Declension

In linguistics, declension is the changing of the form of a word, generally to express its syntactic function in the sentence, by way of some inflection. The inflectional change of verbs is called conjugation.

Declensions may apply to nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, and articles to indicate number (e.g. singular, dual, plural), case (e.g. nominative case, accusative case, genitive case, dative case), gender (e.g. masculine, neuter, feminine), and a number of other grammatical categories.

Declension occurs in many of the world's languages. Declension is an important aspect of language families like American (such as Quechuan), Indo-European (German, Slavic, Sanskrit, Latin), Bantu (Zulu, Kikuyu), Semitic (Modern Standard Arabic), Finno-Ugric (Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian), Turkic (Turkish).

Old English was an inflectional language, but largely abandoned inflectional changes as it evolved into Modern English. Though traditionally classified as synthetic, Modern English has moved towards an analytic language.

HistoryEdit

It is agreed that Ancient Greeks had a "vague" idea of the forms of a noun in their language. A fragment of Anacreon seems to confirm this idea. Nevertheless, it cannot be concluded that the Ancient Greeks actually knew what the cases were. The Stoics developed many basic notions that today are the rudiments of linguistics. The idea of grammatical cases is also traced back to the Stoics, but it's still not completely clear what the Stoics exactly meant with their notion of cases.[1][2]

Modern EnglishEdit

In Modern English, the system of declensions is so simple compared to some other languages that the term declension is rarely used. Most nouns in English have distinct singular and plural forms and have distinct plain and possessive forms. Plurality is most commonly shown by the affix -s (or -es), whereas possession is always shown by the clitic -'s (or by just the apostrophe for most plural forms ending in s) attached to the noun. Consider, for example, the forms of the noun girl:

Singular Plural
Plain girl girls
Possessive girl's girls'

Most speakers pronounce all of the forms other than the singular plain form (girl) exactly the same (though the elided possessive-indicating s of the plural possessive may be realised as [z] in some speakers' pronunciations, being separated from the plural-indicating s normally by a central vowel such as [ɨ̞]). By contrast, a few nouns are slightly more complex in their forms. For example:

Singular Plural
Plain man men
Possessive man's men's

In that example, all four forms are pronounced distinctly.

There can be other derivations from nouns that are not usually considered declensions. For example, the proper noun Britain has the associated descriptive adjective British and the demonym Briton. Though these words are clearly related and are generally considered cognates, they are not specifically treated as forms of the same word and thus not declensions.

Pronouns in English have even more complex declensions. For example:

Singular Plural
Subjective I we
Objective me us
Dependent possessive my our
Independent possessive mine ours

Whereas nouns do not distinguish between the subjective (nominative) and objective (oblique) cases, some pronouns do; that is, they decline to reflect their relationship to a verb or preposition, or case. Consider the difference between he (subjective) and him (objective), as in "He saw it" and "It saw him"; similarly, consider who, which is subjective, and the objective whom (although it is increasingly common to use who for both).

The one situation where gender is still clearly part of the English language is in the pronouns for the third person singular. Consider the following:

Masculine Feminine Neuter
(non-person)
Neuter
(person)
Subjective he she it they
Objective him her them
Dependent possessive his her its their
Independent possessive hers theirs

The distinguishing of neuter for persons and non-persons is peculiar to English. This has existed since the 14th century.[3][4] However, the use of the so-called singular they is often restricted to specific contexts, depending on the dialect or the speaker. It is most typically used to refer to a single person of unknown gender (e.g., "someone left their jacket behind") or a hypothetical person where gender is insignificant (e.g., "If someone wants to, then they should"). Its use has expanded in recent years due to increasing social recognition of persons who do not identify themselves as male or female.[5] Note that the singular they still uses plural verb forms, reflecting its origins.

For nouns, in general, gender is not declined in Modern English, or at best one could argue there are isolated situations certain nouns may be modified to reflect gender, though not in a systematic fashion. Loan words from other languages, particularly Latin and the Romance languages, often preserve their gender-specific forms in English, e.g. alumnus (masculine singular) and alumna (feminine singular). Similarly, names borrowed from other languages show comparable distinctions: Andrew and Andrea, Paul and Paula, etc. Additionally, suffixes such as -ess, -ette, and -er are sometimes applied to create overtly gendered versions of nouns, with marking for feminine being much more common than marking for masculine. Many nouns can actually function as members of two genders or even all three, and the gender classes of English nouns are usually determined by their agreement with pronouns, rather than marking on the nouns themselves.

