xBlackHeartx wrote:I clicked on a link on that website to find a list of languages that lack case syncretism. The only ones I found that I was even vaguely familiar with was Hungarian and Yoruba.
The map and list include only 198 languages, so there are many
languages that aren't included in this particular study. The point it makes is that both types of languages do exist in a fairly widespread way: languages with syncretism (of various types) and languages without syncretism.
I'm not sure what you mean by being "vaguely familiar with" languages listed there; that you have studied them a bit? that you have heard of them? I don't know which languages those are in either case. But in terms of widely-spoken languages from various language families, among the languages that lack case syncretism on the map besides Hungarian and Yoruba there is, for example, also Turkish, Khalkha (= Mongolian), Kannada, Hausa, and Quechua.
Quechua (example meaning "house"):
xBlackHeartx wrote:Looking through Hungarian's case system, it would appear that many are only one morpheme off. Though a lot of this is brought about by the fact that its spacial case endings follow an obvious pattern. This pattern is particularly evidence in the endings indicating 'movement away from' (whose structure is alwasy C+ól/ől) and the 'interior' case endings which all use B for the initial consonant. Though again, there may be some kind of allophonic redundancy going on here. Also, its obvious that some of the endings are related to each other, meaing that they probably once looked as regular as the 'movement away from' cases.
Yes, for many Uralic languages at least, there are often patterns to the locative cases. (And something similar for Quechua in, for example, the allative wasiman
and ablative wasimanta
For example, Estonian:
Inessive: -s (metsas
) 'in the forest'
Illative: -sse (metsasse
) 'into the forest'
Elative: -st (metsast
) 'out of the forest'
Adessive: -l (metsal
) 'at the forest'
Allative: -le (metsale
) 'to the forest'
Ablative: -lt (metsalt
) 'from the forest'
So you can see, the basic pattern is a single letter for a static location (-s
for 'in', -l
for 'at') with the addition -e for movement toward (-se
for 'into', -le
for 'to') or the addition of -t
for movement away from (-st
for 'out of', -lt
Similar patterns exist in many other Uralic languages. I'm not sure if you're interested, but you can find lists of case decensions for about two dozen Uralic languages here
where we've collected them at Unilang (also conjugation of the verb 'to be' in most of the same languages here
, although generally that's not the best verb if you want examples of regular conjugations).
It's occurred to me that looking at lists of cases is probably not the best way look at this, though. Let's take Estonian as an example again:
Partitive: metsa (lengthened, so the pronunciation is not the same as the genitive form)
Illative: metsasse (although an alternative form is the same as the partitive, the lengthened metsa)
No syncretism except for the alternative illative form (the so-called 'short illative') which matches partitive.
But here's the problem: accusative is not listed because accusative is often not considered a separate case in Estonian. And it's often not considered a separate case because it does not have a unique case ending
. (Depending on which linguists you believe, Estonian accusative is either the partitive case, or is the same as genitive in the singular and nominative in the plural.) But the point here is that often a particular case is only considered a true case in the first place if it does have a unique form. As I mentioned earlier, most Uralic languages have between six and twenty cases; when they have a lower number of cases compared to related languages, it's generally because those fewer cases have taken on multiple roles. Where forms overlap, they're simply not considered separate 'cases'.
So, it's got me wondering: is the lack of the existence of a case also considered a form of syncretism?