Two types of inflectional morphology that are sensitive to grammatical relations: case and agreement.


Case is a grammatical category that shows the functions of noun or noun phrase in a sentence changes (by inflection) to show the different function. Case is morphological differences in noun phrases, depending on what role they play in the larger structure.

       Case helps identify the grammatical relations in a clause.  For example, case marking on pronouns in English helps speaker determine the grammatical relations, and thus the meaning, of poetic sentences like the following:

(1)   a. She me loved. (SOV)

  1. Her I did not love. (OSV)

Traditionally, a case which is used for subjects is called NOMINATIVE, a case for direct objects ACCUSATIVE, a case for indirect objects DATIVE, and a case for possessors GENITIVE.

       The reason that we need terminology for case in addition to terms for grammatical relations is that usually one case is used for more than one purpose.


The form of noun or noun phrase which usually shows that the noun or noun phrase can function as the subject of a sentence.


The form of noun or noun phrase functioned as direct object of a sentence.

Example : Terry baked me a cake.

                                 I.O    D.O

In order to compute the morphology for a noun correctly we must use a two-step process with case-marking as the intermediate step. First we state what functions should be represented by each case, and then we state how to spell out case to reach class of nouns.


noun or noun phrase which refers to  the person or animal affected by the state or action of the verb (the receiver of the action).

Example: Gregory was frightened by the storm.

               I persuaded tom to go.

Gregory and Tom are in the dative case. Both are affected by something. Gregory is frightened and Tom experiences persuasion.


          the forms of a noun or noun phrase which usually shows that the noun or noun phrase is a possessive relation with another a noun or noun phrase in a sentence.

Example: over there is the house of the mayor (the mayor’s house)

                She took my father’s car.


N/NP refers to  person/ animal performs the action of the verb.

Example : Tom pick up the roses

                (Tom does the action, is the agentive case)

                Tom loves roses

      (Tom doesn’t perform the action, just attitude to roses, it’s not an agentive case).


N/NP which refers to something made or created by action of the verb.

Example : Tom built the house.

                Tom repaired the house.

              (The house isn’t factitive case, it’s already existed, so the house is objective case)


N/NP refers to means which the action of verb is performed.

Example : He dug the hole with a spade

                The hammer hit the nail.


the noun or noun phrase which refers to the location of the action of the

verb is in the locative case.

Example: Irene put the magazines on the table


N/NP refers to whoever/whatever has the most neutral relationship to the action of a verb. N/NP in objective case neither performs the action nor as the instrument.

Example : They sliced the sausage with a knife

                The sausage sliced easily

                The sausage was thick.


An affix on a verb which indicates the person, number, or some other characteristic of the subject is an AGREEMENT AFFIX (or AGREEMENT MARKER). In agreement, the morphology of some word ‘points’ to some NP in the clause and redundantly indicates one or more of its features. The number suffix on English  present tense verbs is an example. If the subject noun phrase is third person singular, the verb ends in –s. otherwise, the verb has no ending.

(22)   a. the boy                runs/*run.

  1. I/we/you/they     :runs/run

in English the verb AGREES with the subject in person and number. Consider, for instance, the following two (highly poetic) sentences:

(23)   a. God the years controls.

  1. God the years control.

In the first sentence, the verb has an –s suffix, indicating that the subject is third person singular. The only third person singular noun phrase is God, so that we know that it is the subject, despite the unusual word order.

      In the second sentence, the verb tells us that the subject is not third singular. There is only one noun phrase, the years, that could be subject. The agreement has allowed us to identify the grammatical relations of the noun phrases, despite the use of a non-basic word order.

(24)   The subject and verb agree in person and number.

(25)   The verb agrees with the subject in person and number.

One would not say that ‘The subject agrees with the verb in person and number’ because the features of person and number are inherent characteristics of things (nouns), not actions and states of affairs (verbs). Finally the third way to describe agreement is like this:

(26)   The person and number of the subject are marked (or registered) on the verb.

Formal analysis of verb agreement

(27)   Feature assignment rule for English verb agreement.

This result in a tree like the following:
(28)   out put of base component
Then we have written inflectional spellout rules to add the agreement affixes themselves.
(29)   Inflectional spellout rule for English verb agreement.
          [X]     à       [Xz]
(30   Surface structure: