Slavic different nominal and adjectival inflections

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Nino83, Nov 24, 2013.

  1. Nino83 Senior Member

    Hi to all.

    I was wondering why in Slavic languages nouns and adjectives have different inflectional endings.

    I ask this because in Latin, Greek (ancient and modern) adjectival declensions follow the nominal ones, as in Old Norse (modern Icelandic) and Old English (weak declensions are the same while strong declensions are almost identical).

    I read that in proto IE adjectival and nominal endings were the same.

    How this phenomenon developed?
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  2. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    Already discussed. Search for the keywords: "Slavic" "anaphoric".

    The definite adjectives developed from the indefinite (= nominal) forms followed by the anaphoric pronoun jь, ja, je (m. f. n.; = the, that). The anaphoric pronoun (like many other pronouns) had different inflectional endings than the nouns. Later a kind of contraction occurred in every Slavic language.

    Example of a Czech definite adjective:

    nom. sing. m. mladý < *mladъ, f. mladá < *mlada ja, n. mladé < *mlado je (< Protoslavic *moldъ = young);
    gen. sing. m. mladého < *mlada jego;
    acc. sing. f. mladou < mladú < *mladu ju;

    (ъ = hard yer, ь = soft yer)

    There are also the indefinite adjectives (without the anaphoric) declined like the nouns, e.g. mlád, mláda, mládo in Czech.

    The Russian adjectival endings are less contracted than the Czech ones:
    молодой, молодая, молодое, acc. f. молодую (-й, -я, -е, -ю = the former anaphoric jь, ja, je, acc. f. ju);
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  3. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    This may be a minor point, but I don't know that I would call the Germanic adjectival and nominal declensions "almost identical". E.g.,

    langur vegur "a long road" (nominative sg.)
    langan veg "a long road" (accusative sg.)
    löngum vegi "to a long road" (dative sg.)
    langra vega "of long roads" (genitive plural)

    This is an example of a masculine noun; there are at least this many differences between the feminine endings of strong adjectives and the endings of feminine nouns.

    Slavic has more case forms than Germanic to begin with, but if Slovenian is any example here, there don't seem to be that many more mismatches between Slavic nominal and adjectival case endings than there are in Germanic.
  4. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    Generally the Slavic languages have both nominal and adjectival declension of the adjectives. Czech prefers the definite (composed with the anaphoric pronoun) forms as an attribute (mladý muž = a/the young man), whereas the indefinite (nominal) forms are used prevalently in the predicate (muž je mlád = the man is young). In Czech the definite and indefinite forms do not express definiteness anymore.

    It seems that Slovenian uses a mixed system. The genitive masc. forms (sg. modrega, pl. modrih) are clearly definite with the integrated anaphoric pronoun, whereas the corresponding nominative forms (sg. moder, modra, modro, pl. modri, modre, modra) are indefinite, only the masc. sing. form can be also definite (modri).
  5. francisgranada Senior Member

    Ciao Nino83.

    It's as if we had in Italian:

    vedo una ragazza *bellala (accusativo)
    do una rosa alla ragazza *bellale (dativo)

    vedo ragazze *bellele
    do una rosa alle ragazze *bellegli (dativo)

    La, le, gli are declined unstressed pers. (orig. demonstr.) pronouns attached to the adjective.

    (a bit weird:) examples, of course ...)
  6. Nino83 Senior Member

    Yes, Garvil, but there are few rules to remember.
    In OE strong adjectival declension m., n. D s. = m. D pl., G pl. = G + r (before a), f. G, D s. = G, D + r (before a).
    The m., n. A s. = A of the determiner se (the/that).
    Anyway, they follow the nominal patterns.

    In Slavic languages, as bibax said, all inflectional adjectival endings are different and don't follow nominal patterns.

