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:


Still Needed:


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: If only we knew....

The whole issue of why one changes occur is one of the biggest questions in linguistics. We can often see in retrospect why something might have happened but we can't predict what will happen in the future.

This means we don't really understand why particular changes appear over time. Look for general books on linguistic change (such as April McMahon's) or specific books about the history of the North Germanic languages.


Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
Date: 23-Aug-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Loss of case and declined grammar in mainland Scandinavian grammar    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (22-Aug-2012)
  2. Re: Loss of case and declined grammar in mainland Scandinavian grammar    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (22-Aug-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions