Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Possible 'M' suffix on whoM / hiM / theM / Me?|
I am not asking for the origin of the words ''whom'', ''him'', ''them'', or ''me''.
I am asking if these four words were originally formed by the addition of an ''M'' suffix to the words ''who'', ''he'', ''they'', and ''I'', and if so, are these words all that is left of that suffix in English? Is there a related language that still has a suffix of this kind?
I know that the pairs ''she/her'' and ''we/us'' do not fit the pattern of an ''M'' suffix, and ''M'' appears first in the word ''me''. Nevertheless, the addition of ''M'' in those four cases made me wonder if these words were formed using an ''M'' suffix in some ancient language before English.
That's true for <i>who(m), he/him, they/them</i>. Those words (all of which are third
person animate pronouns) are the last vestiges of the accusative case <i>-m</i>
suffix left in English.
<i>Me</i> and <i>us</i> are also accusative animate pronouns, but they aren't
formed with a suffix or prefix. Rather, <i>I</i> and <i>me</i> are suppletive --
formed from two different roots, like <i>go</i> and <i>went</i> -- as are
<i>we</i> and <i>us</i>.
These two small classes of pronouns, the suffixal and the suppletive accusatives --
comprising only five words altogether -- are the only case forms left in English.
English has only fossils of case, tense, and gender <a
href="http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler/Inflection.pdf">inflections</a> left in the
Contrast that with Latin, a language in which <b>every</b> noun has at least five
different case forms, and sometimes as many as a dozen, and every pronoun and
adjective had at least twice that many.
|Reply From:||John M. Lawler click here to access email|