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Nominative and accusative the same

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Linguamor
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 Message 1 of 14
23 January 2007 at 3:14pm | IP Logged 
An interesting observation about Indo-European languages is that for neuter nouns, pronouns, etc., the nominative and accusative cases are always the same. This can even be seen in English.    
He - him, she - her, it - it.

Is anyone aware of any counterexamples?




Edited by Linguamor on 23 January 2007 at 3:16pm

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Chung
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 Message 2 of 14
23 January 2007 at 3:58pm | IP Logged 
The observation doesn't apply to all Indo-European languages.

In Slovak, the declension with "it" is similar to the declension for "he". Lithuanian on the other hand has lost the neuter. Nouns are either masculine or feminine.

he, she, it (nominative)
him, her, it (non-nominative)

Slovak // Lithuanian (it has lost the neuter)

"he", "him"

on // jis (all nominative)
jeho, neho, ho, -ňho, -ň // jį (all accusative)

"she", "her"

ona // ji (all nominative)
ju, ňu // ją (all accusative)

"it", "it"

ono // N/A (all nominative)
ho, -ň, -eň // N/A (all accusative)

Edited by Chung on 23 January 2007 at 8:36pm

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Iversen
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 Message 3 of 14
23 January 2007 at 6:22pm | IP Logged 
It is always dangerous to propose a general rule like that, but with the risk of having overlooked something I generally support Linguamor.

His rule does seem to hold true for the Germanic languages in so far that they have kept those two forms, - I just checked a couple of small grammars for Old Saxon, Old High German and Old Norse. Apart from Icelandic and maybe Faroese, the only modern Germanic language (close to Old Norse) with those two forms (outside the pronouns) seems to be German, where the rule also holds. The only Romance language with cases (again apart from the pronouns) is Romanian, but here Nominative and Accusative have fused and Genitive plus Dative have fused (by the way the neutrum here is like the masculine case in singular and like feminine in plural). The rule also holds in Modern Greek and Latin, but I have no idea whether it is true in the rest of Indoeuropean languages (including anything from old languages like Sanskrit and Hittite to the Celtic languages. The Slovak counterexample given by Chung has a reasonable explanation if the neuter has borrowed the declension of the masculine.




Edited by Iversen on 23 January 2007 at 6:22pm

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Chung
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 Message 4 of 14
23 January 2007 at 9:33pm | IP Logged 
I suppose that linguamor's focus on two branches of the Indo-European family understandably led to his extending of his observation into other branches of the family. However, as soon as I saw his post, the Slavonic declension immediately came to mind showing that the observation is not applicable for all Indo-European languages. Slovak's neuter pronouns in nominative have different forms in the accusative.

Iversen, you are right however in that Slovak neuter declensions have taken on many of the endings associated with the masculine declensions. This was part of the "simplification" that developed within earlier forms of the Slavonic daughter languages and Late-Common Slavonic.

Here're some examples from Slovak nouns instead of pronouns.

dobrý chlap = good guy (nominative masculine animate)
dobrí chlapi = good guys (nominative masculine animate plural)

vidím dobrého chlapa = I see the good guy. (accusative masculine animate)
vidím dobrých chlapov = I see the good guys. (accusative masculine animate plural)

Only some masculine nouns can be "animate". The rest (including feminine and neuter) are inanimate. The accusative for masculine animate is the same as the genitive for masculine animate, but that's something else...

dobrý dom = good house (nominative masculine inanimate)
dobré domy = good houses (nominative masculine plural)

vidím dobrý dom = I see the good house. (accusative masculine inanimate)
vidím dobré domy = I see the good houses (accusative masculine inanimate plural)

dobrá manželka = good wife (nominative feminine)
dobré manželky = good wives (nominative feminine plural)

vidím dobrú manželku = I see the good wife (accusative feminine)
vidím dobré manželky = I see the good wives (accusative feminine plural)

dobré slovo = good word (nominative neuter)
dobré slová = good words (nominative neuter plural)

vidím dobré slovo = I see the good word (accusative neuter)
vidím dobré slová = I see the good words (accusative netuer plural)

In plural for adjectives (but not nouns), nominative masculine inanimate, nominative feminine and nominative neuter have the same ending in many cases (but not always). (i.e. dobré)

Plural adjectives and nouns in masculine inanimate and feminine have the same endings (i.e. (vidím) dobré domy and (vidím) dobré manželky) in nominative and accusative in many cases (but not always).