    Thank you, bibax.
    I read that this difference today is limited to the nominative case and that in Serbo-Croatian the short genitive, dative and instrumental forms fallen into disuse.
    I also read that in West Slavic languages the short form still exist only for few adjectives and that this distinction, between attributive (long form) and predicative (short form) function is more productive in East Slavic languages.

    I have another question.
    The long form derives from the demonstrative determiner "that", from IE is/is/id, or from the relative "which", from IE ios/iā/iod?

    Thanks a lot

    Yes, Garvil, you're right, also in OE the strong adjectival declension follow the þes pattern.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  7. Nino83 Senior Member

    Thank you, Francis, for the "weird" (but clear) example. :)

    Then it's as if the Latin pronoun is, ea, id were attached to the adjectives.
    I read a work about the formation of the definite article in Romance and Germanic languages (as in Bulgarian and Macedonian).
    It seems that this happened because of the absence of a definite article in almost all Slavic languages.
    But nowdays it seems that the distinction short/long form doesn't indicate the indefinite/definite situation and the long form prevailed.

    In Germanic languages the morphological function was shifted from nouns to article and the weak adjectival form is utilized to avoid repetitions.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  8. francisgranada Senior Member

    It's interesting that this anaphoric pronoun jь, ja, je was attached to adjectives, unlike the "modern" Bulgarian or Romanian articles that can be attached also to nouns. Perhaps, this might indicate that the function of this definite article was not exactly the same as e.g. in Bulgarian, Romanian (or the English, Italian, Hungarian etc. def. arcticles) today. As if the function of definiteness were not so "important" or "strong" (to say so) which could partially explain the almost general loss of this feature in the modern Slavic languages.

    Other reasons were phonetical (contraction) and probably also the fact that the pronouns jь, ja, je gradually fell in disuse (similar to Latin is, ea, id), so later they were felt only as parts of the adjectives and no more as pronouns/articles.
    Yes, for example in Slovak the short forms practically do not exist anymore.
    Yes, e.g. dobra=bona and dobraja=*bonaea (quite similar :))
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  9. Nino83 Senior Member

    This paper tells that the phonetical contraction was due to a) the clictic nature of the demonstrative jь, ja, je b) the fact that it has a fixed position in word order, while in Romance and Germanic languages the demonstrative was not clitic, between it and the noun one can put other elements, like an adjective, and it can be replaced by other determiners, like indefinite article, quantifiers etc.
    So there weren't the condition for the demonstrative to become an inflection.

    About the function of the article, the paper says that languages which lose case system have a fixed word order (strictly SVO in Romance and Germanic languages) so when one wants to highlight a "theme", one cannot change the word order, and then, the definite/indefinite distinction is more important.

    For example:
    Un meccanico ha riparato la macchina, A mechanic fixed the car, Masinu poèinil mechanik
    Il meccanico ha riparato una macchina, The mechanic fixed a car, Mechanik pocinil maSinu

    In strictly SVO languages one highlights the "theme" with the definite article while in other languages one can change word order.

    Source: (in Italian)


    About why the pronoun is attached to the adjective in Slavic languages it's because in older SOV structure the adjective was the first element of the sentence so the clictic pronoun was placed after the adjective.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  10. francisgranada Senior Member

    This is surely true and it may be valid also for the Bulgarian (lost case system and an "innovative" definite article).

    However, e.g. the Hungarian has an extremely free word order (practically the only restriction is that the adjectives and the articles must precced the noun) and it has both the definite and indefinite article. Il meccanico ha riparato la macchina in Hungarian, for illustration:

    A kocsit megjavította a szerelő
    A kocsit javította meg a szerelő
    A kocsit a szerelő javította meg
    A kocsit a szerelő megjavította

    A szerelő a kocsit megjavította
    A szerelő a kocsit javította meg
    A szerelő javította meg a kocsit
    A szerelő megjavította a kocsit

    Megjavította a szerelő a kocsit
    Megjavította a kocsit a szerelő

    I hope this is enough for illustration :)... ("a" is the definite article, "-t" is the accusative marker).
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  11. Nino83 Senior Member

