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NOUN: CASE

grammar

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NOUN: CASE

§ 1. Case is the immanent morphological category of the noun manifested in the forms of noun declension and showing the relations of the nounal referent to other objects and phenomena. Thus, the case form of the noun, or contractedly its 'case' (in the narrow sense of the word), is a morphological-declensional form.




This category is expressed in English by the opposition of the form in -'s [-z, -s, -iz], usually called the 'possessive' case, or more traditionally, the 'genitive' case (to which term we will stick in the following presentation*), to the unfeatured form of the noun, usually called the 'common' case. The apostrophised -s serves to distinguish in writing the singular noun in the genitive case from the plural noun in the common case. E.g.: the man's duty, the President's decision, Max's letter; the boy's ball, the clerk's promotion, the Empress's jewels.

* The traditional term 'genitive case' seems preferable on the ground that not all the meanings of the genitive case are 'possessive'.

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The genitive of the bulk of plural nouns remains phonetically unexpressed: the few exceptions concern only some of the irregular plurals. Thereby the apostrophe as the graphic sign of the genitive acquires the force of a sort of grammatical hieroglyph. Cf.: the carpenters' tools, the mates' skates, the actresses' dresses.

Functionally, the forms of the English nouns designated as 'case forms' relate to one another in an extremely peculiar way. The peculiarity is, that the common form is absolutely indefinite from the semantic point of view, whereas the genitive form in its productive uses is restricted to the functions which have a parallel expression by prepositional constructions. Thus, the common form, as appears from the presentation, is also capable of rendering the genitive semantics (namely, in contact and prepositional collocation), which makes the whole of the genitive case into a kind of subsidiary element in the grammatical system of the English noun. This feature stamps the English noun declension as something utterly different from every conceivable declension in principle. In fact, the inflexional oblique case forms as normally and imperatively expressing the immediate functional parts of the ordinary sentence in 'noun-declensional' languages do not exist in English at all. Suffice it to compare a German sentence taken at random with its English rendering:

Erhebung der Anklage gegen die Witwe Capet scheint wόnschenswert aus Rucksicht auf die Stimmung der Stadt Paris (L. Feuchtwanger). Eng.: (The bringing of) the accusation against the Widow Capet appears desirable, taking into consideration the mood of the City of Paris.

As we see, the five entries of nounal oblique cases in the German utterance (rendered through article inflexion), of which two are genitives, all correspond to one and the same indiscriminate common case form of nouns in the English version of the text. By way of further comparison, we may also observe the Russian translation of the same sentence with its four genitive entries: Выдвижение обвинения против вдовы Капет кажется желательным, если учесть настроение города Парижа.

Under the described circumstances of fact, there is no wonder that in the course of linguistic investigation the category of case in English has become one of the vexed problems of theoretical discussion.

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§ 2. Four special views advanced at various times by different scholars should be considered as successive stages in the analysis of this problem.

The first view may be called the 'theory of positional cases'. This theory is directly connected with the old grammatical tradition, and its traces can be seen in many contemporary text-books for school in the English-speaking countries. Linguistic formulations of the theory, with various individual variations (the number of cases recognised, the terms used, the reasoning cited), may be found in the works of J. C. Nesfield, M. Deutschbein, M. Bryant and other scholars.

In accord with the theory of positional cases, the unchangeable forms of the noun are differentiated as different cases by virtue of the functional positions occupied by the noun in the sentence. Thus, the English noun, on the analogy of classical Latin grammar, would distinguish, besides the inflexional genitive case, also the non-inflexional, i.e. purely positional cases: nominative, vocative, dative, and accusative. The uninflexional cases of the noun are taken to be supported by the parallel inflexional cases of the personal pronouns. The would-be cases in question can be exemplified as follows.*

The nominative case (subject to a verb): Rain falls. The vocative case (address): Are you coming, my friend? The dative case (indirect object to a verb): I gave John a penny. The accusative case (direct object, and also object to a preposition): The man killed a rat. The earth is moistened by rain.

In the light of all that has been stated in this book in connection with the general notions of morphology, the fallacy of the positional case theory is quite obvious. The cardinal blunder of this view is, that it substitutes the functional characteristics of the part of the sentence for the morphological features of the word class, since the case form, by definition, is the variable morphological form of the noun. In reality, the case forms as such serve as means of expressing the functions of the noun in the sentence, and not vice versa. Thus, what the described view does do on the positive lines,

* The examples are taken from the book: Nesfield J. С Manual of English Grammar and Composition. Lnd., 1942, p. 24.

