Case (linguistics)
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Case Linguistics

"Case" is a linguistics term regarding a manner of categorizing nouns, pronouns, adjectives, participles, and numerals according to their traditionally corresponding grammatical functions within a given phrase, clause, or sentence. In some languages, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, determiners, participles, prepositions, numerals, articles and their modifiers take different inflected forms, depending on their case. As a language evolves, cases can merge (for instance, in Ancient Greek, the locative case merged with the dative case), a phenomenon formally called syncretism.[1]

English has largely lost its inflected case system although personal pronouns still have three cases, which are simplified forms of the nominative, accusative and genitive cases. They are used with personal pronouns: subjective case (I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who, whoever), objective case (me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom, whomever) and possessive case (my, mine; your, yours; his; her, hers; its; our, ours; their, theirs; whose; whosever).[2] Forms such as I, he and we are used for the subject ("I kicked the ball"), and forms such as me, him and us are used for the object ("John kicked me").

Languages such as Ancient Greek, Armenian, Assamese, most Balto-Slavic languages, Basque, most Caucasian languages, most Dravidian languages,[3]German, Icelandic, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Sanskrit, Tibetan, the Turkic languages and the Uralic languages have extensive case systems, with nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and determiners all inflecting (usually by means of different suffixes) to indicate their case. The number of cases differs between languages: Persian has two; modern English has three but for pronouns only; Modern Standard and Classical forms of Arabic have three; German, Icelandic, and Irish have four; Romanian has five; Latin, Slovenian, Russian and Turkish each have at least six; Armenian, Czech, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Slovak and Ukrainian have seven; Sanskrit and Tamil have eight; Assamese has 10; Estonian has 14; Finnish has 15; Hungarian has 18 and Tsez has 64 cases.[]

Commonly encountered cases include nominative, accusative, dative and genitive. A role that one of those languages marks by case is often marked in English with a preposition. For example, the English prepositional phrase with (his) foot (as in "John kicked the ball with his foot") might be rendered in Russian using a single noun in the instrumental case, or in Ancient Greek as ? (tôi podí, meaning "the foot") with both words (the definite article, and the noun ? (poús) "foot") changing to dative form.

More formally, case has been defined as "a system of marking dependent nouns for the type of relationship they bear to their heads".[4]:p.1 Cases should be distinguished from thematic roles such as agent and patient. They are often closely related, and in languages such as Latin, several thematic roles have an associated case, but cases are a morphological notion, and thematic roles a semantic one. Languages having cases often exhibit free word order, as thematic roles are not required to be marked by position in the sentence.


It is widely accepted that the Ancient Greeks had a certain idea of the forms of a name in their own language. A fragment of Anacreon seems to prove this. Nevertheless, it cannot be inferred that the Ancient Greeks really knew what grammatical cases were. Grammatical cases were first recognized by the Stoics and from some philosophers of the Peripatetic school.[5][6] The advancements of those philosophers were later employed by the philologists of the Alexandrian school.[7][5]


The English word case used in this sense comes from the Latin casus, which is derived from the verb cadere, "to fall", from the Proto-Indo-European root *?ad-.[8] The Latin word is a calque of the Greek , ptôsis, lit. "falling, fall".[9] The sense is that all other cases are considered to have "fallen" away from the nominative. This imagery is also reflected in the word declension, from Latin declinere, "to lean", from the PIE root *?ley-.

The equivalent to "case" in several other European languages also derives from casus, including cas in French, caso in Italian, caso in Spanish, caso in Portuguese and Kasus in German. The Russian word (padyézh) is a calque from Greek and similarly contains a root meaning "fall", and the German Fall and Czech pád simply mean "fall", and are used for both the concept of grammatical case and to refer to physical falls. The Finnish equivalent is sija, whose main meaning is "position" or "place".

Indo-European languages

On this sign in Russian memorializing an anniversary of the city of Balakhna, the word Balakhna (Russian: ?) on the right is in the nominative case, whereas the word Balakhne (Russian: ?) is in the dative case in Balakhne 500 Let ('Balakhna is 500 years old', literally '[There is] 500 years to Balakhna') on the front of the sign. Furthermore, let is in the genitive (plural) case.

Although not very prominent in modern English, cases featured much more saliently in Old English and other ancient Indo-European languages, such as Latin, Old Persian, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Historically, the Indo-European languages had eight morphological cases, though modern languages typically have fewer, using prepositions and word order to convey information that had previously been conveyed using distinct noun forms. Among modern languages, cases still feature prominently in most of the Balto-Slavic languages (except Macedonian and Bulgarian[10]), with most having six to eight cases, as well as Icelandic, German and Modern Greek, which have four. In German, cases are mostly marked on articles and adjectives, and less so on nouns. In Icelandic, articles, adjectives, personal names and nouns are all marked for case, making it, among other things, the living Germanic language that could be said to most closely resemble Proto-Germanic.

The eight historical Indo-European cases are as follows, with examples either of the English case or of the English syntactic alternative to case:

Case Indicates Sample case words Sample sentence Interrogative Notes
Nominative Subject of a finite verb we We went to the store. Who or what? Corresponds to English's subject pronouns.
Accusative Direct object of a transitive verb us,
for us,
the (object)
The clerk remembered us.

John waited for us at the bus stop.

Obey the law.

Whom or what? Corresponds to English's object pronouns and preposition for construction before the object, often marked by a definite article the. Together with dative, it forms modern English's oblique case.
Dative Indirect object of a verb us,
to us,
to the (object)
The clerk gave us a discount.

The clerk gave a discount to us.

According to the law...

Whom or to what? Corresponds to English's object pronouns and preposition to construction before the object, often marked by a definite article the. Together with accusative, it forms modern English's oblique case.
Ablative Movement away from from us The pigeon flew from us to a steeple. Whence? From where/whom?
Genitive Possessor of another noun 's,

of (the),


John's book was on the table.

The pages of the book turned yellow.

Table made out of wood.

To each his own.

Whose? From what or what of? Roughly corresponds to English's possessive (possessive determiners and pronouns) and preposition of construction.
Vocative Addressee John John, are you all right?

Hello, John!

