Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
the ones, its us that will win outsuch are the live parallelisms in English to-day. There is little doubt that it is I will one day be as impossible in English as cest je, for cest moi, is now in French.
How differently our I: me feels than in Chaucers day is shown by the Chaucerian it am I. Here the distinctively subjective aspect of the I was enough to influence the form of the preceding verb in spite of the introductory it; Chaucers locution clearly felt more like a Latin sum ego than a modern it is I or colloquial it is me. We have a curious bit of further evidence to prove that the English personal pronouns have lost some share of their original syntactic force. Were he and she subjective forms pure and simple, were they not striving, so to speak, to become caseless absolutives, like man or any other noun, we should not have been able to coin such compounds as he-goat and she-goat, words that are psychologically analogous to bull-moose and mother-bear. Again, in inquiring about a new-born baby, we ask Is it a he or a she? quite as though he and she were the equivalents of male and female or boy and girl. All in all, we may conclude that our English case system is weaker than it looks and that, in one way or another, it is destined to get itself reduced to an absolutive (caseless) form for all nouns and pronouns but those that are animate. Animate nouns and pronouns are sure to have distinctive possessive forms for an indefinitely long period.
Meanwhile observe that the old alignment of case forms is being invaded by two new categoriesa positional category (pre-verbal, post-verbal) and a classificatory category (animate, inanimate). The facts that in the possessive animate nouns and pronouns are destined to be more and more sharply distinguished