On Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 9:14 AM, Raymond Brown <[log in to unmask]>

> On 07/09/2017 05:15, Mike S. wrote:
>> On Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 11:56 AM, And Rosta wrote:
>> On 6 September 2017 at 12:15, Raymond Brown wrote:
>> [snip]
> What term better describes this allomorphy and, indeed, that of modern
>>>> English personal pronouns, I don't know.   Does one exist?
>>> I don't know either.
>> [snip]
> Even if we were to pinpoint more precisely the present theoretical
>> objection to the term "case" being applied to English, we'd still be left
>> with the fact that English pronouns have traditionally been described in
>> terms of case, the term is universally understood, and there is no obvious
>> substitute term for it.
> The problem is that the term is universally understood.  This is why,
> when the term is applied to modern English pronouns, we find that they
> are "weird".  Just look at Wikipedia:
> It's so peppered with exceptions that slavishly sticking to the case
> tradition IMHO makes description more complicated.

Actually, I would say that summarizing the case usage rules from that
Wikipedia section is relatively uncomplicated.  Here is the gist, ignoring

"As a general rule, the subjective form is used when the pronoun is the
subject of a verb, as in 'he kicked the ball', whereas the objective form
is used as the direct or indirect object of a verb, or the object
(complement) of a preposition."

I would have said that, as a general rule, the objective form may or must
be used except when the pronoun stands _alone_ as a subject of a verb, in
which situation the subjective form must be used.  From stating the rule
this way, some issues become clearer.

The article goes on to mention the handful of contexts where case usage is
confused or where certain prescriptions clash with certain colloquial

  - case form as the complement of a copula e.g. "The person is me"
  - case form when linked by a coordinating conjunction  e.g. "Me and her
  - case form when joined in apposition with a noun phrase e.g. "Us
Yorkshiremen aren't tight"
  - case form standing outside of a sentence, as in the answer to a
question.  e.g. to "Who did it?", "Me" = "I did"

I am sure one could find other issues, such as in the use of
"who(m)(ever)", but I don't think there is a great lot more than that.

In a nutshell, the English case system is covered by one general rule, with
a small handful of details arising that need some clearing up.  The need to
discuss details is partly due to contamination caused by an unfortunate
tag-team composed of hyperprescription and hypercorrection.  Nevertheless,
I submit that the whole system can be summarized on an index card and is
not particularly daunting compared to the case systems of other languages.

> IMHO the fact that the "nominative" and "accusative" (a.k.a. "objective")
> It was always the "objective" when I was at school in the 1950s because,
> as it was held that, it did the job (in theory) of both the direct
> object (Latin accusative) and indirect object (Latin dative), e.g.
> I saw him.
> I gave him a book.

FWIW, I learned the terms "nominative", "objective" and "possessive" for
the three cases in US elementary school when I was about 12 y.o. or so
(some years ago).  I learned about the dative and accusative cases only
later when I took Latin in high school. If I were writing a text on English
grammar for kids, I would probably call them "subjective", "objective" and

> cases of English pronouns don't work the same way as in Latin or German
>> doesn't mean they're not cases.
> Of course not! The cases, e.g. of Classical Arabic or of modern Turkish
> do not in all instances work the same way as Latin or German, but they
> are, nevertheless, cases as they conform to what is universally
> understood by 'case' (see below).
> Nor is that what I am arguing nor, if I've understood properly, what And
> is arguing.   When I have made comparison with Latin or German it has
> been specifically to show that the English allomorphs are _not behaving
> as *case* distinctions_.
> I'll try to be clear.  What I argue is:
> 1. 'case' is a distinctive, marked form assumed by a Noun Phrase to
> indicate that the NP bears some _identifiable *grammatical* or
> *semantic* relation_ to the rest of the sentence.
> 2. The allomorphs of the modern English personal pronouns do not do
> this.  They are conditioned, as And observed, "by various heterogeneous
> syntactic conditions -- with these conditions being, in contemporary
> English, subject to quite extreme interlectal variation."

The form of English pronouns (in the big, standard dialects) is entirely
predictable when standing alone and governed directly by a verb or
preposition.  In the handful of situations indicated earlier, there is a
muddling of what case forms to use, but to suggest that standard English
pronouns bear no "_identifiable *grammatical* or *semantic* relation_ to
the rest of the sentence" in the face of obvious, simple examples like "We
saw them yesterday" is (IMHO) at best to make a gross oversimplification.

> 3. Therefore, the allomorphs are _not_ cases as the term is universally
> understood.  The "weirdness" that Logan referred to in the email that
> began this thread is because they are still generally called 'cases'.

> But moving them DOES allow an "object pronoun" to function as subject or a
> "subject pronoun" to function as the DO of the sentence. Therefore we
> aren't dealing with true case anymore. It's something else.
>>> As far as I know, and as was implied in the original post, in all
>> the major modern contemporary Englishes both formal and colloquial,
>> you're flatly not allowed to put objective-case pronouns in the subject
>> position.
> Allowed?  Who by?  We don't have an 'English Academy' (like _l'Académie
> française_) nor, as with some language, has the US, UK or, AFAIK, any
> other anglophone government sought to control language.  The whole point
> surely is that we're noting what happens as people use the language, i.e.
> we're taking a desriptive not a perscriptive standpoint.
My fault here in using the word "allowed".  Of course, the English speaking
world does have decentralized authorities that write style guides and
school textbooks that prescribe certain standards, but I wasn't referring
to any of that when I said "allowed".  I meant allowed by the rules in the
heads of the ordinary speakers of the major (non-quaint) contemporary
Englishes who aren't toddlers or foreigners.

