Re: 5 case system vs. 8 case system

From: Don Wilkins (
Date: Fri Oct 23 1998 - 17:36:23 EDT

At 7:04 PM -0000 10/23/98, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:

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

And for that matter, I don't have any major problems with it, just my

>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

That probably depends on whom you ask. For myself, I think I do have a
basic sense for each case (I'm assuming that's what you mean by 'face
value'), but I wouldn't presuppose that every nuance can ultimately come
from that sense. 'Of' seems to work for the genitive. But 8-case advocates
have a legitimate point when they argue that one can't get separation (i.e.
ablative) from the basic meaning of the genitive nor instrument and
location from the dative (which I would class basically as 'to').

>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?

If I'm understanding you correctly, we in fact do all those things when
there is a very broad concept that can seemingly be accomplished by using
any of several methods. For example, possession can be expressed by a
possessive genitive or dative. But the use of a particular method usually
suggests some nuance, however subtle, and we even infer a writer's style to
some extent from those nuances.

>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.

I suppose I would need an example or two, because I'm not sure what the
problem is. In the simplistic example that I gave, one can discuss
possession, the different ways it can be expressed, and the differences
between these methods of expression, more or less.

Don Wilkins

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