Declining Nouns - My Attempt at Learning Linguist Stuff

Apr 22, 2010 8:52:11 AM / by Rachel Reardon

feline-domesticusRecently I have tasked myself with learning more about linguistics. This is most likely due to my desire to expand my global literacy, and has nothing to do with the great, fun, bright, energetic group of linguists that we employ. ☺

Following today’s work session I learned about cases. “Cases?” you’re wondering. “We know about cases: court cases, briefcases, containers…” No, I’m talking linguistics; I’m talking about the case system. If some of you are wondering “huh?” it’s because in English we don’t have a case system. Well no worries, because you’re about to learn. (Editor’s note: English actually does have a case system for pronouns)

Without a doubt there are a lot of languages out there. The general populous is aware that many languages have different letters and that most have different words. But there are other differences. Some languages have declining nouns. These are nouns that change just like how some of our verbs change. Nouns can change based on what they are doing, or what is being done to them. Yes! Verbs conjugate, and nouns decline. Some sentences in some languages might involve the same noun with different declensions. Sometimes you can even know the proper declension based on the case. There are several cases: nominative, genitive, accusative, verbative, dative, etc., etc., etc. Some languages have even more! vThese languages include Latin and some of the Romance languages and maybe even Romanian.

These languages (along with a handful of others) rely on the declining nouns to make sense in the same fashion that the English language relies on word order. So while “the boy ate the dog” is clear to us based on the word order, some languages may extract the exact same meaning from “Boy dog ate” due to the amazing declining nouns. I know...crazy stuff but very interesting!

What other declining noun examples can you think of?

Topics: Language Learning and Culture

Rachel Reardon

Written by Rachel Reardon

Rachel works with some of the coolest marketers, designers, and writers around to help Mango look and sound its best. She loves bold colors, old books, the Montréal metro, and Star Trek. She has conflicting feelings about the Oxford comma.

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