Grammarians seem to be divided in their opinion as to the case-system of English nouns. Open to thought and questioning, this problem has always been much debated. The most common view on the subject is that nouns have only two cases: a common case and a genitive or possessive case 1. The common case is characterised by a zero suffix (child, boy, girl, student), the possessive case by the inflection [-z] and its phonetic variants [-s], [-iz], in spelling -'s. The uses of the genitive are known to be specific, those of the common case general.

In terms of modern linguistics, we can therefore say that both formally and functionally, (he common case is unmarked and the genitive marked.

1 See: B. H. Ярцева. Историческая морфология английского языка. M.— Л., 1960; В. H. Ярцева. Исторический синтаксис английского языка. М.— Л., 1961; В. Ilyish. The Structure of Modern English. M.-L., 1965; В. Н. Жигадло, И. П. Иванова, Л. Л. Иофик. Современный английский язык. М.— Л., 1956; О. Jespersen. A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles. London-Copenhagen, 1965; O. Jespersen. Essentials of English Grammar. London, 1933. Other advanced books and detailed studies on this specialised topic are: В. М. Жирмунский. Об аналитических конструкциях. В сб.: «Аналитические конструкции в языках различных типов». М.— Л.. 1965; М. М. Гухман. Глагольные аналитические конструкции как особый вид сочетаний частичного и пол-

78There are grammarians, O. Curme and M. Deutschbein1, for instance, who recognise four cases making reference to nominative, genitive, dative and accusative: the genitive can be expressed by the -'s-inflection and by the of-phrase, the dative by the preposition to and by word-order, and the accusative by word order alone. E. Sonnensсhein insists that English has a vocative case since we may prepose an interjection oh before a name.

It is to be noted that the choice between the two opposite viewpoints as to the category of case in English remains a matter of linguistic approach. From the viewpoint of inflectional morphology the inadequacy of "prepositional declension" is obvious. Using Latin categories which have no relevance for English involves inventing distinctions for English and ignoring the distinctions that English makes.

The meaning of "accusative" in a two-term system nominative — accusative, for instance, is different from the meaning of "accusative" in a four- or five-term system. The term "common case" seems therefore more justified than "the accusative". If we call him an "accusative" in expressions like I obey him, I am like him, It was on him, the term "accusative" may actually hinder when we translate into another language which has an accusative along with several other cases and in which the word for obey takes the dative, the word for like the genitive and the word on ablative, as they do in Latin.

"Of course, the morphological opposition nominative — accusative must be expressed by something in English. But this "something" is not a morphological opposition, for there is no morphological differentiation between the nominative and the accusative of nouns".2

We must not, of course, look at English through the lattice of categories set up in Latin grammar.

The extent to which one can remain unconvinced that English has a grammar like Latin is probably the basis of the faulty viewpoint that English has no grammar at all.

Latin distinguishes subject, direct object, indirect object by case-differences (differences in the inflexion of the word) and arrangement is not very important. English also distinguishes subject, direct object, and indirect object, but it does so largely by arrangement, e. g.:

The pupil handed the teacher his exercise.

He bought his little girl many nice toys.

With all this, it can hardly be denied that there exist in Modern English prepositional structures denoting exactly the same grammatical relation as, say, the possessive case inflection or word order distinguishing the accusative from the dative. These are the so-called "of-phrase" and "to-phrase", in which the prepositions of and to function as grammatical indicators of purely abstract syntactic relations identical with those

ного слова. В сб.: «Вопросы грамматического строя». М., 1955; В. Н. Ярцева. Проблема парадигмы в языке аналитического строя. В сб.: «Вопросы германского языкознания». М.— Л., 1961.

1 See: M. Deutschbein. System der neuenglischen Syntax, 1928; G. Сurme. A Grammar of the English Language. London-New York, 1931.

2 See: Trnka B. On the Syntax of the English Verb from Coxton to Dryden Prague, 1930

79expressed by cases. The grammatical analysis of such phrases for their frequency, variety and adaptation must, surely, go parallel with the study of the morphological category of case which in present-day English is known to have developed quite a specific character.

