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Re: cases

From:Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Tuesday, September 12, 2000, 21:31
Padraic Brown wrote:

> >> Why? At least Romanian is a Latin derived tongue. > > > >And this determines the terminology we should use for Romanian... why? > > Never said it did. Though there is a certain historical continuity
Okay... I guess I was just a little confused about why you'd mention that then. In context, it seemed, and maybe I'm wrong here, like you were claiming that Romanian's ancestry should have some say over how we describe the language today.
> >Most modern > >grammars of English use Subjective and Objective today, since the objects > >of pronouns are never distinguished from the objects of prepositions. > > I wouldn't subscribe to that cos it leaves out the possesive.
My comment about the so-called "genitive case" were made for that very reason.
> >Also, > >the <'s> suffix really isn't a case, since it acts more like a clitic. You might call > >that the genitive clitic, however. > > That's nice. Meseems there's too much arguing over trivial things.
Well, that's my point: there are real differences between cases and clitics. They behave differently. There's no sense in being inconsistent in the use of already established terminology, as when calling a clitic a case, as long as the terminology is itself conceptually consistent.
> If your point is that each language is individual and should have its > _own_ system given its _own_ terms then fine.
"Own" terms only in the sense that the meaning should not be based on what some other language uses. It need not create its own entirely new word for a given function.
> My point is that this > can be taken too far and that there is something to be said for names > (or labels) that can be used across languages.
As I noted below...
> >> On the other hand, it is pretty damned handy to have names that are > >> similar across several language (families). It's just a matter of > >> learning how they all use their cases. > > > >Of course. No one has said you can't call a case the "accusative" if it > >happens to behave a lot like, say, Greek or Latin's accusative. But that > >still doesn't change the fact that "accusative" is just a label we use as a > >tool to examine a phenomenon, not the phenomenon itself. > > Sure. It's _all_ labels. Some just happen to have a certain > convenience; even if they may not suit one's sensibilities.
Certainly. I have no problem with "accusative" because it etymologically implies "accusation" -- there are plenty of words that have shifted fundamentally in meaning from their etymons. What I'm saying though is that convenience of that sort needs to be weighed against other possible uses of the term. That is, there is virtually no chance that, within a discussion about linguistics, "accusative" will be confused for various etymological meanings that have nothing to do with the way that particular term is used within linguistics. But that kind of error is not what I objected to earlier. What I disliked was the way in which a Latin-style case system was being foisted onto Romanian, despite the fact that it fits Romanian badly. It is a classic case of missing the generalization, and breaking Ockham's Razor at the same time: why multiply elements when fewer will do? I mean, when you come up with labels to describe the phenomena you see, you are presumably making some claim about those phenomena. So, if a language has a case system that is diachronically related to, but distinct from, its parent language (simply from first principles), then why treat that daughter language as if it had to fit into the old paradigm, especially when, as is actually the case, it clearly does not behave much like the old paradigm? ====================================== Tom Wier | "Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero." ======================================