Nominative Case

Turkish nominative case refers to the citation form of nouns (without any suffixes). Three types of nouns fall under this category:


When the noun is the subject of the sentence, it is unmarked and the citation form is used without any suffixes (some linguists might call these null markers, Ø). This case is usually referred to as the nominative case:
Esra yedi
 Esra-NOM eat-PT
‘Esra ate’


Vocative nouns, too, do not take any suffixes:
Esra, ben geldim
 Esra-VOC 1SG come-PT
‘Esra, I(‘ve) arrived’

Indefinite objects

In addition, indefinite objects are also unmarked or not suffixed in Turkish. We will call these the absolutive case in Turkish:
Esra tavuk yedi
 Esra-NOM chicken eat-PT
‘Esra ate chicken’

In such cases it is the word order that determines the subject and the object of a sentence. Because the nouns are not suffixed under these two roles, any sentence with a single noun in their citation form (without any suffixes) can be interpreted as ambiguous when no context is provided:
tavuk yedi
 chicken eat-PT.3S   or chicken-NOM eat-PT.3S
‘(he/she/it) ate chicken’ or ‘chicken ate’

If you recall from previous lessons, we’ve said that the word order in Turkish is flexible. This is because when the sentence has a definitive object, it is clearly marked, hence its position does not really matter. But consider the indefinite objects discussed in this lesson. In a sentence like Kedi fare kovaladı ‘cat chased mouse’ where neither the subject or the object is marked, word order matters. In this type of sentence, the word order tells us who is doing the chasing and who is being chased. Remember that the natural word order is usually changed for emphasis and as a beginner you should always stick with the natural word order of Turkish (SOV).

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