Double-marking language

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A double-marking language is one in which the grammatical marks showing relations between different constituents of a phrase tend to be placed on both the heads (or nuclei) of the phrase in question, and on the modifiers or dependents. Pervasive double-marking is rather rare, but instances of double-marking occur in many languages.

For example, in Turkish, in a genitive construction involving two definite nouns, both the possessor and the possessed are marked, the former with a suffix marking the possessor (and corresponding to a possessive adjective in English)and the latter in the genitive case . For example, 'brother' is kardeş, and 'dog' is köpek, but 'brother's dog' is kardeşin köpeği. (The consonant change is part of a regular consonant mutation.)

Another example is a language in which endings that mark gender or case are used to indicate the role of both nouns and their associated modifiers (such as adjectives) in a sentence (such as Russian and Spanish) or in which case endings are supplemented by verb endings marking the subject, direct object and/or indirect object of a sentence.

Proto-Indo-European had double-marking in both verb phrases (verbs were marked for person and number, nominals for case) and noun-adjective phrases (both marked with the same case-and-number endings) but not in possessive phrases (only the dependent was marked).


  • Nichols, J. 1986. Head-marking and dependent-marking grammar. Language 62, 1, 56-119.

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