3

Are the endings -m and -se inflectional suffixes?

2 Answers 2

16

You could analyze them that way, sure. Perhaps there's an -m morpheme that indicates the accusative case, as seen in who-m, hi-m, the-m.

But I don't think this is a very useful analysis, synchronically. While it did come from an earlier, more productive case-marking suffix, the number of words that show distinct subject and object forms in modern English can be counted on one hand (I, he, she, they, we. Add who depending on your dialect, which does make it a bit difficult to count on one hand).

It seems easier to take these pronoun forms as opaque, indivisible units. The relationship between "we" and "us", or "she" and "her", is entirely arbitrary to a modern learner and will always have to be handled as a special case. Simpler to handle them all this way, in my opinion; just encode that "whom" is the surface realization of REL.ANIM.ACC, like how "her" is the surface realization of 3SG.F.ACC, and don't break it down any further.

13
  • 4
    Note: yes, I'm ignoring "thou", because while it's still sometimes used for an archaic flavor, native speakers don't generally treat "thou" as nominative and "thee" as accusative. They're used interchangeably.
    – Draconis
    Aug 3 at 20:09
  • 5
    @cmw My impression is that plenty of people learned it as an archaism, but do still think of it as part of the language.
    – Draconis
    Aug 3 at 21:31
  • 3
    Whom is no longer a case form in modern English. A large proportion (perhaps a majority) of English speakers now either ignore it, or use it as a formal version of who (rather than an accusative version -- putative case is irrelevant). "Correct usage" is frequently invoked, but is more honoured in the breach than the observance.
    – jlawler
    Aug 4 at 0:41
  • 6
    @jlawler It’s still a case form (often optional) to some speakers, though, so you can’t really say it’s no longer a case form “in modern English”. For most speakers, true, but not for the entirety of the language. Aug 4 at 10:31
  • 3
    @cmw some older speakers of Yorkshire & Lancashire English still use thee & thou as subject and object, but these days it's a sign of very strong and old-fashioned regional speech, so there probably aren't many speakers who've acquired it natively in their normal speech in the past few decades
    – Tristan
    Aug 4 at 10:34
0

Yes, tey come from Poto-Ind-Euopean accusative ending -m/-om and genitive ending -es/-os (according to other reconstructions, -osyos) respectively. Here is the (singular) declension of the PIE word for father (by Clackson, 2007):

enter image description here

here is the same for the word for wolf:

enter image description here

The word for "who" in PIE was kʷós and declined the same way as the word for wolf.

P.S. Beekes (1995) gives the following declensions for pronouns kʷi and kʷó (the later he considers an adjective in origin):

enter image description here

2
  • 3
    I don't think this answers the question, which is about synchronic analysis of English.
    – TKR
    Aug 4 at 16:25
  • 3
    I agree with TKR. Just because something was morphologically transparent thousands of years ago doesn't mean it still is today.
    – Draconis
    Aug 4 at 16:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.