Locative Location, either physical or temporal in Japan,

at the bus stop,

in the future

We live in Japan.

John is waiting for us at the bus stop.

We will see what will happen in the future.

Where or wherein? When? Roughly corresponds to English prepositions in, on, at, and by and other less common prepositions.
Instrumental A means or tool used or companion present in/while performing an action with a mop,

by hand

We wiped the floor with a mop.

This letter was written by hand.

How? With what or using what? By what means? With whom? Corresponds to English prepositions by, with and via as well as synonymous constructions such as using, by use of and through.

All of the above are just rough descriptions; the precise distinctions vary significantly from language to language, and as such they are often more complex. Case is based fundamentally on changes to the noun to indicate the noun's role in the sentence - one of the defining features of so-called fusional languages. Old English was a fusional language, but Modern English does not work this way.

Modern English

Modern English has largely abandoned the inflectional case system of Proto-Indo-European in favor of analytic constructions. The personal pronouns of Modern English retain morphological case more strongly than any other word class (a remnant of the more extensive case system of Old English). For other pronouns, and all nouns, adjectives, and articles, grammatical function is indicated only by word order, by prepositions, and by the "Saxon genitive" (-'s).[a]

Taken as a whole, English personal pronouns are typically said to have three morphological cases:

Most English personal pronouns have five forms: the nominative and oblique case forms, the possessive case, which has both a determiner form (such as my, our) and a distinct independent form (such as mine, ours) (with two exceptions: the third person singular masculine and the third person singular neuter it, which use the same form for both determiner and independent [his car, it is his]), and a distinct reflexive or intensive form (such as myself, ourselves). The interrogative personal pronoun who exhibits the greatest diversity of forms within the modern English pronoun system, having definite nominative, oblique, and genitive forms (who, whom, whose) and equivalently coordinating indefinite forms (whoever, whomever, and whosever).

Though English pronouns can have subject and object forms (he/him, she/her), nouns show only a singular/plural and a possessive/non-possessive distinction (e.g. chair, chairs, chair's, chairs'). Note that chair does not change form between "the chair is here" (subject) and "I saw the chair" (direct object), a distinction made by word order and context.

Hierarchy of cases

Cases can be ranked in the following hierarchy, where a language that does not have a given case will tend not to have any cases to the right of the missing case:[4]:p.89

nominative -> accusative or ergative -> genitive -> dative -> locative or prepositional -> ablative and/or instrumental -> others.

This is, however, only a general tendency. Many forms of Central German, such as Colognian and Luxembourgish, have a dative case but lack a genitive. In Irish nouns, the nominative and accusative have fallen together, whereas the dative-locative has remained separate in some paradigms; Irish also has genitive and vocative cases. In many modern Indo-Aryan languages, the accusative, genitive, and dative have merged to an oblique case, but much of these languages still retain vocative, locative, and ablative cases. Old English had an instrumental case, but not a locative or prepositional.

Case order

The traditional case order (nom-gen-dat-acc) was expressed for the first time in The Art of Grammar in the 2nd century BC:

There are five Cases, the right [nominative], the generic [genitive], the dative, the accusative, and the vocative.[17]

Latin grammars, such as Ars grammatica, followed the Greek tradition, but added the ablative case of Latin. Later other European languages also followed that Graeco-Roman tradition.

However, for some languages, such as Latin, due to case syncretism the order may be changed for convenience, where the accusative or the vocative cases are placed after the nominative and before the genitive. For example:

aqua, aquae
water f.
bellum, bell?
war n.
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative aqua aquae bellum bella
Accusative aquam aqu?s
Genitive aquae aqu?rum bell? bell?rum
Dative aqu?s bell? bell?s
Ablative aqu?

For similar reasons, the customary order of the four cases in Icelandic is nominative-accusative-dative-genitive, as illustrated below:

number case masculine feminine neuter neuter
singular nom. hattur borg glas gler
acc. hatt
dat. hatti glasi gleri
gen. hatts borgar glass glers
plural nom. hattar borgir glös gler
acc. hatta
dat. höttum borgum glösum gler(j)um
gen. hatta borga glasa gler(j)a

Case concord systems

In the most common[4] case concord system, only the head-word (the noun) in a phrase is marked for case. This system appears in many Papuan languages as well as in Turkic, Mongolian, Quechua, Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, and other languages. In Basque and various Amazonian and Australian languages, only the phrase-final word (not necessarily the noun) is marked for case. In many Indo-European, Finnic, and Semitic languages, case is marked on the noun, the determiner, and usually the adjective. Other systems are less common. In some languages, there is double-marking of a word as both genitive (to indicate semantic role) and another case such as accusative (to establish concord with the head noun).[][18]

Declension paradigms

Declension is the process or result of altering nouns to the correct grammatical cases. Languages with rich nominal inflection (use grammatical cases for many purposes) typically have a number of identifiable declension classes, or groups of nouns with a similar pattern of case inflection or declension. Sanskrit has six declension classes, whereas Latin is traditionally considered to have five, and Ancient Greek three.[19] For example, Slovak has fifteen noun declension classes, five for each gender (the number may vary depending on which paradigms are counted or omitted, this mainly concerns those that modify declension of foreign words; refer to article).

In Indo-European languages, declension patterns may depend on a variety of factors, such as gender, number, phonological environment, and irregular historical factors. Pronouns sometimes have separate paradigms. In some languages, particularly Slavic languages, a case may contain different groups of endings depending on whether the word is a noun or an adjective. A single case may contain many different endings, some of which may even be derived from different roots. For example, in Polish, the genitive case has -a, -u, -ów, -i/-y, -e- for nouns, and -ego, -ej, -ich/-ych for adjectives. To a lesser extent, a noun's animacy or humanness may add another layer of complexity. For example, in Russian:

  • Kot (NOM, animate, zero ending) lóvit myshéy. ((The) cat catches mice)
  • Stolb (NOM, inanimate, zero ending) dérzhit krýshu. ((The) pillar holds a/the roof)


  • Pyotr gládit kotá (ACC, animate, -a ending). (Peter strokes a/the cat)


  • Pyotr lomáyet stolb (ACC, inanimate, zero ending). (Peter breaks a/the pillar)



Assamese has ten cases.

