Monday, February 24, 2014

Amusing or Exasperating?

1) Amusing or Exasperating?, 2) Traditional Order of Genders and Cases, 3) Dixit Faarlund: "and these kinds of structures are very unlikely to change within a language"

I know as since very early years an obsessive linguaphile - which is Alexander Arguelles' way of describing people who want to learn a lot of facts about languages without taking the trouble of actually learning them (and knowing the facts is not the same thing as knowing to speak the languages) - that Roumanian and Modern Greek share a somewhat curious trait. Genitive and Dative coincide. At least it is curious for Scandinavian and English speakers, where Genitive is one very odd part of the case system, all other cases coinciding in a unitary case (nominative and oblique in one). A bit less so to German speakers where feminines in the singular have the same article for genitive and dative, namely "der". In German the genders and cases are four, if plural of all genders counts as a gender. I take them in non traditional order to make similars join similars as much as possible:


Now, Classical Latin, like German, has for feminine singulars a coalescence between genitive and dative:


And ... Latin was one of the languages on the Balkan. Roumanian is its daughter language. Modern Greek is not, Bulgarian language is not. But they too have a coalescence of dative and genitive, not just in feminine singular, but all over the system (in case of Bulgarian that only concerns the pronouns, since in nouns we deal with an oblique case both dative and accusative at the same time).

Latin has a Dative and a Genitive that coincide in Feminine Singular. In Plurals they do not. In Masculines and Neuters they do not, but in Feminines they do. Even in Classic Latin. In the East then - Dative and Genitive go together for other nouns as well. Accusative also joins Nominative, after sound change. In the West, Dative and Ablative of Masculines and Neuters being already identical, and coinciding through sound change with Accusative, Genitive disappears and while Feminines have identic forms in Singular, Masculines (which swallow up Neuters) have a Nominative that stands out (serving also for Vocative, which is not the case in the East, but that I will not enter on).

N/Aunu omuuna casaunu scamnu
G/Dunui omuunaei casaeunui scamnu
nescio quid ominescio quid casaenescio quid scamnae
unorum omiunorum casaeunorum scamnae

But in fact, if in the West the Genitive disppeared, it may be because it coincided with Dative, thanks to the Feminines, precisely as in the East. So, in Romance languages of the West you have an Accusative that coincides with the Dative/Genitive, differring from the Nominative, in the Romance languages of the East - only Roumanian left now - you have an Accusative which coincides with the Nominative differring from Dative/Genitive, in Modern Greek you have an Accusative that remains separate from both Nominative (except Neuters and Feminine singulars) and Dative/Genitive. All over the field you have a coalescence of Dative and Genitive into one.

And obviously it spread from Latin Feminine Singulars into other nouns and from Latin to Greek. Never mind if it spread to Bulgarian also or not. It is an illustration of the Sprachbund phenomenon even so.

The article of the wikipedia on the Bulgarian language noted this trait a few weeks ago.** It noted it was common to those languages. It did not mention Latin at all. I added a comparison with Latin. No big deal to change the wiki by adding a few words. I did.

Since then it is not so much a question of having the addition deleted as having the whole section on the Bulgarian language remade. My addition about Latin is nowhere to be found. Neither is the original comparison with other Balkan languages. All that part of the article has a completely new division into sections. It would be hard to find the place where the comparison was originally.

Of course, the new division gives rise to much more comprehensive overview over Bulgarian grammar. There is a new article - or I just discovered it this time - on Bulgarian pronouns, where the forms are divided into "Subject Nominative", "Direct Complement Accusative", "Indirect Complement no preposition Dative" and "preposition" (with forms identical to Direct Complement Accusative). It even included a certain point that Genitive is superfluous insofar as there are Possessive pronouns.

Not quite. In Greek and Slavonic and Baltic grammar in general Genitive is not just a case for possessing, but also denotes anything meaning "from" whether in the meaning of separation (like without) or the meaning of movement with increasing distance (like away from). Of course these might very well in Modern Bulgarian take Accusative forms rather than Dative-Genitive forms. Precisely because Accusative has become the generalised Oblique case. But on the one hand, that leaves at least Roumanian and Modern Greek with a common form for Dative and Genitive (and in nouns! unlike for Modern Bulgarian), precisely like Latin feminine singulars, like bonae except when it is nominative/vocative plural. On the other hand, if I was mistaken about Bulgarian pronouns, it concerned only my addition to the wiki article, which has been changed, and not my text of a previous article here** which included the guess that Bulgarian and Albanian maybe also had this merger between the two cases. But as I stated it as a total guess (having some little knowledge of Modern Greek and Roumanian, but no fluency even for a simple conversation, and next to no knowledge at all about Bulgarian, except what the wiki I looked up just confirmed for me, that Bulgarian does attach definite articles at the end of nouns), my credibility for the articles is not affected negatively by me being wrong in that particular, since I stated I was not sure of it.

My point is pretty clear even so.

Now, why would anyone want to shuffle it? For one thing some linguists have wanted to trace the coalescence of Dative and Genitive to Thracian, Dacian or Illyrian influences, rather than to Latin Feminine singulars, which they seem not to have considered, for if they had they would have been preferring an unknown explanation*** to a known one. And for another, the two Bulgarian immigrant homeless I was sharing breakfast with and one Roumanian too, and some people giving us all breakfast, might resent me knowing some facts about their language and being eager to show me what I did not know about it. They are not exactly helping me to have my posts printed in booklets and books, and getting off the streets that way, they are more eager to prepare me for a better chance at some other job. Because it gives them a chance to feel power, obviously over an intellectual geek they do not really like very much.

What is exasperating is how some people who already are into printing, publishing and all that will boycott me due to such people talking about me, and will also block younger people from trying a start at printing with my blogs as material. It is exasperating because it is so far keeping me in the street for quite a few years too many by now.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
BU Nanterre
St Mathias Apostle

PS, I suppose some of them might also resent either being told anything from a Roman Catholic rather than a Greek Orthodox, or having any kind of origin (more than unavoidable, see Roumanian) in Latin. You know the Antilatin prejudice of Eastern Schismatics./HGL


For traditional order in German Paradigms, put Neuter between Feminine and Plural, Accusative last. In Latin paradigms too the traditional order is Masculine, Feminine and Neuter, both for Singular, and, unlike German, Plural too. In Latin too the Cases go with Accusative after Dative, and then Vocative comes between Accusative and Ablative: here I originally added tables and comment fit for a new message.

** Back when writing: Cette langue et le français ...

*** Thracian, Dacian or Illyrian are all very much less known than Hittite, not to mention Latin. However, Hittite has also a partial merger of Dative and Genitive, I think in the plural somewhere.

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