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is that within the confused conceptions of form and meaning, it still rightly illustrates the fact that the functional meanings rendered by cases can be expressed in language by other grammatical means, in particular, by word-order.

The second view may be called the 'theory of prepositional cases'. Like the theory of positional cases, it is also connected with the old school grammar teaching, and was advanced as a logical supplement to the positional view of the case.

In accord with the prepositional theory, combinations of nouns with prepositions in certain object and attributive collocations should be understood as morphological case forms. To these belong first of all the 'dative' case (to+Noun, for+Noun) and the 'genitive' case (of+Noun). These prepositions, according to G. Curme, are 'inflexional prepositions', i.e. grammatical elements equivalent to case-forms. The would-be prepositional cases are generally taken (by the scholars who recognise them) as coexisting with positional cases, together with the classical inflexional genitive completing the case system of the English noun.

The prepositional theory, though somewhat better grounded than the positional theory, nevertheless can hardly pass a serious linguistic trial. As is well known from noun-declensional languages, all their prepositions, and not only some of them, do require definite cases of nouns (prepositional case-government); this fact, together with a mere semantic observation of the role of prepositions in the phrase, shows that any preposition by virtue of its functional nature stands in essentially the same general grammatical relations to nouns. It should follow from this that not only the of-, to-, and for-phrases, but also all the other prepositional phrases in English must be regarded as 'analytical cases'. As a result of such an approach illogical redundancy in terminology would arise: each prepositional phrase would bear then another, additional name of 'prepositional case', the total number of the said 'cases' running into dozens upon dozens without any gain either to theory or practice [Ilyish, 42].

The third view of the English noun case recognises a limited inflexional system of two cases in English, one of them featured and the other one unfeatured. This view may be called the 'limited case theory'.

The limited case theory is at present most broadly accepted among linguists both in this country and abroad. It was formulated by such scholars as H. Sweet, O. Jespersen,

5—1499                                                                              65


and has since been radically developed by the Soviet scholars A. I. Smirnitsky, L. S. Barkhudarov and others.

The limited case theory in its modern presentation is based on the explicit oppositional approach to the recognition of grammatical categories. In the system of the English case the functional mark is defined, which differentiates the two case forms: the possessive or genitive form as the strong member of the categorial opposition and the common, or 'non-genitive' form as the weak member of the categorial opposition. The opposition is shown as being effected in full with animate nouns, though a restricted use with inanimate nouns is also taken into account. The detailed functions of the genitive are specified with the help of semantic transformational correlations [Бархударов, (2), 89 и сл.].

§ 3. We have considered the three theories which, if at basically different angles, proceed from the assumption that the English noun does distinguish the grammatical case in its functional structure. However, another view of the problem of the English noun cases has been put forward which sharply counters the theories hitherto observed. This view approaches the English noun as having completely lost the category of case in the course of its historical development. All the nounal cases, including the much spoken of genitive, are considered as extinct, and the lingual unit that is named the 'genitive case' by force of tradition, would be in reality a combination of a noun with a postposition (i.e. a relational postpositional word with preposition-like functions). This view, advanced in an explicit form by G. N. Vorontsova [Воронцова, 168 и сл.], may be called the 'theory of the possessive postposition' ('postpositional theory'). Cf.: [Ilyish, 44 ff.; Бархударов, Штелинг, 42 и сл.].

Of the various reasons substantiating the postpositional theory the following two should be considered as the main ones.

First, the postpositional element -'s is but loosely connected with the noun, which finds the clearest expression in its use not only with single nouns, but also with whole word-groups of various status. Compare some examples cited by G. N. Vorontsova in her work: somebody else's daughter; another stage-struck girl's stage finish; the man who had hauled him out to dinner's head.

Second, there is an indisputable parallelism of functions between the possessive postpositional constructions and the

6G


prepositional constructions, resulting in the optional use of the former. This can be shown by transformational reshuffles of the above examples: the daughter of somebody else; the stage finish of another stage-struck girl; . ..→ the head of the man who had hauled him out to dinner.

One cannot but acknowledge the rational character of the cited reasoning. Its strong point consists in the fact that it is based on a careful observation of the lingual data. For all that, however, the theory of the possessive postposition fails to take into due account the consistent insight into the nature of the noun form in -'s achieved by the limited case theory. The latter has demonstrated beyond any doubt that the noun form in -'s is systemically, i.e. on strictly structural-functional basis, contrasted against the unfeatured form of the noun, which does make the whole correlation of the nounal forms into a grammatical category of case-like order, however specific it might be.

