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Subject: Possible 'M' suffix on whoM / hiM / theM / Me?
Question: 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.
Reply: That's true for who(m), he/him, they/them. Those words (all of which are third person animate pronouns) are the last vestiges of the accusative case -m suffix left in English. Me and us are also accusative animate pronouns, but they aren't formed with a suffix or prefix. Rather, I and me are suppletive -- formed from two different roots, like go and went -- as are we and us. 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 inflections left in the language. Contrast that with Latin, a language in which every 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
Date: 29-Oct-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Possible 'M' suffix on whoM / hiM / theM / Me?    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (29-Oct-2013)

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