The category of case of the English noun.

boy boys boys boys

Approaches to the category of case in English:

English has 2 cases (the limited case theory).

The number of cases in English is more than 2 (the theory of positional cases, the theory of prepositional cases).

There are no cases at all with English nouns.

These approaches are possible due to a difference in the interpretation of case as a grammatical category.

It is based on explicit oppositional approach to the recognition of grammatical categories. H.Sweet, O.Jespersen, Prof. Smirnitski, Prof. Ilyish: Case is a category of a noun expressing relations between the thing denoted by the noun and other things and properties, or actions, and manifested by some formal sign in the noun itself (an inflexion or a zero sign). Case cant be expressed by the phrase preposition+noun or by word order.

Prof.Blokh: Case is an immanent morphological category of the noun manifested in the forms of noun declension and showing the relations of the nounal referent to other objects and phenomena. It is a morphological-declensional form. So, this is the traditional grammar approach.

The theory of positional cases (Nesfield, Deutschbein, Bryant): the unchangeable forms of the noun are differentiated as different cases due to the functional positions occupied by the noun in the sentence.

e.g. (.) (.). (.) (.).

e.g. The mother bought her boy a coat: mother the Nominative case, boy Dative, coat Accusative.

e.g. The mother bought a/the coat for her boy: boy Dative.

Thus, the English noun would distinguish, besides the inflexional Genitive case, also purely positional cases: Nominative, Vocative, Dative and Accusative. The number of cases can be reduced to 3 (M.Bryant): Nominative, Genitive and Objective in accordance with pronouns I me.


1) Nominative - Bill died.

2) Accusative John killed Bill.

3) Dative John gave the book to Tom.

4) Genitive It was Harrys pencil.

5) Instrumental John killed Bill with a knife.

6) Agentive John was killed by Bill with a knife.

7) Comitative John went to town with Mary.

The weak point lies in the fact that they substitute the functional characteristics for the morphological features of the word class.

The strong point: it rightly illustrates the fact that the functional meanings can be expressed in language by other grammatical means, in particular, by word-order (rose garden garden rose).

The theory of prepositional cases (analytical theory or the theory of analytical forms): combinations of nouns with prepositions in certain object and attributive collocations should be understood as morphological case forms. Prepositions - according to Curme are grammatical elements equivalent to case forms. There can be as many cases as there are prepositions. e.g. of Peter, with Peter, to Peter of, with, to are lexically empty words like has done.

Weak points:

1. There can be no oppositions, they are synonyms.

2. A paradigm is limited and there are too many prepositions.

3. Prepositions are not empty words; they are relational words (they show relations).

4. Each prepositional phrase would bear then another, additional name of prepositional case and the total number will expand greatly.

The theory of possessive postposition: the case category has been destroyed. The s is a syntactical element which is similar to prepositions. But a preposition begins the construction while the element s closes it. So it can be called post-position.

Strong points:

1. This postpositional element may not be applied to all the nouns, but mostly to nouns denoting living beings. The use of s is optional.

2. One and the same element is used both with nouns in the Singular and in the Plural (man-mans, men-mens/ boy-boys, boys-boys). This morpheme is not dependent on the meaning of plurality. Number and case are expressed separately. 3. The post-positional element can be applied not only to nouns: yesterdays lecture, somebody elses book, Mary and Peters parents (Marys and Peters parents).

4. There are instances of Absolute Genitive: chemist - chemists

Weak points: -s can be added to phrases, but these are occasional examples. 94% comprise instances where s is added to single nouns. The function of these nouns is always definite an attribute.

A compromising view: splitting into 2 (Helens book and somebody elses book are 2 different instances). In some examples s is not a case-forming morpheme. We cant deny that.

What to choose: the theory of limited cases, positional, analytical theories or to deny the existence of the category of case in modern English?

The theory of limited cases may be more seriously justified: Case is a morphological category, revealing relations of the noun in the sentence. These relations must be rendered through the form of the noun itself. All other means (word order or prepositions) are not morphological means. Thats why they cant be treated as case forms.

If we recognize the existence of cases in English, there is one more problem: terminology. The term Possessive cant be applied to all the cases, the meaning of the case is broader than pure possession:

e.g. childrens book - destination

Peters kindness - a bearer of some quality

Peters friend- social relations

a miles walk, an hours delay measure, quantity

a chemists locative meaning

Peters voice partitive relations

Peters insistence Subjective Genitive

the Titanics tragedy Objective Genitive

an officers cap - qualification

evenings newspapers, Moscows talks, winters rest adverbial relations.




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