In the other Slavonic languages that I've studied (i.e. Croatian, Czech and Polish), there is also some comparable merging of declension between the masculine, feminine and neuter. However, pronouns still maintain the distinctions (ex. Czech "ono" (nominative) but "je", "ho" or "ně" (accusative). All are translated by English word "it")

Edited by Chung on 23 January 2007 at 10:04pm

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Linguamor
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 Message 5 of 14
24 January 2007 at 12:04am | IP Logged 
This was not my own observation, but something I once read, and I have never come across a counterexample in the languages I have learned - which also include Ancient Greek, Latin, and Modern Greek. By the way, I am a "she", not a "he".

Chung wrote:

dobré slovo = good word (nominative neuter)
dobré slová = good words (nominative neuter plural)

vidím dobré slovo = I see the good word (accusative neuter)
vidím dobré slová = I see the good words (accusative netuer plural)


This seems to correspond to the observation.
What are the pronouns that replace these nouns?


Edited by Linguamor on 24 January 2007 at 12:15am

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Chung
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 Message 6 of 14
24 January 2007 at 8:21am | IP Logged 
Linguamor wrote:
[...] By the way, I am a "she", not a "he".


Apologies by me and on behalf of Iversen. (Chung looks slightly embarrassed)

Linguamor wrote:

Chung wrote:

dobré slovo = good word (nominative neuter)
dobré slová = good words (nominative neuter plural)

vidím dobré slovo = I see the good word (accusative neuter)
vidím dobré slová = I see the good words (accusative netuer plural)


This seems to correspond to the observation.
What are the pronouns that replace these nouns?


Linguamor wrote:

An interesting observation about Indo-European languages is that for neuter nouns, pronouns, etc., the nominative and accusative cases are always the same. This can even be seen in English.     
He - him, she - her, it - it.

Is anyone aware of any counterexamples?


It doesn't correspond to what you noted in your original post. You typed that in Indo-European languages the nominative and accusative of neuter nouns and pronouns are always the same.

What Slovak does show is that parts of the neuter declensions in accusative and nominative are merged with those of the relevant masculine declensions . However, the neuter pronouns in accusative aren't always in the same form as those in the nominative.

Using pronouns:

dobré slovo = good word ~ ono (it)
dobré slová = good words ~ ony (they)

vidím dobré slovo = I see the good word ~ vidím ho (I see it - NOT *vidím ono)
vidím dobré slová = I see the good words ~ vidím ich (I see them - NOT *vidím ony)



Edited by Chung on 24 January 2007 at 8:29am

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Linguamor
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 Message 7 of 14
24 January 2007 at 3:14pm | IP Logged 
So it seems that it only applies to nouns (and maybe adjectives?), but not to pronouns.

In any case, I think it is a helpful observation for those learning an Indo-European language with neuter gender and cases.


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Iversen
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 Message 8 of 14
24 January 2007 at 6:33pm | IP Logged 
Chung wrote:
Linguamor wrote:
[...] By the way, I am a "she", not a "he".


Apologies by me and on behalf of Iversen. (Chung looks slightly embarrassed)


Apologies from me too.

However I think it is exaggerated to discard the hypothesis totally for pronouns. After all it apparently fits Greek, Latin, the Romance and the Germanic languages, but for some reason not the Slavic languages - and so far we haven't heard from the experts on the Asian Indoeuropean languages.

I have been reading about cases in the reconstructed Indoeuropean language, and some authors apparently think that initially there only was a division between animate and inanimate, so that masculine and feminine developed within the animate, while neuter is the continuation of the inanimate 'case'. Furthermore there are speculations that this early language was ergative, which really would mess up the definitions of nominative and accusative. It is all quite speculative, and maybe it would be more relevant just to trace whether there has been different nominative and accusative forms of the neuter pronouns in the Slavic languages (or at least some of them) from the beginning, or whether it is a late development.



Edited by Iversen on 24 January 2007 at 6:42pm



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