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Re: Def. of Case WAS: Cases, again

From:Roger Mills <romilly@...>
Date:Thursday, March 18, 2004, 19:44
Matthew Kehrt wrote:

> This leaves me somewhat confused as to the definition of "case". In > English, we have words that take semantic roles based on word order, such > as direct and indirect objects and subjects. Other, more inflectional > languages mark these semantic roles with actual changes to the words > taking these roles. Which is the case, this specific set of marked words, > or the semantic role?
I think of "case" forms as having some specific marking, where the different forms can be arranged into some sort of paradigm-- à la Latin/Greek/Sanskrit e.g.-- and even though some of the forms may be identical, it will still be possible to know which "case" they are by usage. This is true of many noun forms in German; also of Latin dat/abl. plurals, or o-decl. -i 'gen. sg.' = -i 'nom. pl.'. There is a now outmoded method of teaching/explaining Engl and other langs., where nouns were arranged in a neat little paradigm just like Latin, even though there was no change from one case to another. This accounts for the old-fashioned parsing of "I hit the man" as showing "man" as both direct object and accusative. The only excuse for calling it accusative is by analogy with pronouns, where in "I hit him" there is definitely an "accusative" form. We have the same problem in Kash, where only animate nouns have a marked accusative; with inanimate nouns the base (nom.) and the accusative are the same My mother's old college Engl. grammar (1920s) had such stuff: Nom. man Acc. man Gen. (of the) man Dat. (to the) man Ablative (many preps....) man and don't forget the Vocative: O man! Or the really early Western grammars of Malay-- Nom. orang Acc. orang Gen. orang Dat. (kepada) orang Abl. (dari) orang I'd imagine that early grammars of Japanese used the same system.............sometimes the results are quite hilariously off-base.