The analytical character of some prepositional phrases in Russian is described by V. V. Vіnоgradоv:

«В русском литературном языке с XVII—XVIII вв. протекает медленный, но глубокий процесс синтаксических изменений в системе падежных отношений. Функции многих падежей осложняются и дифференцируются сочетаниями с предлогами. Все ярче обнаруживается внутреннее расслоение в семантической системе предлогов. В то время как одни простые предлоги: для, до, перед, при, под, кроме, сквозь, через, между, а тем более предлоги наречного типа: близ, среди, мимо и т. п. — почти целиком сохраняют свои реальные лексические значения, другие предлоги: а, за, из, в, на, отчасти, над, от, по, про, с, у — в отдельных сферах своего употребления, иные в меньшей степени, иные вплоть до полного превращения в падежные префиксы, ослабляют свои лексические значения, а иногда почти совсем теряют их» 1.

It is important to remember that the grammatical content of the possessive case is rather complex. Besides implying possession in the strict sense of the term, it is widely current in other functions. Compare such patterns, as:

a) my sister's room (genitive of → the room of my sister


b) my sister's arrival (subjective → the arrival of my sister


c) the criminal's arrest (objective → the arrest of the criminal


d) a child's language | (qualitative → the childish language a woman's college | genitive) → a college for women

e) a month's rent \ (genitive of → a monthly rent

f) three hours' delay / measure) → a delay for three hours

There is no formal difference between subjective and objective genitive, between genitives denoting possession and qualitative genitives, but this kind of ambiguity is usually well clarified by linguistic or situational context.

Thus, mother's care may mean «любов матері» —with reference to some individual, and «материнська любов» in its general qualitative sense. The meaning of the phrase may vary with the context.

The same is true of such uses as wife's duty, child's psychology, lawyer's life, man's duty, etc.

The genitive of measure or extent is easily recognised as fairly common in expressions of a certain pattern, e. g.: a moment's silence, a day's work, a minute's reflection, to a hair's breadth, etc.

1 В. В. Виноградов. Русский язык. М., 1947, pp. 695—700. 80The genitive inflection is also used with certain words which otherwise do not conform to noun patterning, as in yesterday's rain, to-day's match, to-morrow's engagement. These are not idioms, with their total lexical meaning fixed, but only fixed patterns or usage.

Limits of space do not permit to take notice of all idiomatic patterns established in this part of English grammar. A few further examples will suffice for illustration. These are, for instance: I'm friends with you, where friends is probably part of the indivisible idiom "be friends with" + + noun/pronoun, used predicatively.

Patterns with "of + genitive" usually have a partitive sense denoting "one of", e. g.: It is a novel of J. London's(=one of his novels). Cf. It is a novel by J. London. (=a novel written by J. London).

Similarly: Fleur's a cousin of ours, Jon. (Galsworthy)

In expressive language this form may become purely descriptive. Endowed with emotive functions in special linguistic or situational context it may weaken its grammatical meaning and acquire subjective modal force denoting admiration, anger, praise, displeasure, etc., e. g.: Margaret ... was taken by surprise by certain moods of her husband's. (Gaskell)

The -'s inflection offers some peculiar difficulties of grammatical analysis in idiomatic patterns with the so-called group-genitives, e. g.: Mr. what's-his-name's remark, or He said it in plenty of people's hearing.

There are also patterns like "the man I saw yesterday's son" quoted by H. Sweet1. One more example.

The blonde I had been dancing with's name was Bernice something Crabs or Krebs. (Salinger)

We cannot fail to see that the 's belongs here to the whole structure noun + attributive clause.

Different kind of such group-genitives are not infrequent and seem to be on the increase in present-day colloquial English.

Mention should also be made of the parallel use of the 's form and the preposition of found in patterns like the following:

In the light of this it was Lyman's belief and it is mine — that it is a man's duty and the duty of his friend to see to it that his exit from this world, at least, shall be made with all possible dignity. (Taylor) 2

And here are a few examples of special use of the possessive case in fossilised expressions of the formula character, such as: to one's heart's content, for pity's sake, out of harm's way, at one's fingers' ends, for old acquaintance's sake, for appearance's sake. These expressions were grammatically regular and explicable in their day, but they follow grammatical or semantic principles which have now fallen into disuse.

There are also pleonastic patterns with the post-positional genitive intensifier own used with the 's-form, e. g.: Mary's own dressing-table.

A word should be said about the purely idiomatic absolute use of the genitive case with locative force in patterns like the following:

I bought this at the grocer's.

1 See: H. Sweet. A New English Grammar. Oxford, 1955.

2 Quoted by B. Ilуіsh. The Structure of Modern English. M., 1965, p. 49.

81The baker's is round the corner.

The famous St. Paul's is one of the principal sights of London.

