Grammatical case

Case is a special grammatical category of a noun, pronoun, adjective, participle or numeral whose value reflects the grammatical function performed by that word in a phrase, clause or sentence. In some languages, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, determiners, participles, prepositions, numerals, articles and their modifiers take different inflected forms, depending on their case. As a language evolves, cases can merge (for instance, in Ancient Greek, the locative case merged with the dative case), a phenomenon formally called syncretism.[2]

English has largely lost its case system although personal pronouns still have three cases, which are simplified forms of the nominative, accusative and genitive cases. They are used with personal pronouns: subjective case (I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who, whoever), objective case (me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom, whomever) and possessive case (my, mine; your, yours; his; her, hers; its; our, ours; their, theirs; whose; whosever[3]). Forms such as I, he and we are used for the subject ("I kicked the ball"), and forms such as me, him and us are used for the object ("John kicked me").

Languages such as Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, Latin, Armenian, Hungarian, Hindi, Tibetan, Czech, Slovak, Turkish, Tamil, Romanian, Russian, Polish, Croatian, Serbian, Estonian, Finnish, Icelandic, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Basque and most Caucasian languages have extensive case systems, with nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and determiners all inflecting (usually by means of different suffixes) to indicate their case. The number of cases differs between languages: Esperanto has two; German, Icelandic and Swedish have four; Turkish, Latin and Russian each have at least six; Armenian, Czech, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian all have seven; Sanskrit has eight; Estonian has fourteen and Finnish has fifteen, Hungarian has eighteen and Tsez has sixty-four.

Commonly encountered cases include nominative, accusative, dative and genitive. A role that one of those languages marks by case is often marked in English with a preposition. For example, the English prepositional phrase with (his) foot (as in "John kicked the ball with his foot") might be rendered in Russian using a single noun in the instrumental case or in Ancient Greek as τῷ ποδί (tôi podí, meaning "the foot") with both words (the definite article, and the noun πούς (poús) "foot") changing to dative form.

More formally, case has been defined as "a system of marking dependent nouns for the type of relationship they bear to their heads".[4]:p.1 Cases should be distinguished from thematic roles such as agent and patient. They are often closely related, and in languages such as Latin, several thematic roles have an associated case, but cases are a morphological notion, but thematic roles are a semantic one. Languages having cases often exhibit free word order, as thematic roles are not required to be marked by position in the sentence.

The English word case used in this sense comes from the Latin casus, which is derived from the verb cadere, "to fall", from the Proto-Indo-European root *ḱad-.[5] The Latin word is a calque of the Greek πτῶσις, ptôsis, lit. "falling, fall".[6] The sense is that all other cases are considered to have "fallen" away from the nominative. This picture is also reflected in the word declension, from Latin declinere, "to lean", from the PIE root *ḱley-.

The equivalent to "case" in several other European languages also derives from casus, including cas in French, caso in Spanish and Kasus in German. The Russian word паде́ж (padyézh) is a calque from Greek and similarly contains a root meaning "fall", and the German Fall and Czech pád simply mean "fall", and are used for both the concept of grammatical case and to refer to physical falls. The Finnish equivalent is sija, which can also mean "position" or "support".

Although not very prominent in modern English, cases featured much more saliently in Old English and other ancient Indo-European languages, such as Latin, Ancient Greek[disputed ], and Sanskrit. Historically, the Indo-European languages had eight morphological cases, though modern languages typically have fewer, using prepositions and word order to convey information that had previously been conveyed using distinct noun forms. Among modern languages, cases still feature prominently in most of the Balto-Slavic languages (except Macedonian and Bulgarian[7]), with most having six to eight cases, as well as Icelandic, German and Modern Greek, which have four. In German, cases are mostly marked on articles and adjectives, and less so on nouns. In Icelandic, articles, adjectives, personal names and nouns are all marked for case, making it, among other things, the living Germanic language that could be said to most closely resemble Proto-Germanic.

This page was last edited on 18 July 2018, at 23:10 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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