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THEORY: Case mismatches (was: Re: Viko Notes)

From:Marcus Smith <smithma@...>
Date:Wednesday, June 26, 2002, 18:10
On Wed, 26 Jun 2002, Philip Newton wrote:

> On the other hand, a bunch of people say "Give it to Jim and I" and/or > "Him and me saw the car go past", so as soon as another word (even > another pronoun, in some cases) is joint subject or object along with a > pronoun, the pronoun may change case.
Yes, but this is not a phenomenon restricted to English or even languages with a poor case system. The "Give it to Jim and I"-variety is by far the more common type of improper case, showing up in Sanskrit, Greek, Old Irish, and Italian, just to name a few Indo-European languages. In Sanskrit and Greek, to my knowledge, this only occurs in vocative contexts like the folloing in Sanskrit: vayav indras ca Vayu(Voc) Indra(Nom) and 'O Vayu and and Inrda' Old Irish occassionally does this with objects (accusative coordinated with nominative) and Italian does this with subjects were the second coordinated element is the second person, e.g., io (nom) e te (acc). Leaving the world Indo-European, this also shows up in American Indian languages like the Uto-Aztecan language Chemehuevi. Julian Bridgeti -wa'a -kw Julian(nom) Bridget(acc) -and(acc) -acc 'Julian and Bridget' Even Biblical and Samaritan Hebrew did this kind of thing. I can't really send the proper transliteration via email (at least not if I want people to be able to read it), but here is one example from Biblical Hebrew. Uvo? ho?ari we ?eT haddov came.3sg.masc the.lion and non-nom the.bear `And there came a lion and a bear' The type of coordination where both conjuncts are in the wrong case is also found around the world. Spanish (nominative rather than accusative) para tu y you for you(nom) and I(nom) Norwegian (accusative rather than nominative) meg og deg hjalp... me(acc) and you(acc) helped... Qafar (absolutive rather than nominative) kaa -kee tet yemeeten he(abs) and she(abs) came This topic was part of my MA thesis, so I have lots more I could say about this. But in short, people don't deal well with conjunctions. They know how to handle single arguments, but when you throw in a coordination, the "rules" get broken. People are not even consistent in how they break the "rules". Some languages misassign case (like in all the examples above), while in other language people get the agreement "wrong", and in yet others both get "messed up". It seems to me that our brains are wired to do coordination, and our brains are wired to have case (and agreement). But our brains are not wired very well for combining the two. Marcus


John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Dan Sulani <dnsulani@...>