Formations of this kind are on the borderline between grammar and vocabulary; the -'s-inflection seems to have developed into a derivative suffix used to form a noun from another noun.

The relative distribution of the of-phrase and the 's-inflection, as a recurrent feature of the language, must be given due attention in learning style and usage in English.

It is interesting to note, in conclusion, that there is a change going on in present-day English which runs counter to the general trend towards loss of inflections, that is the spreading of 's-genitive at the expense of the of-genitive. Until a few years ago, the genitive with 's was used in modern times mainly with nouns which could be replaced (in the singular) by the pronouns he and she, but not with nouns which could be replaced by the pronoun it: so that people normally said the man's face and the woman's face, but the face of the clock and the surface of the water. The 's-genitive was used in certain expressions of time and distance (an hour's time), and could be used with many nouns replaceable in the singular by it or they (the Government's decision); as is well known, there was also a number of commonly used phrases where the 's-genitive was used even though the noun was one which could be replaced in the singular only by it (New Year's Day, the water's edge). In recent years, however, the 's-genitive has come into common use with nouns which are replaceable in the singular only by it. Here are a few examples taken from reputable sources: resorts' weather → the weather of seaside towns; human nature's diversity → the diversity of human nature; the game's laws → the laws of the game. Many more examples will be found in books and in newspapers. We cannot fail to see that this tendency for 's to replace of is a development from the analytic to the synthetic: the of-phrase is replaced by the 's-inflection.

The relative distribution of the of-phrase and the 's-genitive as a recurrent feature of the language, must be given due attention as relevant to synonymy in grammar.

It will be important to remember that the distinction between living and lifeless things is not closely observed, and the 's-genitive is often used in designations of things to impart descriptive force and at the same time stress the governing noun.

A few typical examples given by G. Curme are:

When I think of all the sorrow and the barrenness that has been wrought in my life by want of a few more pounds per annum, I stand aghast at money's significance.

...for the sake of the mind's peace, one ought not to inquire into such things too closely.

A book's chances depend more on its selling qualities than its worth 1.

Here is a very good example from Galsworthy to illustrate the statement:

1 See: G. Curme. A Grammar of the English Language. London-New York, 1931.

82He had chosen the furniture himself, and so completely that no subsequent purchase had ever been able to change the room's atmosphere. (Galsworthy)

Associations with life are certainly strong in personification, e. g.: the ocean's roar or Truth's greatest victories, etc. Further illustrations taken from reputable sources are:

resorts' weather → the weather of seaside towns

human nature's diversity → the diversity of human nature

the game's laws → the laws of the game

The spreading of the 's-genitive in present-day English at the expense of the of-phrase is, in fact, a development from the analytic to the synthetic which seems to run counter to the general trends towards the loss of inflections.

The synonymic encounter of the 's-genitive and the of-phrase may be illustrated by examples with "genitive of possession", "subjective and objective genitive", but the use of the 's-genitive in Modern English is comparatively restricted here and the of-phrase is very extensively used in virtually the same sense:

Soames' daughter →- the daughter of Soames

his sister's arrival →- the arrival of his sister

duty's call → the call of the duty

the children's education → the education of the children

It is to be noted that in many cases the special meaning of the genitive depends on the intrinsic meaning of each of the two words connected, and is therefore in each case readily understood by the hearer. The of-phrase denoting possession is generally preferred when the noun is modified by a lengthy attributive adjunct attached to it.

The 's-form is rarely used as the objective genitive. The of-phrase in this function is fairly common, e. g.: the sense of beauty, the sense of smell, love of life, the reading of books, the feeling of safety, a lover of poetry, etc.

The, of-phrase in Modern English is widely current in various types of structures, denoting:

a) the idea of quantity or part ("partitive genitive"), e. g.: a piece of bread, a lump of sugar, a cake of soap, etc.;

b) material of which a thing is done, e. g.: a dress of silk;

c) position in space or direction, e. g.: south of Moscow, within 10 miles of London;

d) relations of time, e. g.: of an evening, of late, all of a sudden;

e) attributive relations, e. g.: the language of a child =a child's language, the voice of a woman =a woman's voice, etc.;

f) composition or measure, e. g.: a group of children, a herd of cattle, a flock of birds, a swarm of bees, etc.

There are also patterns with the of-phrase functioning as the appositive genitive, e. g.: the city of Rome, the Republic of France, etc.

Alongside with this appositive construction there is another. The appositive may be placed after the governing noun, e. g.: Lake Michigan, the River Thames, etc.


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