English Significance Usual Suffixes Transliteration of Suffixes Example with ? (suli, "hair")
(I) Absolutive Subject of sentence Ø Ø suli
(II) Ergative Agent ? (, ), ? e, i sulie
(III) Accusative Object of action / ? (animate); Ø (inanimate) ok / k; Ø sulik; suli
(IV) Genitive Possessive or / r sulir
(V) Dative Object to whom action is performed / ? ok / k sulik
(VI) Dative of motion form Object for whom action is performed / oloi / loi suliloi
(VII) Terminative Shows end or limit; "until", "till", up to". / ? oloike / loike suliloike
(VIII) Instrumental of motion from Means by which action is done / ere / re sulire
(IX) Locative Place in which, On the person of (animate) in the presence of / ? ot / t sulit
(X) Vocative Addressing, calling ?, Ø, o, Ø, he o suli!, suli!, he suli!

Australian Aboriginal Languages

Australian languages represent a diversity of case paradigms in terms of their alignment (i.e. nominative-accusative vs. ergative-absolutive) and the morpho-syntactic properties of case inflection including where/how many times across a noun phrase the case morphology will appear. For typical r-expression noun phrases, most Australian languages follow a basic ERG-ABS template with additional cases for peripheral arguments; however, many Australian languages, the function of case marking extends beyond the prototypical function of specifying the syntactic and semantic relation of an NP to a predicate.[20] Dench and Evans (1988)[21] use a five-part system for categorizing the functional roles of case marking in Australian languages. They are enumerated below as they appear in Senge (2015)[20]:

  1. Relational: a suffix which represents syntactic or semantic roles of a noun phrase in clauses.
  2. Adnominal: a suffix which relates a noun phrase to another within the one noun phrase.
  3. Referential: a suffix which attaches to a noun phrase in agreement with another noun phrase which represents one of the core arguments in the clause.
  4. Subordinating: a suffix which attaches to elements of a subordinate clause. Its functions are: (i) specifying temporal or logical (typically, causal and purposive) relationships between two clauses (Temporal-subordinator); (ii) indicating coreferential relationships between arguments in the two clauses (Concord-subordinator).
  5. Derivational: a suffix which attaches to a bare stem before other case suffixes and create a new lexical item.

To illustrate this paradigm in action, take the case-system of Wanyjirra for whose description Senge invokes this system. Each of the case markers functions in the prototypical relational sense, but many extend into these additional functions:

Derivational Adnominal Relational Referential Subordinator
Ergative + + +
Dative + + + +
Locative + + +
Allative + +
Purposive + +
Ablative +
Elative + + + + +
Comitative +
Originative + +
Proprietive + + +
Privative + + +

Wanyjirra is an example of a language in which case marking occurs on all sub-constituents of the NP; see the following example in which the demonstrative, head, and quantifier of the noun phrase all receive ergative marking:













yalu-nggu mawun-du gujarra-lu ngu=wula yunbarn-ana junba

DIST-ERG man-ERG two-ERG REAL=3.AUG.SBJ sing-PRES corroboree.ABS

Those two men are singing corroboree.

However, this is by no means always the case or even the norm for Australian languages. For many, case-affixes are considered special-clitics (i.e. phrasal-affixes, see Anderson 2005[22]) because they have a singular fixed position within the phrase. For Bardi, the case marker usually appears on the first phrasal constituent[23] while the opposite is the case for Wangkatja (i.e. the case marker is attracted to the rightmost edge of the phrase).[24] See the following examples respectively:












Boordiji-nim niiwandi aamba i-na-m-boo-na aril

fat-ERG tall man 3-TR-PST-poke-REM.PST fish

The tall fat man speared a fish.










tjitji warta purlkana-ngka nyinarra-nyi

child tree big-LOC sitting-?

'The child is sitting in the big tree.'


An example of a Belarusian case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Belarusian term for "country", which belongs to Belarusian's first declension class.

  • ? (nominative) "[the] country" [as a subject] (e.g. ? ? - this country is located in Europe)
  • ? (genitive) "[the] country's / [of the] country" (e.g. ? ? , ? - - the Dutch government is situated in The Hague, but the country's capital is Amsterdam)
  • ? (dative) "[to/for the] country" [as an indirect object] (e.g. - there were no natural resources left for the new country)
  • ? (accusative) "country" [as a direct object] (e.g. ? ? - I often visit this country)
  • (instrumental) "[with the] country/[by the] country/[be a] country" (e.g. ? - Singapore was a poor country)
  • ? ? (locative) "[in the] country" [as a direct object] (e.g. ? - There is not enough food in the country)


In German, grammatical case is largely preserved in the articles and adjectives, but nouns have lost many of their original endings. Below is an example of case inflection in German using the masculine definite article and one of the German words for "sailor".

  • der Seemann (nominative) "the sailor" [as a subject] (e.g. Der Seemann steht da - the sailor is standing there)
  • des Seemann(e)s (genitive) "the sailor's / [of] the sailor" (e.g. Der Name des Seemannes ist Otto - the name of the sailor is Otto)
  • dem Seemann(e) (dative) "[to/for] the sailor" [as an indirect object] (e.g. Ich gab dem Seemann ein Geschenk - I gave a present to the sailor)
  • den Seemann (accusative) "the sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. Ich sah den Seemann - I saw the sailor)

An example with the feminine definite article with the German word for "woman".

  • die Frau (nominative) "the woman" [as a subject] (e.g. Die Frau isst - the woman eats)
  • der Frau (genitive) "the woman's / [of] the woman" (e.g. Die Katze der Frau ist weiß - the cat of the woman is white)
  • der Frau (dative) "[to/for] the woman" [as an indirect object] (e.g. Ich gab der Frau ein Geschenk - I gave a present to the woman)
  • die Frau (accusative) "the woman" [as a direct object] (e.g. Ich sah die Frau - I saw the woman)

An example with the neuter definite article with the German word for "book".

