Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:

$34674

Still Needed:

$40326

Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington


Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

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
 
Date: 22-Aug-2012
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Loss of case and declined grammar in mainland Scandinavian grammar    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (22-Aug-2012)
  2. Re: Loss of case and declined grammar in mainland Scandinavian grammar    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (23-Aug-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions