Linguistic items in the heterogeneous set included among 'partitives' share the feature of expressing indefiniteness, at least in certain contexts and to a certain extent. In spite of being morphologically case markers (or prepositions), they do not behave as normal cases, in that they are not connected with a specific grammatical relation. Rather, they partly function as determiners or indefinite quantifiers. Diachronically, this peculiar function seems to develop out of a more typical case marking function. The complete change, including recategorization, from case marker to determiner is borne out by the development of the Romance partitive article. Remarkably, partitive markers treated in this volume should not be confused with partitives occurring in so-called partitive constructions (e.g., A piece of that cake). A dedicated partitive case occurs in Finnic languages and in Basque, and is usually said to indicate partial affectedness of patients (cf. Blake 2001: 151). This characterization obviously concerns the object-marking partitive, but the overall range of uses of these cases is wider and varies from one language to another. Even in Finnic and Basque, this definition does not cover all uses of the partitive case, as it does not reckon with the existence of partitive subjects. The name partitive assigned to this case in grammatical analyses of these languages reflects its core function as indicator of a ‘partial’ meaning. In some other languages a similar a function is attributed to a number of other cases, as in the case of the Hungarian partitive-ablative, and the partitive-genitive of various Indo-European languages (a separate partitive, lexically restricted, also exists in Russian). In grammatical analyses of those languages these cases are not called partitives, though some of their functions resemble those of dedicated partitive cases.
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