  • das Buch (nominative) "the book" [as a subject] (e.g. Das Buch ist gut - the book is good)
  • des Buch(e)s (genitive) "the book's/ [of] the book" (e.g. Die Seiten des Buchs sind grün - the pages of the book are green)
  • dem Buch (dative) "[to/for] the book" [as an indirect object] (e.g. Ich gab dem Buch einen Titel - I gave the book a title)
  • das Buch (accusative) "the book" [as a direct object] (e.g. Ich sah das Buch - I saw the book)


Modern Greek has four cases: nominative, genitive, accusative, and vocative. For neuters and most groups of feminines and plural masculines, the genitive case differs from the other three. Below is an example of the declension of ? (sky), which has a different form in the singular of all four cases, together with the appropriate article in both the singular and the plural:

  • Nominative - ? ? / ?
  • Genitive - ? / ?
  • Accusative - / ?
  • Vocative - / ?

Ancient Greek had one additional case, the dative. At some point, it was replaced with the preposition , followed by the accusative. This became necessary when pronunciation simplified, merging the two long vowels eta and omega to short. The result was that dative did not sound much different from the accusative in the singular of the first two groups. However, the dative case is still used in many expressions.

With time, only the sigma of was left and got attached to the article, except when an article is not used and it becomes instead. Note that this is not a different case from the accusative.

Below is an example with the dative case of the word ? (city):

  • Nominative - ? /
  • Genitive - /
  • Dative - / ? (?)
  • Accusative - /
  • Vocative - (?) ? / (?)


Hindi has two noun cases, the nominative, and the oblique (or the postpositional case). There is also an obsolete vocative case whose function is now taken by the oblique case. The other cases are constructed adpositionally using the case-marking postpositions with nouns and pronouns in the oblique cases. The pronoun cases that Hindi have are the nominative, accusative/dative, and three oblique cases. The Oblique - Regular case is used with the primary postpositions of Hindi, Oblique - Ergative is used with the ergative marker (ne) and the Oblique - Genitive case is used with the secondary (compound) postpositions.[26][27] All the noun and pronoun cases are mentioned in the table below. The cases which do not exist are constructed using primary postpositions and the regular oblique case.

Case Masculine Feminine
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Type-I Nominative













Type-II Nominative ?














Type-III Nominative ?







Oblique ?








Personal Pronouns Non-Personal Pronouns
1st Person 2nd Person Demonstrative






Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Initimate Neutral Formal Proximal Distal Proximal Distal






ye vo jo

k?n, kya

, ?

y?h v?h ye ve
Accusative ?





















Genitive ?






-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Oblique Regular























Genitive ?






-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Note: Hindi lacks 3rd person personal pronouns and to compensate for the loss, demonstrative pronouns are also used as 3rd person personal pronouns.

The oblique case is used exclusively with these 8 case-marking postpositions shown below. Out of these 8 postpositions, the genitive and semblative postpositions ka & sa decline to agree with the gender, number, and case of the object it shows possession and semblance of.

Postpositional Case-markers
Case Marker Example English Explanation
Nominative --


boy marks the subject
Ergative (ne)

lke ne

the boy marks the subject for transitive verbs in their perfective aspect
Accusative (ko)

lke ko

the boy marks the direct object
Dative to the boy marks the direct object (can also mark the subject[28]) dative subjects; dative subject
Instrumental (se)

lke se

with the boy marks the instrument of the action
Ablative from the boy shows motion from or through something; "from", "through", "along"
Genitive (ka)

lke ka

boy's shows possession;
Inessive (m?)

lke m?

in the boy shows something is in/inside something;
Adessive (pe)

lke pe

on the boy shows something is on/at something;
Terminative (t?k)

lke t?k

till the boy shows end or limit; "until", "till", up to".
Semblative (sa)

lke sa

boy-ish shows resemblance and similarity; "like", "similar to", "resembles"; "-esque"
Genitive & Semblative Marker Declension
Case Masculine Feminine
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative ? (-a) ? (-e) ? (-?)
Oblique ? (-e)


Cases in Japanese are marked by particles placed after the nouns.[29] A distinctive feature of Japanese is the presence of two cases which are roughly equivalent to the nominative case in other languages: one representing the sentence topic, the other representing the subject. The most important case markers are the following:

Case Marker Explanation
Nominative ? (ga) marks the subject
? (wa) marks the topic
Genitive ? (no) shows possession
Dative ? (ni) used for a goal or recipient of the action (e.g. "gives to someone"), or to indicate spatial placement (e.g. "to the west")
Accusative ? (o) marks the direct object
Lative ? (e) used for indicating direction towards (e.g."toward some place") but leaves ambiguity as to whether it is the goal.
Ablative (kara) used for indicating direction away (e.g. "from some place")
Terminative (made) used for the goal of a direction (e.g."up to/until some place")
Instrumental ? (de) marks the instrument of an action


Cases in Korean are marked by case markers placed after the nouns. Korean grammarians recognize at least seven grammatical cases. Other auxiliary particles, such as ?/? (eun/neun; topic), (kkaji; terminative), ? (do; "also"), ? (man; "only"), and ?/ (na/ina; "or"), are not classified as case markers.

  • nominative - ?/? (i/ga) for the subject, (kkeseo) for the subject who is respected
  • genitive - ? (ui)
  • locative - ? (e) "to" place or "in" place (e.g. "go to the hospital" or "I am in the hospital")
  • locative 2 - (eseo) "at" place or "from" place (e.g. "I work at the hospital" or "I came from Korea")
  • dative - (ege) "to" someone, (hante) "to" someone in a casual manner, ? (kke) "to" someone who is respected
  • ablative - (egeseo) "from" someone, (hanteseo) "from" someone in a casual manner
  • accusative - ?/? (eul/reul) for the direct object
  • lative - ?/ (ro/euro) "onto" something or "with" something (e.g. "it is moving toward the city" or "I wrote with a pen")
  • instrumental - / (rosseo/eurosseo) "with" something
  • essive - / (roseo/euroseo) being "as" something (e.g. "as a teacher, I will help you")
  • ablative 2 - /? (robuteo/eurobuteo) something "from" source or origin (e.g. "modern cars are developed from carriages")
  • comitative - ?/? (wa/gwa), ?/ (rang/irang), (hago) together "with" someone or something
  • vocative - ?/? (a/ya), ?/ (yeo/iyeo) "hey" someone being addressed


An example of a Latin case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Latin term for "cook", which belongs to Latin's second declension class.

