broadly divided into two alignment systems, i.e., ergative-absolutive and nominative-accusative. In the former type of languages, e.g., Punjabi, the subjects usually receive an ergative post position in transitive clauses (with perfective aspect) while in the latter type of languages, e.g., English, the subject, i.e., in nominative case receives, no post position. There has been a widespread controversy on whether ergative is a structural case or a lexical/inherent case and how the arguments are, i.e., subject and objects valued case in case of ergative clauses. With this ongoing debate in the background, this study aims to compare the marking of case on the arguments, i.e., subjects and objects in the transitive clauses of English and Punjabi. The study is conducted under the minimalist framework of Chomsky (2008), who emphasized on Strong Minimalist Thesis (SMT): language provides the best possible solution to the interface conditions imposed by other systems of the human mind, i.e., related to meaning and sound, which interact with language through their interfaces Conceptual Intentional (C-I) and Sensori-Motor (SM) respectively. In this framework, a feature valuation mechanism is induced by the probes, i.e., C and v*. The study finds that in split ergative languages (the languages which take both case patterns, i.e., nominative and ergative) like Punjabi, the EA, i.e., subjects of perfective transitive clauses are assigned the ergative case by the functional heads v* at [Spec-v*] while the IA, i.e., objects are valued accusative case by the same functional head v* under Agree operation. A consequence of this finding concludes that T has default agreement in such languages, which is possible because Punjabi (like its other South Asian counterparts, e.g., Urdu-Hindi, Bengali, and Kashmiri) is a pro-drop language. So, it is easy to assume that EPP and Agree features of T are an option