Nominative case

Nominative case

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The nominative case is one of the grammatical case
Grammatical case
In grammar, the case of a noun or pronoun is an inflectional form that indicates its grammatical function in a phrase, clause, or sentence. For example, a pronoun may play the role of subject , of direct object , or of possessor...

s of a noun
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

 or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

 of a verb
Verb
A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

 or the predicate
Predicate (grammar)
There are two competing notions of the predicate in theories of grammar. Traditional grammar tends to view a predicate as one of two main parts of a sentence, the other being the subject, which the predicate modifies. The other understanding of predicates is inspired from work in predicate calculus...

 noun or predicate adjective, as opposed to its object
Object (grammar)
An object in grammar is part of a sentence, and often part of the predicate. It denotes somebody or something involved in the subject's "performance" of the verb. Basically, it is what or whom the verb is acting upon...

 or other verb argument
Verb argument
In linguistics, a verb argument is a phrase that appears in a syntactic relationship with the verb in a clause. In English, for example, the two most important arguments are the subject and the direct object....

s. Generally, the noun "that is doing something" is in the nominative, and the nominative is the dictionary form of the noun.

Etymology


Nominative comes from Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 cāsus nominātīvus "case for naming", which was translated from Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 ptôsis onomastikḗ "inflection for naming", from onomázō "call by name", from ónoma "name". Dionysius Thrax
Dionysius Thrax
Dionysius Thrax was a Hellenistic grammarian and a pupil of Aristarchus of Samothrace. His place of origin was not Thrace as the epithet Thrax denotes, but probably Alexandria...

 in his Art of Grammar
Art of Grammar
The Art of Grammar is a treatise on Greek grammar attributed to Dionysius Thrax, and written in the 2nd century BC. It is the first work of grammar in Greek, and it sought mainly to help speakers of Koine Greek to be able to understand the language of Homer and other great poets of the past.It...

 refers to it as or eutheîa "straight", in contrast to the oblique
Oblique case
An oblique case in linguistics is a noun case of synthetic languages that is used generally when a noun is the object of a verb or a preposition...

 or "bent" cases.

Linguistic characteristics


The reference form (more technically, the least marked
Markedness
Markedness is a specific kind of asymmetry relationship between elements of linguistic or conceptual structure. In a marked-unmarked relation, one term of an opposition is the broader, dominant one...

) of certain parts of speech is normally in the nominative case, but this is often not a complete specification of the reference form, as it may also be necessary to specify such as the number and gender. Thus the reference or least marked form of an adjective might be the nominative masculine singular. The parts of speech which are often declined and therefore may have a nominative case are nouns, adjectives, pronouns and less frequently numerals and participles. The nominative case often indicates the subject of a verb but sometimes does not indicate any particular relationship with other parts of a sentence. In some languages the nominative case is unmarked, it may be said to be marked by a zero morpheme. Moreover, in most languages with a nominative case, the nominative form is the lemma; that is, it is the reference form used to cite a word, to list it as a dictionary entry, etc..

Nominative cases are found in Slovak
Slovak language
Slovak , is an Indo-European language that belongs to the West Slavic languages .Slovak is the official language of Slovakia, where it is spoken by 5 million people...

, Ukrainian
Ukrainian language
Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....

, Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

, Lithuanian
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

, Georgian
Georgian language
Georgian is the native language of the Georgians and the official language of Georgia, a country in the Caucasus.Georgian is the primary language of about 4 million people in Georgia itself, and of another 500,000 abroad...

, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, Icelandic
Icelandic language
Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. Its closest relative is Faroese.Icelandic is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the...

, Old English
Old English language
Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

, Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

, Czech
Czech language
Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

, Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

, Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

, and Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, among other languages. English still retains some nominative pronoun
Pronoun
In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun , such as, in English, the words it and he...

s, which are contrasted with the accusative
Accusative case
The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

 (comparable to the oblique
Oblique case
An oblique case in linguistics is a noun case of synthetic languages that is used generally when a noun is the object of a verb or a preposition...

 or disjunctive
Disjunctive case
A disjunctive pronoun is a stressed form of a personal pronoun reserved for use in isolation or in certain syntactic contexts.-Examples and usage:...

 in some other languages): I (accusative, me), we (accusative, us), he (accusative, him), she (accusative, her), they (accusative, them) and who (accusative, whom).  A usage that is archaic in most, but not all, current English dialects is the singular second-person pronoun thou
Thou
The word thou is a second person singular pronoun in English. It is now largely archaic, having been replaced in almost all contexts by you. It is used in parts of Northern England and by Scots. Thou is the nominative form; the oblique/objective form is thee , and the possessive is thy or thine...

(accusative thee).  A special case is the word you: Originally, ye was its nominative form and you the accusative, but over time you has come to be used for the nominative as well.

The term "nominative case" is most properly used in the discussion of nominative–accusative languages, such as Latin, Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, and most modern Western European languages.

In active–stative languages there is a case sometimes called nominative which is the most marked case, and is used for the subject of a transitive verb
Transitive verb
In syntax, a transitive verb is a verb that requires both a direct subject and one or more objects. The term is used to contrast intransitive verbs, which do not have objects.-Examples:Some examples of sentences with transitive verbs:...

 or a voluntary subject of an intransitive verb
Intransitive verb
In grammar, an intransitive verb is a verb that has no object. This differs from a transitive verb, which takes one or more objects. Both classes of verb are related to the concept of the transitivity of a verb....

 but not for an involuntary subject of an intransitive verb; since such languages are a relatively new field of study, there is no standard name for this case.

Subjective case


Some writers on English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 grammar employ the term subjective case instead of nominative, in order to draw attention to the differences between the "standard" generic nominative and the way it is used in English.

Generally, when the term subjective case is used, the accusative
Accusative case
The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

 and dative
Dative case
The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given, as in "George gave Jamie a drink"....

 are collectively labelled as the objective case. This is possible in English because the two have merged; there are no surviving examples where the accusative and the dative are distinct in form, though their functions are still distinct. The genitive case
Genitive case
In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

 is then usually called the possessive form and often is not considered as a noun case per se; English is then said to have two cases, the subjective and the objective. This view is an oversimplification, but it is didactically useful.

Emphatic case


Sometimes a different case is used for emphasis, where logically it would be nominative case. An example is French "c'est moi", "it's me". This shows up often in colloquial English such as "her and Billie have one" or "him and Jean went there" where 'logically' both of the pronouns should be nominative. This can be explained that the case does not inherit from the parent clause.

Subject


The nominative case marks the subject of a verb. When the verb is active, the nominative is the person or thing doing the action (agent
Agent (grammar)
In linguistics, a grammatical agent is the cause or initiator of an event. Agent is the name of the thematic role...

); when the verb is passive, the nominative is the person or thing receiving the action.
  • The boy ate pizza.
  • The pizza has been eaten.

Predicate noun or adjective


The nominative also marks things equal to the subject (that is, a predicate noun or adjective
Predicative (adjectival or nominal)
In grammar, a predicative is an element of the predicate of a sentence that supplements the subject or object by means of the verb. A predicative may be nominal or adjectival . If the complement after a linking verb is a noun or a pronoun, it is called a predicate nominative...

).
  • Socrates was a wise man.
  • Socrates was wise.

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