  • coquus (nominative) "[the] cook" [as a subject] (e.g. coquus ib? stat - the cook is standing there)
  • coqu? (genitive) "[the] cook's / [of the] cook" (e.g. n?men coqu? Claudius est - the cook's name is Claudius)
  • coqu? (dative) "[to/for the] cook" [as an indirect object] (e.g. coqu? d?num ded? - I gave a present to the cook)
  • coquum (accusative) "[the] cook" [as a direct object] (e.g. coquum v?d? - I saw the cook)
  • coqu? (ablative) "[by/with/from/in the] cook" [in various uses not covered by the above] (e.g. sum altior coqu? - I am taller than the cook: ablative of comparison)
  • coque (vocative) "[you] the cook" [addressing the object] (e.g. gr?ti?s tibi ag?, coque - I thank you, cook)


Latvian nouns have seven grammatical cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative and vocative. The instrumental case is always identical to the accusative in the singular and to the dative in the plural. It is used as a free-standing case (without a preposition) only in highly restricted contexts in modern Latvian.

An example of a Latvian case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Latvian term for "man", which belongs to the first declension class.

  • Nominative: v?rs
  • Genitive: v?ra
  • Dative: v?ram
  • Accusative: v?ru
  • Instrumental: ar v?ru
  • Locative: v?r?
  • Vocative: v?r


In Lithuanian, only the inflection usually changes in the seven different grammatical cases:

  • Nominative (vardininkas): ?uo - Tai yra ?uo - "This is a dog."
  • Genitive (kilmininkas): ?uns - Tomas pa?m? ?uns kaul? - "Tom took the dog's bone."
  • Dative (naudininkas): ?uniui - Jis dav? kaul? kitam ?uniui - "He gave the bone to another dog."
  • Accusative (galininkas): ?un? - Jis nupraus? ?un? - "He washed the dog."
  • Instrumental (?nagininkas): ?unimi - Jis ?unimi i?g?sdino kates - He scared the cats with (using) the dog.
  • Locative (vietininkas): ?unyje - Susitiksime ,,Baltame ?unyje" - "We'll meet at the White Dog (Cafe)."
  • Vocative (?auksmininkas): ?unie - Jis su?uko: Ei, ?unie! - "He shouted: Hey, dog!"


Vocative forms are given in parentheses after the nominative, as the only pronominal vocatives that are used are the third person ones, which only occur in compounds[30][circular reference].

Singular Plural
Case First




Third person


Third person


First person


First person






Nominative ñ n?, ningal ava? (voc. ava) ava? (voc. ava) ña?ga? n?m/ namma? nia? avar (voc. avar?)
Genitive ee (also e?, eu?e) nie (also ni?, niu?e) avae (also ava?u?e) ava?u?e ña?ga?u?e (also ña?gu?e) nammu?e ni?ga?u?e avaru?e
Dative e?ikku ni?akku ava?u ava?kku ñamma?kku namukku ni?ga?kku avarkku
Accusative ee nie ava?e ava?e ña?ga?e nammale ni?ga?e avaru
Instrumental el nil aval aval ña?gal (also ñal) namm?l ni?gal (also nil) avar?l
Locative eil (also e?kal) niil (also ni?kal) ava?il (also ava?kal) ava?il (also ava?kal) ña?ga?il nammil ni?ga?il avaril (also ava?kal)
Sociative e?u ni?u avau avau ña?gau nammu ni?gau avaru


An example of a Polish case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Polish terms for "human" (cz?owiek) and "monkey" (ma?pa)


Hungarian declension is relatively simple with regular suffixes attached to the vast majority of nouns. The following table lists all of the cases used in Hungarian.

ház - house, kett? - two
Case Meaning Suffix Example Meaning of the example
Nominative case subject ? ház house (as a subject)
Accusative case direct object -ot/(-at)/-et/-öt/-t házat house (as an object)
Dative case indirect object -nak/-nek háznak to the house
Genitive case possession házé of the house (belonging to)
Instrumental-comitative case with -val/-vel (Assim.) házzal with the house
Causal-final case for, for the purpose of -ért házért for the house
Translative case into (used to show transformation) -vá/-vé (Assim.) házzá [turn] into a house
Terminative case as far as, up to -ig házig as far as the house
Illative case into (location) -ba/-be házba into the house
Adessive case at -nál/-nél háznál at the house
Ablative case from -tól/-t?l háztól from the house
Sublative case onto (movement towards a thing) -ra/-re házra onto the house
Superessive case on/upon (static position) -n/-on/-en/-ön házon on top of the house
Delative case from (movement away from a thing) -ról/-röl házról away from the house
Temporal case at (used to indicate time or moment) -kor kett?kor at two (o'clock)
Sociative case with (archaic, nowadays slightly pejorative) -stul/-stül házastul with the house
Types of types or variants of a thing -féle kett?féle ház two types of houses


Romanian is the only modern major Romance language with a case system for all nouns, whereas all other Romance languages dropped the cases for nouns replacing them by prepositions. An example of Romanian case inflection is given below, using the singular form of the word "boy":

  • B?iat(ul) (nominative) "(the) boy" [as a subject] (e.g. B?iatul a stat acas? - The boy stayed home.)
  • B?iat(ul) (accusative) "(the) boy" [as a direct object] (e.g. L-am v?zut asear? pe b?iat - I saw the boy last night.)
  • B?iat(ului) (genitive) "(the) boy's / of a/the boy" (e.g. Bicicleta b?iatului s-a stricat - The boy's bike broke down.)
  • B?iat(ului) (dative) "to a/the boy" (e.g. I-am dat un cadou b?iatului - I gave the boy a gift.)
  • B?iat(ule!) (vocative) "Boy!" (e.g. Stai acas?, b?iatule! - Stay at home, boy!)


An example of a Russian case inflection is given below (with explicit stress marks), using the singular forms of the Russian term for "sailor", which belongs to Russian's first declension class.

