Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Order of the Cases

On pg. 194 n. 3 I mention that the case order nom., voc. acc. instr. dat. abl. gen. loc. originated with the Sanskrit Grammarians and that's still more or less correct (the vocative wasn't treated as an autonomous case per se). But the article by W. S. Allen and C. O. Brink (1980. The old order and the new: A case history. Lingua. 50:61–100.) provides some interesting details. The Ancient grammatical tradition placed the genitive after the nominative and this is the order I think most Americans learn or learned (I know I did). In England, on the other hand, the nom. acc. order is or was predominant. Apparently, it was the great Dane Rasmus Rask who first introduced the nom. acc. order, mainly on the basis of morphological arguments, but also partly under the influence of the Sanskrit grammarians. Rask was followed by his countryman J. N. Madvig and Madvig's order was taken up by some influential British school grammars. America, possibly for reasons of Teutonophilia, never made the switch.

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