    Yes, also Icelandic and German retain the case system but developed a definite article.
  12. learnerr Senior Member

    Another forum member in another thread said that it rather like bellaquale and bellequali.
    I am not sure whether it is strictly true. In many cases, the context can help who is who in the action, so there may be no need for special requirements to word order or case markings.
    I don't know how it is in other Slavic languages, but in Russian you could translate the first example with both types of phrase, the second type being more neutral. The same is true of the second example, if there are more words in the sentence: "тут нам машину починил механик из второй мастерской" can mean either "here we have a car repaired by a/the mechanic from the second shop", or "here we are, the car got repaired by a/the mechanic from the second shop".
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  13. francisgranada Senior Member

    I have choosen la,le, gli to demonstrate both the clitic nature and the different declension paradigmata for nouns and pronouns.
  14. Nino83 Senior Member

    And you're not wrong because is, ea, id in Latin means he, she, it.
  15. francisgranada Senior Member

    Thanks :). Even more, some case forms of the metioned jь, ja, je today in Slavic languages still survive in the declension of personal pronouns, e.g. jemu (gli), jej (le), jeho (lo), ju (la) ... (the examples are from Slovak).
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  16. francisgranada Senior Member

    As to the following examples
    I agree with learnerr (#12) in the sense that the word order is not about the definiteness/indefiniteness. It's clear e.g. in Hungarian (free word order), but I think also in Italian (relatively fixed word order). The possibility to change the word order does not "diminuish" the importance of the articles (and vice versa):

    Un meccanico ha riparato la macchina,
    Il meccanico ha riparato una macchina,
    La macchina l'ha riparata un meccanico.
    La macchina l'ha riparata il meccanico.

    However, in general, I can imagine that the loss of the nominal declension may "support" or favour the existence/appearance of other possible grammatical features/cathegories.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  17. learnerr Senior Member

    In Russian, like probably in Slovak, they are used up to today, but only in oblique cases; in direct cases, i.e. in the nominative case (this pronoun is animate, meaning its accusative takes the form of genitive), another demonstrative is used (он/она/оно, "on/ona/ono"). As to the question what they meant when connected to the adjectives, I cannot know; if, in the modern language, I said to myself "где-то не было зелена-его яблока" :cross: , ahvalj's sense, i.e. that the pronoun highlighted the adjective, meaning that the/an apple was to be green and not, say, red, would be rather logical, but the sense of "не было зелена-того яблока" :cross: ('no that green apple') would not be impossible either.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  18. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Also, masculine nominative/accusative plural: -e (adjectival) vs. -as (nominal).

    That's at least five rules for Old English. For modern Slovenian, I count 7 regular differences between masculine/neuter adjectives and the corresponding nouns, and 4 for feminine adjectives; however, Slovenian has at least 54 possible case forms for adjectives, which is more than twice the number that OE has (26).

    I know that this is a digression from the main point, but it still seems to me that Slavic and Germanic are fairly similar in the way they diverge from the pattern of noun/adjective symmetry seen in Latin, Greek etc.
  19. francisgranada Senior Member

    Yes, also in Slovak (I have mentioned this it in my post #15, though not in details).
    My spontaneous interpretation is "the/this/that green apple" in both cases. But I think I can spontaneousely undestand (or rather "feel") the difference between зелена-его and зелена-того (even if grammatically not possible today) that you are speaking about. However, I think we have to take in consideration that the usage of the pronouns jь, ja, je and also on, ona, ono was not exactly the same as we "feel" it today ...

