genitive (was: isolation vs inflection & other features)
|From:||Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Monday, April 29, 2002, 5:02|
At 11:55 am +0200 28/4/02, ebera wrote:
>The mistake I may have done was to use the word 'genitive' for a definition
>different from its original meaning. Even through I gave you the new
>definition, it seems to leads to confusion.
Not surprising! The term "genitive" (or rather the Latin "genetiuum"
[sic]) has been around for more than two thousands years; we've sort of got
used to this usage :)
So IMO re-using it with a different meaning is not helpful and will
inevitably cause confusion.
>In Latin, genitive (gen: give
>birth to) was used for what we now call possessive and adjective.
I understand 'possessive case', but I fail to understand 'adjective case'.
The way "adjective" is normally used is to denote a different part of
speech, not a noun case.
But to say that the Latin genitive was used for 'possessive' is only
partially true. It had other important uses. It was commonly used with a
'partitive' meaning, e.g. granum salis (grain of salt), uini gutta (drop of
wine), aliquid panis (something of bread = 'some bread'), plus negotii
(more [of] business) etc etc.
It had other uses such as:
- 'objective genitive' e.g. doloris remedium = a remedy against pain (pain
hardly possesses the remedy!!);
- 'subjective genitive' e.g. post aduentum hostium = after the arrival of
the enemy (i.e. after the enemy had arrived);
- 'genitive of quality' e.g. uir summae fortitudinis = a man of the
It was also used with certain verbs, in particular:
(a) to denote value, e.g.
te in dies _pluris_ facio = I value you _more highly_ every day.
rem publicam _nilili_ habet, saltum suam _maximi_ = he holds the national
cause _at no value_, but his own safety _at the highest value_.
(b) with verbs denoting 'accusation' , 'condemning', 'acquitting' to define
the _charge_, e.g.
_furti_ ac _repetunarum_ condemnatus est = he was condemned _for theft_ and
_sacrilegii_ absolutus est = he was acquitted _of sacrilege_.
(c) verbs of 'remembering', 'reminding' and 'forgetting', e.g.
_rerum praeteritarum_ memini = I remember _the past_.
_foederis_ te admounit = he reminded you _about the treaty_.
It is used with the impersonal verbs 'pudet', 'piget', 'paenitet', 'taedet'
and 'miseret' to express what causes the feeling, the person experiencing
the feeling being in the accusative case, e.g.
me non solum piget _stultitiae meae_, sed etiam pudet = I am not only sorry
_for my folly_, but I am also ashamed _of it_.
ignauum paenitebit aliquando _ignauiae_ = the slothful man will one day
repent _of his sloth_.
taedet me uitae = I am bored _with life_ [not true!]
_tui_ me miseret = I pity _you_.
We can, perhaps, give a general definition as:
*a noun in the genitive case defines and delimits the range of reference of
another noun or a verb"*
>implemented these two cases in my conlang, I thought I could use the word
>genitive with the meaning 'generic case' to refer to unmarked cases.
Sorry, I don't understand what you mean by "unmarked case". In some
languages the nominative has no marker or ending; the oblique case are
marked. But I guess who don't mean this.
It also confuses me in that the name for the genitive case originally meant
"generic case"! The Latin 'genetiuus casus' [the spelling 'genitiuus' is a
post-Classical innovation, due to the influence of 'genitus', the past
participle of 'gignere' "to give birth"], like the 'accusatiuus casus', is
due to Roman mis-translation of the original Greek names: genike: pto:sis,
'genike:' is the feminine of 'genikos', an adjective derived from 'genos',
a neuter noun meaning "type", "sort", "genus". It seems to have been
connected in the Roman mind with gen- the aorist stem of the verb
'gignesthai' "to become", "to be born". In fact, 'genitke: pto:sis'
properly meant "generic case" - the case which defined the 'genus' to which
the range of reference of qualified noun (or a verb) was delimited.
'aitia:tike:' BTW is the feminine of 'aitia:tikos' "causal", "relating to a
cause or motive" << aitia: [noun] 'cause', 'motive'. The accusative was
called the "aitia:tike: ptos:sis" since the case denoted the noun which
caused or motivated (so they reasoned) the subject to execute the verb.
But 'aitia:' was also used in legal jargon to denote the 'accusation' being
brought against someone, hence the Latin 'accusatiuus casus' which we've
been stuck with and got used to these past 2000 years.
>>ok, so i can see you're writing about "semantic" cases, which we often call
>I'm not sure the word 'role' is as used as you pretend in the conlang
>world. Even less in this list. However, I understand what you mean.
I'm not sure I understand the last paragraph. I don't see anything in the
writer's words (Mathias' words, I think) to suggest he is _pretending_.
I think he is trying to understand what are saying and that he understands
that you are not talking about grammatical cases (nom., acc., gen. etc) but
rather about semantic roles (agent, patient etc). The word "role" _is_ and
_has been_ used on this list in this way. What other word would you use?
A conlang is a 'constructed _language_'; therefore, it seems to me entirely
reasonable to use the same terminology as we do when talking about
'natural' or 'real' languages.
I know you dismiss the books of "university linguists" as "boring", but if
you want people to understand what you are trying to say then I'm afraid it
is useful to use vocabulary & terminology that most will understand.