Most adjectives are not declined. However, when used as nouns rather than adjectives, they do decline (e.g., "I'll take the reds", meaning "I'll take the red ones" or as shorthand for "I'll take the red wines"). Also, the demonstrative determiners this and that are declined for number, as these and those. Some adjectives borrowed from other languages are, or can be, declined for gender, at least in writing: blond (male) and blonde (female). Adjectives are not declined for case in Modern English, though they were in Old English. The article is never regarded as declined in Modern English, although formally, the words that and possibly she correspond to forms of the predecessor of the ( m., þæt n., sēo f.) as it was declined in Old English.

LatinEdit

Just as verbs in Latin are conjugated to indicate grammatical information, Latin nouns and adjectives that modify them are declined to signal their roles in sentences. There are five important cases for Latin nouns: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative. Since the vocative case usually takes the same form as the nominative, it is seldom spelt out in grammar books.[dubious ] Yet another case, the locative, is limited to a small number of words.

The usual basic functions of these cases are as follows:

  • Nominative case indicates the subject.
  • Genitive case indicates possession and can be translated with ‘of’.
  • Dative case marks the indirect object and can be translated with ‘to’ or ‘for’.
  • Accusative case marks the direct object.
  • Ablative case is used to modify verbs and can be translated as ‘by’, ‘with’, ‘from’, etc.
  • Vocative case is used to address a person or thing.

The genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative also have important functions to indicate the object of a preposition.

Given below is the declension paradigm of Latin puer ‘boy’ and puella ‘girl’:

Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative puer puerī puella puellae
Genitive puerī puerōrum puellae puellārum
Dative puerō puerīs puellae puellīs
Accusative puerum puerōs puellam puellās
Ablative puerō puerīs puellā puellīs
Vocative puer puerī puella puellae

From the provided examples we can see how cases work:

  • liber puerī → the book of the boy (puerī boy=genitive)
  • puer puellae rosam dat → the boy gives the girl a rose (puer boy=nominative; puellae girl=dative; rosam rose=accusative; dat give=third person singular present)

HindiEdit

Hindi has three noun cases (nominative, oblique, and vocative)[6][7]and five pronoun cases (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, and oblique). The oblique case in pronouns has three subdivisions: Regular, Ergative, and Genitive. There are eight case-marking postpositions in Hindi and out of those eight the ones which end in the vowel (the semblative and the genitive postpositions) also decline according to number, gender, and case.[8][9]

NounsEdit

All the case declension paradigms for nouns are shown below:

Case Masculine Feminine
ending in -ā ending in -i/ī ending in -u/ū ending in -ø ending in -i/ī ending in -ā ending in -ø
Boy Man Knife Tree Girl Mother Train
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative लड़का

laɽkā

लड़के

laɽke

आदमी

ādmī

आदमी

ādmī

चाकू

chakū

चाकू

chakū

पेड़

peɽ

पेड़

peɽ

लड़की

laɽkī

लड़कियाँ

laɽkiyā̃

माता

mātā

माताएँ

mātā

ट्रेन

ʈren

ट्रेनें

ʈren

Oblique लड़के

laɽke

लड़कों

laɽkõ

आदमियों

ādmiyõ

चाकुओं

chāk

पेड़ों

peɽõ

लड़कियों

laɽkiyõ

माताओं

mātāõ

ट्रेनों

ʈrenõ

Vocative लड़को

laɽko

आदमियो

ādmiyo

चाकुओ

chākuo

पेड़ो

peɽo

लड़कियो

laɽkiyo

माताओ

mātāo

ट्रेनो

ʈreno

Note: -ø represents any word-ending other than the ones mentioned in the paradigms above.

PronounsEdit

Case Personal Demonstrative Relative Interrogative
1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Singular Plural Singular Plural Proximal Non-proximal Singular Plural Formal Singular Plural Formal
Intimate Familiar Formal Singular Plural Formal Singular Plural Formal
Nominative मैं

mɛ̃

हम

ham

तू

तुम

tum

आप

āp

यह

yah

ये

ye

वह

vah

वे

ve

जो

jo

कौन, क्या

kaun, kyā

ये

ye

वो

vo

Dative मुझे

mujhe

हमें

hamẽ

तुझे

tujhe

तुम्हें

tumhẽ

इसे

ise

इन्हें

inhẽ

उसे

use

उन्हें

unhẽ

जिसे

jise

जिन्हें

jinhẽ

किसे

kise

किन्हें

kinhẽ

Accusative
Genitive मेरा

merā

हमारा

hamārā

तेरा

terā

तुम्हारा

tumhārā

Oblique Regular मुझ

mujh

हम

ham

तुझ

tujh

तुम

tum

आप

āp

इस

is

इन

in

उस

us

उन

un

जिस

jis

जिन

jin

किस

kis

किन

kin

Ergative मैं

mãĩ

तू

इन्हों

inhõ

उन्हों

unhõ

जिन्हों

jinhõ

किन्हों

kinhõ

Genitive मेरे

mere

हमारे

hamāre

तेरे

tere

तुम्हारे

tumhāre

PostpositionsEdit

The case-marking postpositions of Hindi are mentioned in the table below on the left, and the declensions of the genitive and semblative postpositions are on the right:

