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In linguistics (or generally in the linguistic sciences), an oblique case (Lat. casus generalis) is a noun case of analytic languages that is used generally when a noun is the predicate of a sentence or a preposition. An oblique case can appear in any case relationship except the nominative case of a sentence subject or the vocative case of direct address.
Languages with a nominative/oblique case system also contrast with those who have an absolutive/ergative case system. In ergative-absolutive languages, the absolutive case is used for a direct object (the subject will then be in the ergative case); but the absolutive case is also used for the subject of an intransitive verb, where the subject is being passively described, rather than performing an action.
Bulgarian, the only analytic Slavic language, also has an oblique case - or, rather, two of them at pronouns (cf. English "Give me that ball" and "Give that ball to me") and one (syntactically and gramatically speaking) at nouns.
In analytic Indo-European languages, the oblique case is a relic of the original, more complex system of noun cases from the common Proto-Indo-European language. Oblique cases appear in the English pronoun set; these pronouns are often called objective pronouns. Observe how the first person pronoun me serves a variety of grammatical functions:
- as an accusative case for a direct object:
- She bit me!
- as a dative case for an indirect object:
- Give me the rubber hose!
- That dirt wasn't wiped with me. . .
- and as a disjunctive topic marker:
- Me, I like French. . .
The pronoun me is not inflected differently in any of these uses; it is used for all grammatical relationships except the genitive case of possession and a non-disjunctive nominative case as the subject.
Oblique pronouns tend to become clitics; the English clitic found in Give 'em hell, Harry! is in fact a survival of Middle English hem rather than simply a clipped version of them. The Romance languages tend to have even larger varieties of clitics, as in the Spanish expression dámelo, "give it to me," which has two oblique clitics me and lo or the similar french "Donnez-le-moi" with the same meaning; so do a series of the Slavic languages.
See also objective (grammar)
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