(An exception is in coordinated phrases, where it's okay to say "Me and her
>> went", which works informally.)
> It certainly works colloquially.  Nor, as the Wikipedia article shows,
> is the use _me_ as subject confined just to this.  See, e.g. "Who said us
> Yorkshiremen are tight?"
> But examples like Raymond Brown's "Us saw they yesterday" break mainstream
>> norms, at least from my (Northeast American) perspective.
> English is spoken more widely than just the US and the UK.  What strikes
> me odd in the example I quoted is "they".  The use of "us" as subject
> pronoun has and probably still does occur in dialect speech.  We
> shouldn't surely as linguists dismiss such things just because they do
> happen to "break mainstream norms" in our own neck of the woods.
Using "they" as direct object definitely strikes me as odder than using
"us" by itself as subject, but they're both striking to me.  It's very
interesting to know that is used somewhere out in the world. To be clear, I
don't belittle anyone's dialects, but given my lack information on them, I
simply can't say much about them.  Some of your examples are not like any
English heard in my experience.  In all my life, actual pronoun usages like
the ones contained in "Us saw they yesterday" appear only on occasions when
the speaker is trying to be humorous or trying to affect caveman talk or
impart pseudo-rustic charm (cf "Git 'er done!").

> What I agree the norm-breaking examples DO show is that when there
>> is a conflict then position indeed trumps case in native-speaker
>> intuitions. But I don't agree that these examples show that case is
>> inoperative.  They just show that case has been relegated as a secondary
>> feature reinforcing word order.
> How on earth does "Me and Joe went there" and "Us Yorkshiremen most
> certainly are _not_ tight" show case reinforcing word order?  I don't
> understand.

How about:

( I see him ) and ( she went there ).


( I see ( him and her went there ) ).

A few specimens like that aside, of course, case is neutralized in the
contexts of your examples.  I believe this topic has been discussed before
on this list in different ways, but I will repeat it anyway.  There are two
opposing trends to consider, corresponding to two opposing sets of
registers within the language:

1. In colloquial registers, coordinated and appositional contexts preserves
the objective case default of pronouns, even when the containing
constituent is itself serving as a subject.  The expected subjective case
is effectively blocked from being triggered.  This rule may seem weird, but
it is entirely predictable and identifiable from context and works fine.  I
also think this is the default rule many if not most L1 English speakers
have in their heads.

2. In the traditional prescription we are taught in school, the case of
pronouns embedded in coordinated and appositional constructions has the
case it would have it were standing alone.  This would work just as fine if
people internalized it and used it consistently.

But standard English speakers, taken as a bunch, muddle the two rules.
They say whatever they say when speaking, and they often follow the
prescription when writing, and sometimes they hypercorrect themselves when
trying to falutate their speech.  As a result there is no reinforcement of
word order in these situations, except perhaps among those individuals who
follow one of the rules consistently instead of mixing the two together.

To me, the conflict between two registers (or lects) that have contrary
rules on case does not show that case itself is absent or defunct from the
language.  It just shows that the registers don't agree on all points of
case usage.  In other situations, e.g. "We saw them yesterday", the
registers of the standard dialects are indeed in accord, and there is
neither controversy nor freedom about what to use.

> In a conflict, word order prevails over case marking, but that doesn't
>> mean case is dead in English; it's just vestigial.
> In my book, things like the Classical Latin locatives and the 2nd.
> decl. vocative in -e of words ending in -us are vestigial cases, because
> they still function as case.   While I accept (and I guess And would
> also) that the allomorphy of modern contemporary English pronouns are
> vestiges of an earlier case system, I do not accept that they are any
> longer cases, vestigial or otherwise.
> What I find weird is that while we are (all) happy enough at the notion
> that allophones may be positionally conditioned and, indeed, be subject
> to extreme interlectal variation (as the very numerous YAEPT and YAEDT
> testify), the notion that allomorphs may be condition "by various
> heterogeneous syntactic conditions -- with these conditions being, in
> contemporary English, subject to quite extreme interlectal variation" is
> so difficult to accept.  That IMO is the real weirdness.
> Ray

I respect your position, but I have to differ.  A case system with
weirdness is still a case system.  And while yes there is some weird stuff
going on, there is also a good deal of normal stuff going on, and the
normal stuff is at the core of the system, in the most basic sorts of
sentences in which bare pronouns serve as subjects and objects.  How
exactly should we account for the behavior of pronouns in sentences like
"We saw them" and "They saw us" if it's not really a case system, not
really, in your view, even a _vestigial_ sort of a case system?   What are
we going to suggest the world call this behavior if not "case"?


co ma'a mke

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