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'Cade's insurrection' is a particular kind of insurrection, and 'an hour's detention' a particular kind of detention.
The Latin word for 'kind' is genus, and we might therefore call the case which marks the kind the generic case. Perhaps this is what the Roman grammarians thought they were doing when they called it the genitive case. But 'genitive' in its proper sense has a much narrower meaning and signifies 'belonging to birth or origin.' It is appropriate to describe the case of father's when we speak of 'the father's son,' because the son derives his birth or origin from the father; but it is not appropriate to describe the case of son's when we speak of 'the son's father,' because the father did not derive his birth or origin from the son1. Now the term 'generic' would describe the case equally well in both instances: 'the father's son' is a particular kind of son, 'the son's father' is a particular kind of father. We cannot however displace either the term 'possessive' or the term ‘genitive,' though each is insufficient as a description of the relations often marked by words in the possessive or genitive case.. With these criticisms on the terms we will go on to consider the syntax of the so-called possessive case.
238. The Substitute for the Inflected Possessive Case.
The preposition of, with the objective case of the noun which follows it, takes the place of the inflected possessive and is used in many instances in which the inflected form would be inadmissible. Thus instead of saying 'the master's cane' we can say 'the cane of the master'; for 'Byron's poems,' 'Cade's insurrection,' 'an hour's detention,' we can say 'the poems of Byron,' 'the insurrection of Cade,' 'a detention of an hour.' It is only the inflected form however that is to be called a possessive case: 'of Byron' must not be parsed as the possessive, but 'Byron' must be parsed as the objective governed by the preposition of. For if 'of Byron' is entitled to the name 'possessive case,' 'to Byron' has an equally good claim to the name 'dative,' and 'from Byron' to the name 'ablative.' But if 'to Byron' and 'from Byron' are cases, on what ground are we to
1 See Max Müller's Lectures on the Science of Language, 1st series,
refuse to describe as cases the combinations 'about Byron,' 'through Byron,' 'in Byron,' 'on Byron,' and so forth?
239. Subjective and Objective Genitive. The genitive case is described as subjective or objective according as the noun in the genitive stands for the subject or for the object of the action denoted by the word on which it depends. Thus Carlyle's praises' may signify either (1) Carlyle praised somebody': here Carlyle is the subject of the proposition, and the genitive is subjective: or (2) 'Somebody praised Carlyle': here Carlyle is the object of the proposition, and the genitive is objective. The expression is used in the former way when we say 'Carlyle's praises were rarely bestowed': it is used in the latter way when we say 'Carlyle's praises were loudly sung.' 'Ravaillac's murder' is subjective, 'Henry IV.'s murder' is objective. Not that we can combine the two inflected forms in the same sentence and say 'Ravaillac's Henry IV.'s murder.' We should have to employ the preposition of to denote the objective relation and say 'Ravaillac's murder of Henry IV.,' 'Ruskin's praises of Carlyle.' Speaking generally, we may say that the inflected form is subjective in modern English. The form made by combination with the preposition of admits of the same double use: 'the persecution of the Puritans' is objective when we say 'The persecution of the Puritans drove them to Massachusetts': it is subjective when we say "The Quakers of New England suffered from the persecution of the Puritans.'
240. How are we to explain such expressions as novel of Scott's,' 'a play of Shakespeare's'?
They are not pleonastic, that is to say, they do not contain any redundancy or excess of expression. On the contrary they are elliptical, a noun being left out on which the noun in the possessive case depends. The complete expression would be a novel of Scott's novels,' 'a play of Shakespeare's plays.' Hence we cannot properly say 'a father of John's,' though we can say 'a brother of John's,' for 'a father of John's fathers'
would be absurd. As a fact however we do employ this elliptical construction for purposes of disparagement, real or pretended, in cases where it is logically indefensible. Thus we say 'that disreputable old father of John's,' 'this sweet wee wife of mine.'
There are other ellipses, or omissions, of the noun which ought to follow the noun in the possessive case, and these we have to supply according to the sense required by the context. He goes to St Paul's' may signify in different connexions 'St Paul's cathedral,' 'St Paul's school,' or 'St Paul's station.' 'A picture of Agnew's' and 'a picture of Gainsborough's' alike require the word 'pictures' to supply the ellipsis, but in the former case the meaning is 'belonging to Agnew,' in the latter painted by Gainsborough.'
