Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Traditional Order of Genders and Cases

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"

As written in a footnote for previous post: 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:

Gender/NumberMasculine SingularFeminine SgNeuter SgMasc PluralFem PlNeut Pl

German has in theory 16 forms, but only 6 phonetically different realisations. For Latin (period when Ablative ending -a was long, but Nom/Voc -a short), the 36 theoretical forms are reduced to 14 phonetically distinct ones. After writing this originally in a footnote, I checked, the paradigm of καλος is of 45 possible slots in the grid using 21 phonetically distinct forms. Or 20, if homophony makes καλωι in τωι καλωι ανδρι διδωσι καλα τινα βιβλια equal to καλω in τω καλω αδελφω καλως τρεχετον. Or otherwise again 20, if homography makes equality between καλα (long α) as in τα καλα αδελφα καλως τρεχετον with καλα (short α) as in τα καλα ζοα καλως τρεχει.*

Part of the trick (if a collective thing like a language can be held to possess such) is sometimes merging similar meanings, like dative/genitive or dative/ablative, part of it is reusing with pure homophony, since "den" as Masculine Singular Accusative is clearly sth else than "den" as Dative Plural, and "bona" as Feminine Singular Nom/Voc is not Neuter Plural Nom/Acc/Voc. In Greek the theoretical grid is 45 (five cases in three genders times three numbers), but the only place where Genitive and Dative merge is the Dual, which was lost in popular speech before Κοινη became Δημοτικη.

Reason for traditional order comes from Greek grammar, where Genitive has also meaning of Ablative/Elative or "where from?", Dative also as Locative or "where" (and Instrumental), Accusative also as Allative/Illative or "where to":

1 - 4 Enunciative cases5) Vocative
1) Nominative2 - 4 Oblique cases
2) Genitive3) Dative4) Accusative

Sixth case in Latin was sixth because it was one lacking in Greek, where its meanings were expressed by 2 or 3, depending on which one of them. Accordingly, it was placed after the five Greek ones.

Is there any utility in using the traditional sequence rather than the grids given in previous post? Well, it is this that if you put in the Feminine between the Masculine and the Neuter, each time you recite a paradigm, that means you are likelier to stay sure that these two genders are different, despite forms in common due to their similarity, and if keeping the non-common forms distinct. And if you put Genitive and Dative between Nominative and Accusative, same again.

Nominativeο, hicτο, hoc
Accusativeτον, hunc

For of course, if at one stage of a language you have aurum, aurum as Neuter and puer, puerum or filius, filium as masculine and at a later stage you have ouros, ouro, filhos, filho as both masculines, and even then you have ouros, filhos as nominatives and ouro filho as oblique, but later still you have only ouro, filho with no distinction between nominative and oblique, and with prepositions making new genitive-ablatives and dative-allatives: o filho, do filho, ao filho, o filho, then this means that at some point people who knew how to distinguish neuter from masculine or even nominative from accusative, neglected to do so.

Languages - as I have said often before - do not change because of evolution, nor because of devolution, but because of intelligent (or less intelligent) redesign.

One case for keeping a written language strictly traditional, though it may lead to diglossia, the state in which you write one language and nearly pronounce another one, and in which the written language is more posh the less it reflects the current speech, is that you can thereby still read something which was written not just one hundred, or even five hundred but as long as thousand years ago. One price to pay for Classical Literacy is going over the paradigms. Most pupils will not willingly do that with paradigms including forms that they no longer use, though maybe their greatgrandparents did. One way of making it attractive is the bilingualism, as between Greek and Latin, as between Sumerian and Akkadian, as between Nesili (Hittite language, showing Indo-European traits) and Hattili (Hatti language, not showing them). Or as between Latin and Vernacular. One other way of doing it is making Classical literacy a privilege, not necessarily excluding non-privileged actively, but on the other hand making it an entrance card for other privileges. And there may be very solid non-linguistic grounds for doing that, or grounds in which linguistics are reduced to functionality (doctrine, liturgy, law studies and sciences profit from exact terminology which profits from terminology being unchanging, checkable with the past) rather than being the goal. But these grounds are neglected now. Meanwhile, any budding polyglot can enjoy himself learning the paradigm of καλος by heart. It is not a hard exercise. It is about twenty years ago I did this, completing later with the Dual, and I could find back to most of the forms yesterday, then had to stop and think a while if Feminine Singular had a separate Vocative καλα (short α), and if the Dual had a separate Feminine form also for Nominative/Accusative/Vocative (I knew the Genitive-Dative distinguished καλαιν from καλοιν in Masculine and Neuter). I concluded there was a form καλα (long α) for the Nominative/Accusative/Vocative Dual Feminine. Paradigm learning does help.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
St Walpurga of Eystetten
Heidenheim Monastery, Virgin**

* Examples featuring also a range of meanings of the adjective καλος in the translations):

καλωιDative Singular Masculine or Neuter
τωι καλωι ανδρι διδωσι καλα τινα βιβλιαThey give the stylish man some beautiful books
καλωNominative/Accusative/Vocative Dual Masculine or Neuter
τω καλω αδελφω καλως τρεχετονThe two stylish brothers run smoothly
καλα (long α)Nominative/Accusative/Vocative Dual Feminine
τα καλα αδελφα καλως τρεχετονThe two beautiful sisters run smoothly
καλα (short α)Nominative/Accusative/Vocative Plural Neuter
τα καλα ζοα καλως τρεχειThe beautiful animals run smoothly

** The first feast of today makes me sympathise a little with people simplifying the paradigms they use. Victorinus, Victor, Nicephorus, Claudian, Dioscorus, Serapion and Papias ... holy Martyrs, no doubt, but a little long for dating a letter or essay! They were, by the way, from Egypt. Martyred under Emperor Numerian. Two first tortured in refined ways and beheaded, Nicephorus vanquished burning fire dishes and fires before getting cut into wok strips ("minutatim concisus est"), Claudian and Dioscorus were burnt to death, the last two, Serapion and Papias, killed by the sword. If you tend to say "oh, what fanciful stories, Romans had a very bureaucratic system of courts and laws," (as I have "heard" while doing Apologetics on internet) think again - this was before Codex Iuris Civilis (which is mainly the work of a Christian Emperor or a few of them).

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