As the basic arguments for the recognition of the noun form in -'s in the capacity of grammatical case, besides the oppositional nature of the general functional correlation of the featured and unfeatured forms of the noun, we will name the following two.

First, the broader phrasal uses of the postpositional -'s like those shown on the above examples, display a clearly expressed stylistic colouring; they are, as linguists put it, stylistically marked, which fact proves their transpositional nature. In this connection we may formulate the following regularity: the more self-dependent the construction covered by the case-sign -'s, the stronger the stylistic mark (colouring) of the resulting genitive phrase. This functional analysis is corroborated by the statistical observation of the forms in question in the living English texts. According to the data obtained by B. S. Khaimovich and B. I. Rogovskaya, the -'s sign is attached to individual nouns in as many as 96 per cent of its total textual occurrences [Khaimovich, Rogovskaya, 64]. Thus, the immediate casal relations are realised by individual nouns, the phrasal, as well as some non-nounal uses of the — 's sign being on the whole of a secondary grammatical order.

Second, the -'s sign from the point of view of its segmental status in language differs from ordinary functional words. It is morpheme-like by its phonetical properties; it is strictly postpositional unlike the prepositions; it is semantically by far a more bound element than a preposition, which, among

5*                                                                                                                                                                                 67


other things, has hitherto prevented it from being entered into dictionaries as a separate word.

As for the fact that the 'possessive postpositional construction' is correlated with a parallel prepositional construction, it only shows the functional peculiarity of the form, but cannot disprove its case-like nature, since cases of nouns in general render much the same functional semantics as prepositional phrases (reflecting a wide range of situational relations of noun referents).

§ 4. The solution of the problem, then, is to be sought on the ground of a critical synthesis of the positive statements of the two theories: the limited case theory and the possessive postposition theory.

A two case declension of nouns should be recognised in English, with its common case as a 'direct' case, and its genitive case as the only oblique case. But, unlike the case system in ordinary noun-declensional languages based on inflexional word change, the case system in English is founded on a particle expression. The particle nature of -'s is evident from the fact that it is added in post-position both to individual nouns and to nounal word-groups of various status, rendering the same essential semantics of appurtenance in the broad sense of the term. Thus, within the expression of the genitive in English, two subtypes are to be recognised: the first (principal) is the word genitive; the second (of a minor order) is the phrase genitive. Both of them are not inflexional, but particle case-forms.

The described particle expression of case may to a certain extent be likened to the particle expression of the subjunctive mood in Russian [Иртеньева, 40]. As is known, the Russian subjunctive particle бы not only can be distanced from the verb it refers to, but it can also relate to a lexical unit of non-verb-like nature without losing its basic subjunctive-functional quality. Cf.: Если бы не он. Мне бы такая возможность. Как бы не так.

From the functional point of view the English genitive case, on the whole, may be regarded as subsidiary to the syntactic system of prepositional phrases. However, it still displays some differential points in its functional meaning, which, though neutralised in isolated use, are revealed in broader syntagmatic collocations with prepositional phrases.

One of such differential points may be defined as

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'animate appurtenance' against 'inanimate appurtenance' rendered by a prepositional phrase in contrastive use. Cf.:




The people's voices drowned in the roar of the started engines. The tiger's leap proved quicker than the click of the rifle.

Another differential point expressed in cases of textual co-occurrence of the units compared consists in the subjective use of the genitive noun (subject of action) against the objective use of the prepositional noun (object of action). Cf.: My Lord's choice of the butler; the partisans' rescue of the prisoners; the treaty's denunciation of mutual threats.

Furthermore, the genitive is used in combination with the of-phrase on a complementary basis expressing the functional semantics which may roughly be called 'appurtenance rank gradation': a difference in construction (i.e. the use of the genitive against the use of the of-phrase) signals a difference in correlated ranks of semantic domination. Cf.: the country's strain of wartime (lower rank: the strain of wartime; higher rank: the country's strain); the sight of Satispy's face (higher rank: the sight of the face; lower rank: Satispy's face).

It is certainly these and other differential points and complementary uses that sustain the particle genitive as part of the systemic expression of nounal relations in spite of the disintegration of the inflexional case in the course of historical development of English.

§ 5. Within the general functional semantics of appurtenance, the English genitive expresses a wide range of relational meanings specified in the regular interaction of the semantics of the subordinating and subordinated elements in the genitive phrase. Summarising the results of extensive investigations in this field, the following basic semantic types of the genitive can be pointed out.

