Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
preserved in Lithuanian,18 was already considerably reduced in the old Germanic language of which English, Dutch, German, Danish, and Swedish are modern dialectic forms. The seven Indo-European cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative, locative, instrumental) had been already reduced to four (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative). We know this from a careful comparison of and reconstruction based on the oldest Germanic dialects of which we still have records (Gothic, Old Icelandic, Old High German, Anglo-Saxon). In the group of West Germanic dialects, for the study of which Old High German, Anglo-Saxon, Old Frisian, and Old Saxon are our oldest and most valuable sources, we still have these four cases, but the phonetic form of the case syllables is already greatly reduced and in certain paradigms particular cases have coalesced. The case system is practically intact but it is evidently moving towards further disintegration. Within the Anglo-Saxon and early Middle English period there took place further changes in the same direction. The phonetic form of the case syllables became still further reduced and the distinction between the accusative and the dative finally disappeared. The new objective is really an amalgam of old accusative and dative forms; thus, him, the old dative (we still say I give him the book, not abbreviated from I give to him; compare Gothic imma, modern German ihm), took over the functions of the old accusative (Anglo-Saxon hine; compare Gothic ina, Modern German ihn) and dative. The distinction between the nominative and accusative was nibbled away by phonetic processes and
Note 18. Better, indeed, than in our oldest Latin and Greek records. The old Indo-Iranian languages alone (Sanskrit, Avestan) show an equally or more archaic status of the Indo-European parent tongue as regards case forms. [back]