  • (nominative) "[the] sailor" [as a subject] (e.g. : The sailor is standing there)
  • á (genitive) "[the] sailor's / [of the] sailor" (e.g. -- : The sailor's son is an artist)
  • (dative) "[to/for the] sailor" [as an indirect object] (e.g. ?: (They/Someone) gave a present to the sailor)
  • á (accusative) "[the] sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. ? : (I) see the sailor)
  • (instrumental) "[with/by the] sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. ? ?: (I) have a friendship with the sailor)
  • ?//? (prepositional) "[about/on/in the] sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. ? : (I) think about the sailor)

Up to ten additional cases are identified by linguists, although today all of them are either incomplete (do not apply to all nouns or do not form full word paradigm with all combinations of gender and number) or degenerate (appear identical to one of the main six cases). The most recognized additional cases are locative (? , , ? ?), partitive (?, ?, ), and two forms of vocative -- old (, , ) and neo-vocative (, , ). Sometimes, so called count-form (for some countable nouns after numerals) is considered to be a sub-case. See details.


Grammatical case was analyzed extensively in Sanskrit. The grammarian Pini identified six semantic roles or k?raka,[31] which are related to the following eight Sanskrit cases in order:[32]

Case Root word? (vk?a) [Tree]
Singular Dual Plural




? / ¹

v?k? / v?ksa?¹







Accusative ?




Instrumental ?



? / ¹

v?k?aí? / v?k?ébhi?¹


Dative ?


















¹ Vedic

For example, in the following sentence leaf is the agent (kart?, nominative case), tree is the source (ap?d?na, ablative case), and ground is the locus (adhikara?a, locative case). The declensions are reflected in the morphemes -?t, -am, and -au respectively.

v?k?-?t par?-am bh?m-au patati
from the tree a leaf to the ground falls

However, the cases may be deployed for other than the default thematic roles. A notable example is the passive construction. In the following sentence, Devadatta is the kart?, but appears in the instrumental case, and rice, the karman, object, is in the nominative case (as subject of the verb). The declensions are reflected in the morphemes -ena and -am.

devadatt-ena odan-am pacyati
by Devadatta the rice is cooked


The Tamil case system is analyzed in native and missionary grammars as consisting of a finite number of cases.[33][34] The usual treatment of Tamil case (Arden 1942)[35] is one in which there are seven cases: nominative (first case), accusative (second case), instrumental (third), dative (fourth), ablative (fifth), genitive (sixth), and locative (seventh). In traditional analyses, there is always a clear distinction made between post-positional morphemes and case endings. The vocative is sometimes given a place in the case system as an eighth case, but vocative forms do not participate in usual morphophonemic alternations and do not govern the use of any postpositions. Modern grammarians, however, argue that this eight-case classification is coarse and artificial[34] and that Tamil usage is best understood if each suffix or combination of suffixes is seen as marking a separate case.[36]

Case Suffixes Example: (mannan) [king]
First case Nominative --
  • (mannan)
Second case Accusative
  • ai
  • ?
  • (mannanai)
Third case Instrumental
  • al
  • udan,
  • kondu
  • , ?
  • (mannanaal)
  • (mannanudan)
  • (mannanOdu)
Fourth case Dative
  • (u)kku
  • poruttu
  • aaga
  • ? (mannanukku)
  • (mannanin poruttu)
  • (mannanukkaaga)
Fifth case Ablative
  • in
  • il
  • ilrundu
  • ?
  • (mannanin)
  • (mannanil)
  • (mannanilirundu)
Sixth case Genitive
  • athu
  • udaiya
  • ?
  • ? (mannanadu)
  • (mannanudaiya)
Seventh case Locative
  • il
  • idam
  • ka? (Old Tamil)
  • ?
  • (Old Tamil)
  • (vil)
  • (mannanidam)
Eighth case Vocative
  • e
  • a
  • ?
  • ?
  • (mannanE)
  • (mannavaa)


Telugu has eight cases.

Telugu English Usual Suffixes Transliteration of Suffixes
(I) Pratham? Vibhakti ( ?) Nominative , , , ?u, mu, vu, lu
(II) Dvit?y? Vibhakti ( ?) Accusative ?, ?, , , ? nin, nun, lan, k?rchi, gurinchi
(III) Trut?y? Vibhakti ( ?) Instrumental , ?, , ? ch?tan, ch?n, tan, t?n
(IV) Chaturthi Vibhakti (? ?) Dative ?, korakun, kai
(V) Pancham? Vibhakti ( ?) Ablative , , valanan, kaen, pai
(VI) Shashth? Vibhakti ( ?) Genitive ?, ?, , ?, kin, kun, yokka, l?n, l?palan
(VII) Saptam? Vibhakti ( ?) Locative , a?dun, nan
(VIII) Sambodhan? Pratham? Vibhakti (? ?) Vocative ?, , , ?, , ?r?, ?s?


Modern Turkish has five cases (In Turkish ?smin hâlleri).


What? Who?


To whom?


Where? Whom?


Where from? From whom? Why?


Whose? What's wrong?

çiçe?i / the flower çiçe?e / to flower çiçekte / in flower çiçekten / from flower çiçe?in / of flower

The accusative can exist not only in the noun but also in the verb. For example, Arkada?lar bize gelmeyi dü?ünüyorlar./Friends are thinking of coming to us.

The dative can exist not only in the noun but also in the verb. For example, Bol bol kitap okumaya çalyorum./I try to read a lot of books [37].


An example of a Ukrainian case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Ukrainian word "?" ('dream', 'ambition', 'inspiration'), which is a soft feminine noun of the first declension class.

Case Example: ? - dream Translation Sentence
nominative ? [a] dream ? ? ? ?. I have a dream
genitive ? [a] dream's / [of a] dream ? ? ? ?. I cannot fathom the limits of your dream.
dative ? [to/for a] dream ? ? ? `?. You have to give your dream a name.
accusative ? dream ? ? ? ?. I can't just forget my dream.
instrumental [with a] dream/[by a] dream ? ` . Young people are united by a common dream.
locative /? ? [on/in a] dream [as a direct object] ? . This book is based on its author's dream.
vocative ? "dream" [as a direct object] ? ?, ?! Don't leave me, my dream!


