Loss of noun declension: Eastern vs. Western Europe

atcheque

Senior Member
français (France)
Hello,

I want to know if there is any explanation about the fact that western (Latin) languages lost declinations compare to eastern (Slavic) languages.
(With a "mid-term" evolution of the German languages).

Thanks, atcheque
 
  • Barsac

    Senior Member
    french - français
    Celtic languages had declinations. When Caesar invaded Gaul, the local populations abandoned progressively the gaulish dialects, because their aristocracy accepted to speak latin. This evolution from celtish local dialects to pop-latin lasted 500 years. Around 500 CE, invasion of the Franks in northern Gaul. Another 350 years. In 842, alliance between Charles the Bald (Charles le Chauve) and Louis the German (Louis le Germanique). This alliance is written in the "Serments de Strasbourg", which are the oldest text written in old french, and one of the oldest texts written in german (hochdeutsch).
    Old french uses simple declinations : "cas sujet" et "cas régime". It is still possible to write the subject after the verb.
    This situation ends around 1250. Middle french (Moyen français) will last until 1600.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    If the mixing of populations explains the loss of declensions, does it also explain the loss of conjugations that took place in the Slavic languages? Then the question becomes: why would population mixing make nouns less inflected in some places, and make verbs less inflected in others?...
     

    Barsac

    Senior Member
    french - français
    I have only some notions of Russian, acquired fifty years ago. Russian has perfective and imperfective verbs. This splitting does not exist in french, nor in latin. I think that imperfective past in russian is exactly imperfect in french, perfective past in russian is what we call "passé simple" (or "passé composé" when there is an auxiliary verb).
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    Slovenian (Western South Slavic) is highly inflected.
    Macedonian (Eastern South Slavic) is uninflected.

    :confused:
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I have only some notions of Russian, acquired fifty years ago. Russian has perfective and imperfective verbs. This splitting does not exist in french, nor in latin. I think that imperfective past in russian is exactly imperfect in french, perfective past in russian is what we call "passé simple" (or "passé composé" when there is an auxiliary verb).
    Outsider most certainly meant the loss of verb forms compared to OCS which is considerable.
     

    Arath

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Latin declension was simpler than that of Old Church Slavonic to begin with: OCS had 7 well defined cases, three numbers and 11 declension patterns (the so called o-stems, jo-stems etc) compared to Latin's 6 productive cases, two numbers and 5 declensions.

    Cases were much more distinctive in OCS than in Latin where there was considerable syncretism.

    Latin was introduced to populations who had a different native language, unlike the Slavic peoples.

    A few sound changes rendered the Latin case system even harder to maintain, namely loss of final nasal consonants (or loss of nasal vowels) and loss of vowel length. So Latin rosa (Nom.), rosam (Acc.), rasae (Gen.), rosae (Dat.), rosā (Abl.) became rosa, rosa, rose, rose, rosa in Vulgar Latin, which means that there were only separate Nominative-Accusative and Genitive-Dative cases, just like in modern Romanian.

    Most Slavic languages did not lose conjugations, they lost a few tenses because they became synonymous and eventually were replaced by another opposition: perfective vs imperfective aspect.
     
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    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Latin was introduced to populations who had a different native language [...]
    As were several Slavic languages, particularly in the Balkans, where Latin, Greek, and Celtic languages had previously been spoken.
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Greetings everyone.

    quote_icon.png
    Originally Posted by Outsider
    As were several Slavic languages, particularly in the Balkans, where Latin, Greek, and Celtic languages had previously been spoken.
    Maybe that's why Bulgarian doesn't have cases and has complicated verbal system.

    This moves me to wonder whether the conjugational systems of verbs generally are more resistant to dilution or simplification through mixture or contact with other languages than are nominal declensions, and if so why. The Romance languages, for example have all but completely eliminated the Latin-type declension of substantives (except in number and gender), while retaining complex conjugations for their verbs (in French this is particularly so in the written language, even when in speech the distinctions have been reduced or abandoned - "je fais", but "il fait"); and this applies too in German - even relatively recently one may observe the disappearance of the distinct dative form "[dem] Mann(e)", for example, though verbs remain systematically conjugated in most tenses and moods, and even (mutatis mutandis) in English.

    Thoughts anyone?
     

    Arath

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I don't think so. Proto-Indo European had more complex verb system than noun system. In Latin we have 12 noun forms (6 cases X 2 numbers), although the actual number was much smaller due to syncretism. A noun from the first declension like vita had only 7 distinct forms, whereas a verb like amo had 101 conjugated forms (this is a rough estimate, I didn't count them individually). Let's look at what happened in Spanish, we have two noun forms (vida - singular, vidas - plural) and around 42 conjugated forms, 6 of which (namely the future subjunctive) are no longer used, for a verb like amar (I don't count the future and conditional forms because they weren't inherited from Latin but were a later innovation).

    So, if we look at the big picture: form 7 to 2 and from 101 to 42 (36), we see that both the conjugation and the declension have undergone approximately the same level of simplification, the only difference is that the conjugation was originally much more complex. We see even greater simplification in French.

    I don't know much about Old High German, but as an Indo-European language it surely had more verb forms than noun forms, as modern German does.
     
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