Re: 8-, 5-case system

The failure to distinguish clearly between form and function is endemic 
to traditional grammar:  The recent series, "English Grammar for 
Students of Latin/French/German/etc.", defines the concept of noun by 
semantic meanings (ye olde person/place/thing horror), for example.  The 
forms of grammar never restricted anyone from saying what needed saying; 
people and writers are quite inventive.  But the forms of Greek grammar 
show only five cases, though some of these show internal variations 
separate from case-differentiation (logou and poetic logoio, etc.).

Clearly no one who claims a mere eight noun/pronoun functions has 
examined Finnish or Hungarian with their roughly dozen-and-a-half 
cases....  Believe me, they use 'em all -- the inessive, the illative, 
the adessive, etc., most of which do away with such intense need for 
prepositions as the recent Indo-European languages display.  Not only 
English and French need them, but so do classical Greek, Latin, and even 
the yet more case-intensive Russian.

Even within a case that traditional grammar assigns two functions, there 
are more functions yet to be seen.  The "true" Greek genitive works both 
for subjective genitive functions and for objective genitive functions.  
But even English is not so sloppy, frequently segregating the two:  This 
hatred of me (=for me), using OF+objective, versus This hatred of mine 
(=which I have), using OF+possessive, or again, That picture of Bill, 
versus That picture of Bill's.  Why don't the traditionalists claim 
three "genitive" cases, then?

There are multitudes of functions, even of the Greek "nominative":
- causator subject (The general condemns the house to destruction),
- transitive actor subject (The soldiers destroy the house),
- intransitive actor subject (The soldiers march toward the house),
- instrument subject (Pick, shovel, and sword are destroying the house),
- predicate complement (That man is the general),
- subject of passive (The house is being torn down)....
Many languages use variant forms to differentiate among some or all of 
these functions.  Some North American languages use the "accusative" for 
subjects of intransitive verbs.  Russian uses frequently uses 
"instrumental" under appropriate conditions to flag the predicate 
modifier, for example, and colloquial English uses the "objective" 
likewise:  ever heard anyone exclaim "That's they!", or "It's we!"?  
...ever even seen in print?!!!

Bottom line.  There are as many functions as the human speech machine 
can invent.  It's hard to grammaticalize them all, so every case or 
every tense performs many different functions in any language sample.

--David N. Wigtil.  Technology Assessment.  U. S. Department of Energy.
Sophronos d' apistias
ouk estin ouden khresimoteron brotois.  (Euripides, "Helen" 1617-1618)
(There's nothing more helpful for mortals than sensible disbelief.)
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