As languages evolve, case systems change. In early Ancient Greek, for example, the genitive and ablative cases became combined, giving five cases, rather than the six retained in Latin. In modern Hindi, the Sanskrit cases have been reduced to three: a direct case (for subjects and direct objects) and oblique case, and a vocative case.[38][39] In English, apart from the pronouns discussed above, case has vanished altogether except for the possessive/non-possessive dichotomy in nouns.

The evolution of the treatment of case relationships can be circular.[4]:pp.167-174Adpositions can become unstressed and sound like they are an unstressed syllable of a neighboring word. A postposition can thus merge into the stem of a head noun, developing various forms depending on the phonological shape of the stem. Affixes can then be subject to various phonological processes such as assimilation, vowel centering to the schwa, phoneme loss, and fusion, and these processes can reduce or even eliminate the distinctions between cases. Languages can then compensate for the resulting loss of function by creating adpositions, thus coming full circle.

Recent experiments in agent-based modeling have shown how case systems can emerge and evolve in a population of language users.[40] The experiments demonstrate that language users may introduce new case markers to reduce the cognitive effort required for semantic interpretation, hence facilitating communication through language. Case markers then become generalized through analogical reasoning and reuse.

Linguistic typology

Morphosyntactic alignment

Languages are categorized into several case systems, based on their morphosyntactic alignment--how they group verb agents and patients into cases:

  • Nominative-accusative (or simply accusative): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb is in the same case as the agent (subject) of a transitive verb; this case is then called the nominative case, with the patient (direct object) of a transitive verb being in the accusative case.
  • Ergative-absolutive (or simply ergative): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb is in the same case as the patient (direct object) of a transitive verb; this case is then called the absolutive case, with the agent (subject) of a transitive verb being in the ergative case.
  • Ergative-accusative (or tripartite): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb is in its own case (the intransitive case), separate from that of the agent (subject) or patient (direct object) of a transitive verb (which is in the ergative case or accusative case, respectively).
  • Active-stative (or simply active): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb can be in one of two cases; if the argument is an agent, as in "He ate", then it is in the same case as the agent (subject) of a transitive verb (sometimes called the agentive case), and if it is a patient, as in "He tripped", then it is in the same case as the patient (direct object) of a transitive verb (sometimes called the patientive case).
  • Trigger: One noun in a sentence is the topic or focus. This noun is in the trigger case, and information elsewhere in the sentence (for example a verb affix in Tagalog) specifies the role of the trigger. The trigger may be identified as the agent, patient, etc. Other nouns may be inflected for case, but the inflections are overloaded; for example, in Tagalog, the subject and object of a verb are both expressed in the genitive case when they are not in the trigger case.

The following are systems that some languages use to mark case instead of, or in addition to, declension:

  • Positional: Nouns are not inflected for case; the position of a noun in the sentence expresses its case.
  • Adpositional: Nouns are accompanied by words that mark case.

Language families

The lemma form of words, which is the form chosen by convention as the canonical form of a word, is usually the most unmarked or basic case, which is typically the nominative, trigger, or absolutive case, whichever a language may have.

See also


  1. ^ The status of the possessive as an affix or a clitic is the subject of debate.[11][12] It differs from the noun inflection of languages such as German, in that the genitive ending may attach to the last word of the phrase. To account for this, the possessive can be analysed, for instance as a clitic construction (an "enclitic postposition"[13]) or as an inflection[14][15] of the last word of a phrase ("edge inflection").[16]
  2. ^ Hayat? sevmek, gazeteyi okumak, camlar? silmek, ödevini yapmak, sesini duymak, kap?y? açmak, üzümü toplamak. Not: Saat yediyi be? geçiyor. Üçü çeyrek geçiyor.
  3. ^ Saat dokuza on var. On ikiye çeyrek var. Kaç liraya? Kaça?
  4. ^ Edatlardan -e ile ba?lananlar: bize göre, bize kar, her ?eye ra?men, ka do?ru, o konuya dair, size ait, ya?mura ra?men, iyiliklerine karl?k
  5. ^ ben, senperson pronouns: Ben-e> bana, sen-e>sana
  6. ^ Kesir saylar? kurar: Yüzde yirmi faiz, dörtte bir elma, yüzde yetmi? devam, binde bir ihtimal, yüzde on be? indirim.
  7. ^ -de+ek-fill örne?i: -Yar?n evde misiniz? - Hay?r, okulday?m. - ?imdi neredesiniz? - ?u anda dersteyiz. Otur-mak-ta-d?r (oturuyor), otur-mak-ta-y-d? (oturuyordu), otur-mak-ta-y-m (oturuyormu?), otur-mak-ta-y-sa (oturuyorsa).
  8. ^ Some prepositions of name connects with -den: -den önce, - den sonra, -den dolay?, - den beri, -den itibaren, -den ba?ka vb. kahvalt?dan önce, yemekten sonra, ya?murdan dolay?, sabahtan beri, bügünden itibaren, Ay?e'den ba?ka.
  9. ^ -den+ek-fill (ait olma bildirir): Kimlerdensiniz? Ahmet te bizdendir. (Bizim tak?mdand?r.) Bulgaristan göçmenlerindenmi?. Sizin ö?rencilerinizdenim.