First, the form which can be called the 'genitive of possessor' (Lat. 'genetivus possessori'). Its constructional meaning will be defined as 'inorganic' possession, i.e. possessional relation (in the broad sense) of the genitive referent to the object denoted by the head-noun. E.g.: Christine's living-room; the assistant manager's desk; Dad's earnings; Kate and Jerry's grandparents; the Steel Corporation's hired slaves.

The diagnostic test for the genitive of possessor is its transformation into a construction that explicitly expresses

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the idea of possession (belonging) inherent in the form. Cf.: Christine's living-room → the living-room belongs to Christine; the Steel Corporation's hired slaves → the Steel Corporation possesses hired slaves.*

Second, the form which can be called the 'genitive of integer' (Lat. 'genetivus integri'). Its constructional meaning will be defined as 'organic possession', i.e. a broad possessional relation of a whole to its part. E.g.: Jane's busy hands; Patrick's voice; the patient's health; the hotel's lobby.

Diagnostic test: the busy hands as part of Jane's person; the health as part of the patient's state; the lobby as a component part of the hotel, etc.

A subtype of the integer genitive expresses a qualification received by the genitive referent through the headword. E.g.: Mr. Dodson's vanity; the computer's reliability.

This subtype of the genitive can be called the 'genitive of received qualification' (Lat. 'genetivus qualificationis receptae').

Third, the 'genitive of agent' (Lat. 'genetivus agentis'). The more traditional name of this genitive is 'subjective' (Lat. 'genetivus subjectivus'). The latter term seems inadequate because of its unjustified narrow application: nearly all the genitive types stand in subjective relation to the referents of the head-nouns. The general meaning of the genitive of agent is explained in its name: this form renders an activity or some broader processual relation with the referent of the genitive as its subject. E.g.: the great man's arrival; Peter's insistence; the councillor's attitude; Campbell Clark's gaze; the hotel's competitive position.

Diagnostic test: the great man arrives; Peter insists; the hotel occupies a competitive position, etc.

A subtype of the agent genitive expresses the author, or, more broadly considered, the producer of the referent of the head-noun. Hence, it receives the name of the 'genitive of author' (Lat. 'genetivus auctori'). E.g.: Beethoven's sonatas; John Galsworthy's 'A Man of Property'; the committee's progress report.

Diagnostic test: —» Beethoven has composed (is the author of) the sonatas; the committee has compiled (is the compiler of) the progress report, etc.

Fourth, the 'genitive of patient' (Lat. 'genetivus patientis').

* We avoid the use of the verb have in diagnostic constructions, because have itself, due to its polysemantism, wants diagnostic contextual specifications

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This type of genitive, in contrast to the above, expresses the recipient of the action or process denoted by the head-noun. E.g.: the champion's sensational defeat; Erick's final expulsion; the meeting's chairman; the St Gregory's proprietor; the city's business leaders; the Titanic's tragedy.

Diagnostic test: the champion is defeated (i.e. his opponent defeated him); Erick is expelled; the meeting is chaired by its chairman; → the St Gregory is owned by its proprietor, etc.

Fifth, the 'genitive of destination' (Lat. 'genetivus destinationis'). This form denotes the destination, or function of the referent of the head-noun. E.g.: women's footwear; children's verses; a fishers' tent.

Diagnostic test: footwear for women; a tent for fishers, etc.

Sixth, the 'genitive of dispensed qualification' (Lat. 'genetivus qualificationis dispensatae'). The meaning of this genitive type, as different from the subtype 'genitive of received qualification', is some characteristic or qualification, not received, but given by the genitive noun to the referent of the head-noun. E.g.: a girl's voice; a book-keeper's statistics; Curtis O'Keefe's kind (of hotels — M.B.).

Diagnostic test: a voice characteristic of a girl; statistics peculiar to a book-keeper's report; the kind (of hotels) characteristic of those owned by Curtis O'Keefe.

Under the heading of this general type comes a very important subtype of the genitive which expresses a comparison. The comparison, as different from a general qualification, is supposed to be of a vivid, descriptive nature. The subtype is called the 'genitive of comparison' (Lat. 'genetivus comparationis'). This term has been used to cover the whole class. E.g.: the cock's self-confidence of the man; his perky sparrow's smile.

Diagnostic test: the self-confidence like that of a cock; the smile making the man resemble a perky sparrow.

Seventh, the 'genitive of adverbial' (Lat. 'genetivus adverbii'). The form denotes adverbial factors relating to the referent of the head-noun, mostly the time and place of the event. Strictly speaking, this genitive may be considered as another subtype of the genitive of dispensed qualification. Due to its adverbial meaning, this type of genitive can be used with

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adverbialised substantives. E.g.: the evening's newspaper; yesterday's encounter; Moscow's talks.

