IE genders (was: WHICH IS MORE GERMANIC?)
|From:||Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Friday, July 7, 2000, 5:43|
At 9:26 am +0200 6/7/00, Lars Henrik Mathiesen wrote:
>Some people even take this as an indication that the general -s of
>masc/fem nominatives in IE was once the ergative case marker of some
> Inimate subjects are most often absolutive (occurring with
> intransitive verbs), and animate subjects are most often ergative
> (occurring with transitive verbs).
> So when the change to a nominative language happened, the animates
> got the ergative -s in the nominative, the inanimates got the
> absolutive --- and they all got absolutive marking in the
> accusative. (And later, inanimate > neuter, animate > masculine).
>But personally, I don't think this is enough to prove that such a
>state ever existed. There must be other ways for the observed state of
>affairs to come about, such as an inanimate nominative marker that
>just happened to be lost.
I have come across this theory before. It's interesting, but the feminine
nouns sort of get overlooked.
>What is more interesting to me is that there is a strong tendency in
>several IE languages for the neuter plural nom/acc of pronouns to be
>identical to the feminine singular nominative --- even if the ending
>isn't the -a that occurs in the -o/-a-stem nominal declinations.
>That would tend to confirm the theory that the feminines originated as
>collectives that were given a singular declination patterned on the -o
Certainly I think there can be little doubt that neuter plurals were once
feminine singular collectives. In ancient Greek, neuter plural nominatives
still required 3rd _singular_ verb agreement, only asc. & fem. using the
I believe this was also the case in Sanskrit - tho I may be mistaken - and
occurs in the earliest forms of some other IE langs.
A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
[J.G. Hamann 1760]