    Finally, the first interpretation ("the/an apple was to be green and not, say, red ...") seems to me a possible "subcase" of the second ("that green apple"), depending on the context.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  20. Nino83 Senior Member

    Yes, but in these cases there is a direct object pronoun which indicates that la macchina is the object, and not the subject (and the past participle agrees with the direct object, in this case).
  21. Nino83 Senior Member

    Yes, I've just said it

  22. learnerr Senior Member

    As for the difference between the demonstratives "его" and "тот", in the modern (my native) language it is that the first is, so to say, a noun (and therefore does not go in row with the adjectives that describe a thing), and the second is an adjective (so it describes an already named thing as definite). If the same difference existed at that time, then thus the logic: the noun demonstrative would serve just as a "reminder", not as a "describer", and, being juxtaposed to the adjective, it could serve to ascertain that we're talking of the kind of things described by the adjective. Whether this logic was at work in reality, I naturally don't know. What is interesting is that the modern word "тот" takes, in its oblique cases, the same endings as any other full adjectives: "того", "тому", etc. Therefore, the demonstratives weren't doubles of one another (when you take two synonyms to make up a word, it is Chinese, not Russian).
    It is still quite easy to imagine a language in which you have to know by context whether the car repaired the mechanic, or the other way around. If, say, Italian and English do not permit this, then it must be for reasons other than merely lack of cases.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  23. francisgranada Senior Member

    Of course, but this is valid for Italian, not in general. However, what I intended to say is that I think there is no direct or general correlation between the word order and the definiteness.

    Turning back to Slavic, an example from Slovak:

    Kúpil som dom = "Ho comprato (una/la) casa", "I have bought (a/the) house", no information about the definiteness.
    Dom som kúpil = the same, no information about the definiteness, but "dom (casa, house)" is emphasised. I.e. I've bought a/the house, and not a/the car or garden, for example ...

    When it is necessary to emphasise the definiteness, then the demonstrative pronoun ten, tá, to (masc., fem., neut. respectively) is used, e.g. "Kúpil som ten dom". The difference between the English "the" and the Slovak "ten" is that while the English "the" is fully grammaticalized (thus also mandatory in some situations), the Slovak "ten" means de facto "this/that" (which naturally implies also the "conctreteness" or "definiteness").
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  24. Nino83 Senior Member

    But, in fact, the paper I indicated doesn't say that the loss of case system is the reason why Romance and Germanic languages developed a definite article.
    It simply states that the difference between definite and indefinite situation is, probably, more important in these languages and that its developement could be related with the loss of case system.
    I don't know if it's so.

    Thanks to everybody for your answers.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  25. Nino83 Senior Member

    So the situation is the following.

    English: of that good girl; to that good girl; of/to that girl
    Latin: illius bonae puellae; illi bonae puellae; bonae puellae
    Romance: de/ad illa bona puella; de/ad bona puella (genitive = de + ablative, dative = ad + accusative)
    Icelandic: þeirri góðu stelpu; þeirrar góðu stelpu; góðri/góðrar stelpu
    Norwegian: av den gode jenta; til den gode jenta; av/til god jente
    Polish: tej (masculine tego ) dobrego dziewczyny; tej (masculine temu ) dobremu dziewczynie; dobrego/emu dziewczyny/ie

    In IE (as in Latin), declensions of demonstrative pronouns were partially different.
    In Latin (and Greek) adjectives followed nominal declensions (the declension of the pronoun ille is different in some cases, but not in the accusative, the most regular case) and seing that in Romance languages only accusative case remained, the "declensions" of the demonstrative pronouns, nouns and adjectives are, now, the same (it's easier to make rhymes in Romance languages).
    In Germanic languages the declension of the adjectives followed that of demonstrative pronoun in indefinite context and that of weak declension of IE -n nouns in definite context.
    In Slavic languages there was a fusion between adjectives and enclitic pronoun.

    Thank you
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2013
  26. francisgranada Senior Member

    I'd say it rather in the following way:

    tej dobrej (masc. tego dobrego) dziewczyny; tej dobrej (masc. temu dobremu) dziewczynie; dobrej/ej dziewczyny/ie
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2013
  27. Nino83 Senior Member

    Thanks for the correction.

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