Diagnostic test: the newspaper issued in the evening; the encounter which took place yesterday; the talks that were held in Moscow.

Eighth, the 'genitive of quantity' (Lat. 'genetivus quantitatis'). This type of genitive denotes the measure or quantity relating to the referent of the head-noun. For the most part, the quantitative meaning expressed concerns units of distance measure, time measure, weight measure. E.g.: three miles' distance; an hour's delay; two months' time; a hundred tons' load.

Diagnostic test: a distance the measure of which is three miles; a time lasting for two months; a load weighing a hundred tons.

The given survey of the semantic types of the genitive is by no means exhaustive in any analytical sense. The identified types are open both to subtype specifications, and inter-type generalisations (for instance, on the principle of the differentiation between subject-object relations), and the very set of primary types may be expanded.

However, what does emerge out of the survey, is the evidence of a wide functional range of the English particle genitive, making it into a helpful and flexible, if subsidiary, means of expressing relational semantics in the sphere of the noun.

§ 6. We have considered theoretical aspects of the problem of case of the English noun, and have also observed the relevant lingual data instrumental in substantiating the suggested interpretations. As a result of the analysis, we have come to the conclusion that the inflexional case of nouns in English has ceased to exist. In its place a new, peculiar two case system has developed based on the particle expression of the genitive falling into two segmental types: the word-genitive and the phrase-genitive.

The undertaken study of the case in the domain of the noun, as the next step, calls upon the observer to re-formulate the accepted interpretation of the form-types of the English personal pronouns.

The personal pronouns are commonly interpreted as having a case system of their own, differing in principle from the case system of the noun. The two cases traditionally recognised here are the nominative case (I, you, he, etc.) and the

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objective case (me, you, him, etc.). To these forms the two series of forms of the possessive pronouns are added — respectively, the conjoint series (my, your, his, etc.) and the absolute series (mine, yours, his, etc.). A question now arises, if it is rational at all to recognise the type of case in the words of substitutional nature which is absolutely incompatible with the type of case in the correlated notional words? Attempts have been made in linguistics to transfer the accepted view of pronominal cases to the unchangeable forms of the nouns (by way of the logical procedure of back substitution), thereby supporting the positional theory of case (M. Bryant). In the light of the present study, however, it is clear that these attempts lack an adequate linguistic foundation.

As a matter of fact, the categories of the substitute have to reflect the categories of the antecedent, not vice versa. As an example we may refer to the category of gender (see Ch. VI): the English gender is expressed through the correlation of nouns with their pronominal substitutes by no other means than the reflection of the corresponding semantics of the antecedent in the substitute. But the proclaimed correlation between the case forms of the noun and the would-be case forms of the personal pronouns is of quite another nature: the nominative 'case' of the pronoun has no antecedent case in the noun; nor has the objective 'case' of the pronoun any antecedent case in the noun. On the other hand, the only oblique case of the English noun, the genitive, does have its substitutive reflection in the pronoun, though not in the case form, but in the lexical form of possession (possessive pronouns). And this latter relation of the antecedent to its substitute gives us a clue to the whole problem of pronominal 'case': the inevitable conclusion is that there is at present no case in the English personal pronouns; the personal pronominal system of cases has completely disintegrated, and in its place the four individual word-types of pronouns have appeared: the nominative form, the objective form, and the possessive form in its two versions, conjoint and absolute.

An analysis of the pronouns based on more formal considerations can only corroborate the suggested approach proceeding from the principle of functional evaluation. In fact, what is traditionally accepted as case-forms of the pronouns are not the regular forms of productive morphological change implied by the very idea of case declension, but individual

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forms sustained by suppletivity and given to the speaker as a ready-made set. The set is naturally completed by the possessive forms of pronouns, so that actually we are faced by a lexical paradigmatic series of four subsets of personal pronouns, to which the relative who is also added: I — me — my — mine, you — you — your — yours, who — whom — whose — whose. Whichever of the former case correlations are still traceable in this system (as, for example, in the sub-series he—him—his), they exist as mere relicts, i.e. as a petrified evidence of the old productive system that has long ceased to function in the morphology of English.

Thus, what should finally be meant by the suggested terminological name 'particle case' in English, is that the former system of the English inflexional declension has completely and irrevocably disintegrated, both in the sphere of nouns and their substitute pronouns; in its place a new, limited case system has arisen based on a particle oppositional feature and subsidiary to the prepositional expression of the syntactic relations of the noun.



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