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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 >ancestor language: > > 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 >stems.
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 3rd plural. 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. Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================