Finnish, among a few other languages, is known for its partitive case. I have been told that in some Germanic language, partitive case is required whenever SV-order is absent. SV-order is absent, e.g., in the following English example:

     There are cows in the barn.

Since the subject cows follows the verb are, SV-order is absent.

During a recent discussion of this kind of existential construction in English, someone mentioned to me that in some Germanic languages semantic subjects following the verb would be marked by the partitive. To my chagrin, I failed to follow up on this matter. I have never encountered anything like partitive case in Germanic languages, even though I learned five of them.

Does anybody know whether there is a Germanic language with partitive case? If yes, is the partitive case then used for semantic subjects that follow the verb?

  • 2
    Very few I-E languages have a partitive case; most have partitive constructions of one type or another (cf French du pain), but they're not really cases. So they must have been talking about something else; perhaps they were confusing the accusative DO of an existential Es gibt sentence in German with the nominative Su of an existential There-Insertion sentence in English.
    – jlawler
    Jul 25 '14 at 16:16
  • @jlawler I think they may have been talking about constructions. My fault for not being insistent. Jul 25 '14 at 17:23
  • 1
    Yes, you are confusing terms. Finnish indeed has a partitive case but if you look at how it is employed in comparison to other languages, you will see that it is used also for a number of non-core functions that other languages consistently encode e.g. by indefinite article. So you can say that "indefinitness" (core function in that usage) is encoded by an article in English but by a partitive case in Finnish. On the other hand, core "partitiveness" (I will take some bread) is encoded in Finnish by partitive case, in French by "genitival" de and in Old Slavic by genitive case.
    – Eleshar
    Jul 22 '17 at 8:39

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