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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Loss of case and declined grammar in mainland Scandinavian grammar|
|Question:||What has bugged me for a long time, is not being able to understand what exactly changes certain parts of grammar such as cases or declination; when I look at Swedish or Danish, they seem to have both lost a full set of Germanic cases and generally use the same present-tense conjugation for every speaker/pronoun regardless of gender or number. Yet Icelandic kept a lot of the Old Norse features, which of course is understandable, considering its distance from the mainland and their efforts to maintain linguistic purity. But I still do not know why or how Norwegian, Danish and Swedish have ditched the typical old Norse style grammar - I don't know what has catalysed this. Is it a social or a cognitive change? I hope you can help me. James Puchowski - A-level student, High Wycombe - Great Britain|
|Reply:||Part of the answer here is that it is natural for unstressed parts of words to become reduced in casual speech, so that the difference between various unstressed syllables may tend to become hard to hear or may disappear altogether. If those unstressed syllables are bearers of case-endings, the case system will thereby be simplified or eliminated. A good popular book to read about this sort of thing is Guy Deutscher's "The Unfolding of Language". Geoffrey Sampson|
|Reply From:||Geoffrey Richard Sampson click here to access email|