Re: 5 case system vs. 8 case system

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Oct 22 1998 - 06:15:18 EDT

At 2:56 AM -0500 10/22/98, Byron P. Knutson wrote:
>I was out looking at grammars today ( haven't bought any for a few years)
>and it seems that all those I've found that are new are 5 case system
>grammars. ATR pushed the 8 case system and I thought many thought highly of
>his work and scholarship enough to follow it. The newer scholarship must
>have reasons for going back to the 5 case system like the Classical Greek
>grammars do/did. Is there any discussion on this by those who have kept up
>on this aspect of the research?

I don't think this is so much a matter of research, personally. I work more
with Classical Attic than with Koine, and I only refer to five cases, but I
think that some of the functions are so readily distinguishable in terms of
original IE cases that I teach the cases at the outset as:
        Partitive Genitive: basic sense of "part of," "some of"
        Pertinentive or Adnominal Genitive: basic sense of "of"
        Ablatival Genitive: basic sense of "from"
        True Dative: basic sense of "to," "for"
        Instrumental-Comitative Dative: basic sense of "with"
        Locative Dative: basic sense of "in," "on," or "at"
Of course Nominative and Accusative are distinct cases reasonably clearly
defined; and some would refer to Vocative as a real case, although I'd say
it's just a form of the noun without a distinct ending.

It's true that some secondary Genitive meanings may appear difficult to
assign to one of the three Genitive categories, and I think that more than
economy is involved in the historical assimilation of originally distinct
case functions to a smaller number of case endings--but it's hard to get
too precise about that. I just personally think it's easier to
understand--and explain-- the great bulk of functional case usages if they
are broken down as I have suggested in terms of the historical IE

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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