Case-markers
Case Case Marker Example English Equivalent
Ergative ने

ne

लड़के ने

laɽke ne

the boy
Accusative को

ko

लड़के को

laɽke ko

the boy
Dative to the boy
Instrumental से

se

लड़के से

laɽke se

with/using the boy
Ablative from the boy
Genitive का

लड़के का

laɽke kā

boy's / of the boy
Inessive में

mẽ

लड़के में

laɽke mẽ

in/inside the boy
Adessive पे/पर

pe/par

लड़के पे

laɽke pe

on/at the boy
Terminative तक

tak

लड़के तक

laɽke tak

(up) till the boy
Semblative सा

लड़के सा

laɽke sā

boy-ish, boy-esque
Case Genitive Postposition Semblative Postposition
Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Singular Singular Plural
Nominative का

kā

के

ke

की

kī

सा

sā

से

se

सी

sī

Oblique के

ke

से

se

Example sentence using noun, pronoun, and postpositional declensions:

Hindi कोई बोला कि बड़े से पेड़ों को लड़के ने लकड़ी की कुल्हाड़ी से धुप में दो से चार बजे तक कुर्सी पे खड़े होके काटा।
Transliternation koī bolā ki baɽe se peɽõ ko laɽke ne lakɽī kī kulhāɽī se dhūp mẽ do se chār tak kursī pe khaɽe hoke kāʈā.
Meaning someone said that big trees boy wood axe sun two four chair standing cut.
Case/Function nominative perfective conjunction semblative accusative ergative genitive instrumental inessive ablative terminative adessive conjunctive perfective
Translation "Someone said that a boy cut the big trees with a wooden axe in the sun from 2 o'clock to 4 o'clock by standing on a chair."

SanskritEdit

Sanskrit, another Indo-European language, has eight cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative, locative and instrumental.[10] Some do not count vocative as a separate case, despite it having a distinctive ending in the singular, but consider it as a different use of the nominative.[11]

Sanskrit grammatical cases have been analyzed extensively. The grammarian Pāṇini identified six semantic roles or karaka, which correspond closely to the eight cases:[12]

  • agent (kartṛ, related to the nominative)
  • patient (karman, related to the accusative)
  • means (karaṇa, related to the instrumental)
  • recipient (sampradāna, related to the dative)
  • source (apādāna, related to the ablative)
  • relation (sambandha, related to genitive)
  • locus (adhikaraṇa, related to the locative)
  • address (sambodhana, related to the vocative)

For example, consider the following sentence:

vṛkṣ-āt parṇ-aṁ bhūm-au patati
from the tree a leaf to the ground falls
"a leaf falls from the tree to the ground"

Here leaf is the agent, tree is the source, and ground is the locus. The endings -aṁ, -at, -āu mark the cases associated with these meanings.

See alsoEdit

Declension in specific languagesEdit

Latin and GreekEdit

Related topicsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Frede, Michael (1994). "The Stoic Notion of a Grammatical Case". Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. 39: 13–24. doi:10.1111/j.2041-5370.1994.tb00449.x. JSTOR 43646836.
  2. ^ http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/linguaggio
  3. ^ Fowler, H.W. (2015). Butterfield, Jeremy (ed.). Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. p. 814. ISBN 978-0-19-966135-0.
  4. ^ Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey K. (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 494. ISBN 0-521-43146-8.
  5. ^ Andrews, Travis M. (March 28, 2017). "The singular, gender-neutral 'they' added to the Associated Press Stylebook". Washington Post.
  6. ^ "Hindi Noun Cases". hindilanguage.info. 2012-04-19. Retrieved 2020-09-01.
  7. ^ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226198692_Ergative_Case-marking_in_Hindi
  8. ^ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226198692_Ergative_Case-marking_in_Hindi
  9. ^ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267724707_CASE_IN_HINDI
  10. ^ James Clackson (2007) Indo-European linguistics: an introduction, p.90
  11. ^ Amba Kulkarni and Peter Scharf (eds), Sanskrit Computational Linguistics: First and Second International Symposia Rocquencourt, France, October 29-31, 2007 and Providence, RI, USA, May 15-17, 2008, Revised Selected Papers, Volume 5402 of Lecture notes in artificial intelligence, Springer, 2009, ISBN 3-642-00154-8, pp. 64–68.
  12. ^ Pieter Cornelis Verhagen, Handbook of oriental studies: India. A history of Sanskrit grammatical literature in Tibet, Volume 2, BRILL, 2001, ISBN 90-04-11882-9, p. 281.

External linksEdit