Word of the Week (224): ESSIVE (probability 12352), by David Sutton

ESSIVE is a grammatical case in Finnish and certain other languages used to express a continuous state of being.

The grammatical case, whereby a noun takes different inflections depending on its role in the sentence, has pretty much disappeared in modern English, due to the realisation that prepositions combined with an uninflected noun do the job perfectly well, though vestiges remain in such variants as he/him and who/whom. Now, we will all remember from our schooldays that Latin has six main cases: NOMINATIVE, VOCATIVE, ACCUSATIVE, GENITIVE, DATIVE and ABLATIVE; a few nouns also have a LOCATIVE case, that expresses place where. But these are by no means the only possible grammatical cases, and Finnish, for example, abounds in further examples. Let's have a round up of some of these other possibilities to be encountered in the world's languages.

ABESSIVEexpresses absence or lack
ADESSIVEexpresses place where or proximity to
AGENTIVEindicates the agent performing an action
ALLATIVEexpresses movement towards
COMITATIVEexpresses accompaniment
ELATIVEexpresses movement away from
ERGATIVEmarks a noun used interchangeably as the object of a transitive verb or the subject of an intransitive one
ILLATIVEexpresses movement into or toward
INESSIVEexpresses location within
PARTITIVEindicates that a noun involved in an expression refers to only a part of what it otherwise refers to e.g. in 'I'm painting the house' house would be partitive, unless you are a DIY nutcase who is actually painting the floor, roof and all.
TRANSLATIVEexpressing change or transformation

All these nuances and niceties should give one some respect for speakers of other languages who are expected to master them. Especially given that half of native English speakers can't even deal with the vestigial case system we have got, and regularly forget to change 'I' to 'me' in such sentences as 'this was given to my husband and I on our wedding anniversary'.

Incidentally, a noun with no grammatical cases is an APTOTE. A noun with one grammatical case only is a MONOPTOTE. A noun with three grammatical cases is a TRIPTOTE; a noun with four grammatical cases is a TETRAPTOTE. Curiously, there seems to be no word for a noun with two grammatical cases only.


© WESPA | Committees | Join WESPA | Contact Us | Credits