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DECLENSIONS AND CASES:
is an analytic language. It primarily makes
meaning by word order. To show that a word is in the nominative
case, (i.e., the word functions as the subject of a clause),
modern English speakers put that word in front of a verb. To
show that a word is in the accusative case (functioning as a
direct objective), modern English speakers put that word after
the verb. For instance,
teacher (nominative) graded the tests (accusative/direct
Word order thus
becomes very important in analytic languages.
(Old English), Latin, Greek, and many other languages are or
were synthetic. These languages require that
the case or function of each word be visibly marked through
inflections or declensions.
In synthetic languages,
word order does not matter. Synthetic languages primarily show
case by inflecting words (i.e., changing the form of the words
in pre-established patterns called inflections. Often this takes
the form of some special ending added to the word or its stem.
Such special endings are often called declensions
by teachers of Latin, Greek, or Old English. Most synthetic
languages make use of the following cases:
Case: Words in this case usually function as the
subject of a sentence, or in some cases as a predicate nominative.
For instance, "John arrives tonight"
would require the word John
to be in the nominative case since John
functions as the subject of the clause. On the other hand,
"It is I, Hamlet the Dane,"
would require both the word I
and Hamlet to be in
the nominative case also, since these are functioning as predicate
nominatives for the subject it.
Accusative Case: Words in this case commonly
function as the direct object of a verb, though often certain
prepositions will require an object of the preposition to
be in the accusative case. For instance, "Darth
Maul struck Obi-Wan" would require the word Obi-Wan
to be in the accusative, since that poor Jedi is the object
directly affected by the verb struck.
Genitive Case: Words in this case are functioning
in a possessive manner, though often certain prepositions
or special verbs will require an object to be in the genitive.
In English, we often show this relationship by either an apostrophe
's or we create it artificially by using the pronoun
of. For instance, we
might see either "This is Bob Miller's
house," or we might see "This
is the house of Bob Miller." Synthetic languages
would convey the same idea by putting the name "Bob
Miller" in the genitive case. More rarely,
some Indo-European languages might use the genitive
of material to indicate the material substance
of an object. Thus, English speakers refer to Superman as
"the man of steel"
or architects speak of "a house
Dative Case: Words in this case are functioning
as the indirect object or the recipient of a direct object,
though often certain prepositions or special verbs will require
an object to be in the dative. For example, in this sentence,
"Carla gave Sandy a gift,"
the word Sandy would
be the indirect object or recipient, and thus that word would
be in the dative case.
Ablative Case: Words in this case typically
indicate source, origin, separation, or causation, though
certain prepositions or special verbs will require an object
to be in the ablative. For instance, "He
came from Mantua" would require the word Mantua
to be in the ablative of origin. Likewise, "He
left Mantua at 2:00 pm" would require the word
Mantua to be in the
ablative of separation. "Because of rain,
he left," would require a synthetic speaker to use an
ablative of causation for the word rain.
Case: Words in the case typically indicate that the
word is being specifically addressed or spoken to. For instance,
consider this sentence: "John,
would you be a dear and take out the garbage?"
In this example, the word John
would be in the vocative case in a synthetic language.
More rarely, some
Indo-European languages like Sanksrit, Old Norse or Anglo-Saxon
may use these cases as well:
Case: Words in this case function to show location;
for instance, "Joe went home."
The word home would
be in the locative case in a synthetic language. Many synthetic
languages simply use the dative case here.
Case: Words in this case are functioning to illustrate
how or by what means an action was taken; for instance, "Joe
smashed in the door with a hammer." The
word hammer would be
in the instrumental case in many languages to show what means
Joe used to smash in the door. [Note that many Indo-European
languages simply use the ablative case here.]
Case: Words in the interjective case are outbursts
or exclamations separate from the rest of the sentence's syntax.
Examples in English might be, "Gee-whiz!"
or "Yikes!" or "Golly"
or "Damn!" or "Ah!"
Some languages would put these interjections in their own
separate case, but most simply use nondeclinable words for