  1. ^ Clackson 2007, p. 91.
  2. ^ The Chambers Dictionary, 11th edition
  3. ^ Including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, etc.
  4. ^ a b c d Blake, Barry J. Case. Cambridge University Press: 2001.
  5. ^ a b "Linguaggio nell'Enciclopedia Treccani".
  6. ^ Michael, Ian (2010-06-10). English Grammatical Categories: And the Tradition to 1800. ISBN 9780521143264.
  7. ^ Frede, Michael (1994). "The Stoic Notion of a Grammatical Case". Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. 39: 13-24. doi:10.1111/j.2041-5370.1994.tb00449.x. JSTOR 43646836.
  8. ^ Harper, Douglas. "case". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  9. ^ "L. c?sus used to translate Gr. lit. 'falling, fall'. By Aristotle was applied to any derived, inflected, or extended form of the simple or ? (i.e. the nominative of nouns, the present indicative of verbs), such as the oblique cases of nouns, the variations of adjectives due to gender and comparison, also the derived adverb (e.g. ? was a of ?), the other tenses and moods of the verb, including its interrogative form. The grammarians, following the Stoics, restricted to nouns, and included the nominative under the designation". "case". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  10. ^ Slavic Languages on Archived 2009-11-21 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Hudson, Richard (2013). "A cognitive analysis of John's hat". In Börjars, Kersti; Denison, David; Scott, Alan (eds.). Morphosyntactic Categories and the Expression of Possession. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 123-148. ISBN 9789027273000.
  12. ^ Börjars, Kersti; Denison, David; Krajewski, Grzegorz; Scott, Alan (2013). "Expression of Possession in English". In Börjars, Kersti; Denison, David; Scott, Alan (eds.). Morphosyntactic Categories and the Expression of Possession. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 149-176. ISBN 9789027273000.
  13. ^ Quirk, Randolph; Greenbaum, Sidney; Leech, Geoffrey; Svartvik, Jan (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Harlow: Longman. p. 328. ISBN 978-0-582-51734-9. [the -s ending is] more appropriately described as an enclitic postposition'
  14. ^ Greenbaum, Sidney (1996). The Oxford English Grammar. Oxford University Press. pp. 109-110. ISBN 978-0-19-861250-6. In speech the genitive is signalled in singular nouns by an inflection that has the same pronunciation variants as for plural nouns in the common case
  15. ^ Quirk, Randolph; Greenbaum, Sidney; Leech, Geoffrey; Svartik, Jan (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Longman. p. 319. In writing, the inflection of regular nouns is realized in the singular by apostrophe + s (boy's), and in the regular plural by the apostrophe following the plural s (boys)
  16. ^ Payne, John; Huddleston, Rodney (2002). "Nouns and noun phrases". In Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey (eds.). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 479-481. ISBN 978-0-521-43146-0. We conclude that both head and phrasal genitives involve case inflection. With head genitives it is always a noun that inflects, while the phrasal genitive can apply to words of most classes.
  17. ^ The grammar of Dionysios Thrax. Translated by Tomas Davidson. St. Loius: Studley. 1874. p. 10.
  18. ^ Malchukov, Andrej (2010). ""Quirky" case: rare phenomena in case-marking and their implications for a theory of typological distributions". Rethinking Universals: How Rarities Affect Linguistic Theory: 139-168.
  19. ^ Frank Beetham, Learning Greek with Plato, Bristol Phoenix Press, 2007.
  20. ^ a b Senge, Chikako. 2015. A Grammar of Wanyjirra, a language of Northern Australia. The Australian National University Ph.D.
  21. ^ Dench, Alan; Evans, Nicholas (1988-06-01). "Multiple case-marking in Australian languages". Australian Journal of Linguistics. 8 (1): 1-47. doi:10.1080/07268608808599390. ISSN 0726-8602.
  22. ^ Anderson, Stephen. 2005. Aspects of the Theory of Clitics. Oxford University Press. (9 June, 2020).
  23. ^ a b Bowern, Claire, 1977- (2013). A grammar of Bardi. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. ISBN 978-3-11-027818-7. OCLC 848086054.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  24. ^ a b Shoulson, Oliver (2019). "Case Suffixes as Special Clitics in Wangkatja". doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.10204.00649. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  25. ^ Wangkatja dictionary 2008. (2008). Port Hedland, W.A: Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre.
  26. ^ Corbett, Greville G.; Noonan, Michael (2008). Case and Grammatical Relations: Studies in honor of Bernard Comrie. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Jhn Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 51. ISBN 9789027290182.
  27. ^ Spencer, Andrew (2020-07-21). "CASE IN HINDI". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  28. ^ Bhatt, Rajesh (2003). Experiencer subjects. Handout from MIT course "Structure of the Modern Indo-Aryan Languages".
  29. ^ Takahashi, Tarou; et al. (2010). A Japanese Grammar (in Japanese) (4 ed.). Japan: Hitsuji Shobou. p. 27. ISBN 978-4-89476-244-2.
  30. ^ Malayalam grammar#Personal pronouns
  31. ^ Pieter Cornelis Verhagen, Handbook of oriental studies: India. A history of Sanskrit grammatical literature in Tibet, Volume 2, BRILL, 2001, ISBN 90-04-11882-9, p. 281.
  32. ^ W.D. Whitney, Sanskrit Grammar
  33. ^ "The Tamil Case System" (PDF). Retrieved 2014.
  34. ^ a b K. V. Zvelebil (1972). "Dravidian Case-Suffixes: Attempt at a Reconstruction". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 92 (2): 272-276. doi:10.2307/600654. JSTOR 600654.
  35. ^ Arden, A.H. 1942, repr. 1969. A Progressive Grammar of the Tamil Language. Madras: Christian Literature Society.
  36. ^ Harold F. Schiffman (June 1998). "Standardization or restandardization: The case for "Standard" Spoken Tamil". Language in Society. 27 (3): 359-385. doi:10.1017/S0047404598003030.
  37. ^ 2. accusative affix -may? 3. dative affix -maya;
  38. ^ R. S. McGregor, Outline of Hindi Grammar, Oxford University Press, 1972.
  39. ^ Spencer, A. (2005). Case in Hindi. In Proceedings of the LFG05 Conference. Retrieved from
  40. ^ Remi van Trijp, "The Evolution of Case Systems for Marking Event Structure Archived 2013-06-18 at the Wayback Machine". In: Steels, Luc (Ed.), Experiments in Cultural Language Evolution, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2012, p. 169-205.
  41. ^ "Finnish Grammar - Adverbial cases". Retrieved 2014.
  42. ^ "A Philosophical Grammar of Ithkuil, a Constructed Language - Chapter 4: Case Morphology". Archived from the original on June 8, 2009. Retrieved 2014.
  43. ^ "Chapter 4". Archived from the original on March 12, 2009. Retrieved 2014.
  44. ^ "A Grammar of the Ithkuil Language - Chapter 4: Case Morphology". Retrieved 2014.

General references

External links

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