Re: 5 case system vs. 8 case system

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Fri Oct 23 1998 - 15:04:07 EDT

Don Wilkins wrote:
>My viewpoint is that from a logical perspective, it is preferable
> to be able to determine meaning from form, rather than the reverse. In
> other words, I should be able to parse then translate, and it should not be
> incumbent upon me to translate then parse. I'm sure all will agree that
> parsing does in fact take precedence because we take the simple cases at
> face value. Those of you who have been students in a formal Greek course
> know the frustration and glory of misreading or reading correctly the case
> forms in translation exercises. For these reasons I prefer the 5-case
> system, which minimizes the amount of interpretive parsing (e.g. ablative
> vs. genitive) that one has to do. I.e. we do need to identify the nuances
> to properly understand the meaning, but then determining that one has an
> ablative rather than genitive has only theoretical value, like trying to
> defend the existence of "ether" in the universe (to paraphrase Einstein,
> "Who needs it?").


I am not an advocate of the 8 case system. Far from it.

But what is the "face value" of the genitive? And how do we get from the
morphological form to the meaning? If the genitive can be used for 25 (or 200)
different syntactical functions what on earth is the "face value" of the

If we postulate a syntactical function X and this syntactical function can be
performed by any of the following morphological categories: genitive
substantives, accusative substantives or adverbs. Then why do we call this
syntactical function a genitive of Y, or an accusative of Z rather than just
calling it X?

I think there is a question here that is rather more pressing than the 5 case
or 8 case question. There are syntactical functions that map to several
morphological classes. Mass confusion is caused by labeling these as the
Genitive of this or Accusative of that. Because the same function can be
performed by different cases, or even other parts of speech. An accusative
noun can perform the same syntactical function as an adverb which has no case.
The syntactical function should be given an independent status and a name
which is permanent. It should not change its name 5 times when it shows up
linked to a different morphological catagories.

So what is the "face value" of the genitive?

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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