241. How are we to explain such expressions as 'the city of Rome,' 'the month of June'?
When we bear in mind that the function of the noun in the genitive case is to limit the application of the noun on which it depends, the explanation of such phrases as 'the city of Rome,' 'the month of June,' seems fairly simple. "The city of Rome' is a particular city, 'the month of June' a particular month, just as 'the top of the mountain' is a particular top. We do not say 'the river of Rhone' but we might have done so we use river and Rhone in apposition. It is merely a matter of idiom, or form of expression peculiar to our language. The Latin idiom was to say 'city Rome,' Urbs Roma; our idiom is to say 'city of Rome.'
The construction of two nouns in apposition in the possessive case has been already discussed.
Order. The inflected possessive always stands before the noun on which it depends; 'Carlyle's praise,' 'the master's cane.' The preposition of and its noun in the objective usually come after the governing noun: 'the praise of Carlyle,' 'the cane of the master.' But for emphasis this order may be inverted: 'Of the spoil each man received a share,' 'Of virtue a great part consists in this.'
243. The objective case in modern English marks relations which are expressed in Latin by the accusative and by the dative. It is the case both of the direct and of the indirect object. The following are its chief uses.
The objective is the case
(1) of the direct object of a transitive verb: 'Brutus killed him.' (2) of the factitive object : 'They made him consul,' 'He called her Mary,' 'We thought him a lunatic.'
(3) of the noun of kindred meaning which sometimes follows intransitive verbs: 'I dreamt a dream,' 'He slept a sound sleep.' This is called the cognate objective. See p. 137.
(4) of the noun in apposition to another in the objective: 'They slew him, their archbishop.'
(5) of the adverbial adjunct of the predicate, marking limitations as regards time, space, or manner: 'We stayed a year,' The ditch is three yards wide,' 'This is worth half-a-crown.'
(6) of nouns governed by prepositions: 'He plays for money.'
(7) of the indirect object: the noun in this case stands for the thing to or on behalf of which the thing is done. The verb 'to give' may be taken as the type of verbs which are followed by an indirect object: 'Give me (indir. obj.) the book' (dir. obj.).
(8) of the pronoun in the two surviving impersonals, methinks,
(9) after the adjectives like, worth, and near: 'like me,' 'worth us two together,'' near him.'
(10) of the person for whose advantage a thing is done, or by whom it is regarded with interest: these uses correspond with the Dativus Commodi and Dativus Ethicus of the Latin Grammar. 'Do me this favour' is an example of the Dativus Commodi, or Dative of Advantage; me signifies for me. 'Just as I was approaching, he whips me out his dagger': here me marks merely the fact that the speaker had an interest in the action: it gives a lively touch to the narrative. Me is called the Ethical Dative.
The Retained or Adverbial Object.
The reader will remember that many transitive verbs which take two objects in the active voice, may retain either of these as its object in the passive. Thus 'He taught me music' converted into the passive becomes either I was taught music by him,' or 'Music was taught me by him.' In the first form, music, in the second, me, may be described as the Retained Object after the passive verb. Or we may describe music and me as adjuncts of the predicate, or adverbial objectives. Just as we call 'three miles,' 'three hours,' adverbial objectives when we say 'He walked three miles,'' He walked three hours,'-objectives because they are in the objective case (though there is no inflexion of the nouns from which we can see this) and adverbial because they limit or qualify the statement that he walked,'-so we may call music an adverbial objective limiting the statement that he 'taught me,' or me an adverbial objective limiting the statement that he 'taught music.'
SYNTAX OF NOUNS.
244. Order. The noun in the objective case usually follows the verb or the preposition by which it is governed. But
(1) When the word in the objective case is a relative or interrogative pronoun, it comes before the verb: 'The book which you gave me,' 'Which book did you give me?'
(2) When that is used as a relative and governed by a preposition, the preposition comes at the end of the sentence: 'This is the book that you told me of. When who or which are used as relatives and governed by prepositions, they may stand before or after the prepositions : 'This is the man of whom and that is the book of which you told me,' or 'This is the man whom you told mesof, and that is the book which you told me of.'
(3) For emphasis the noun in the objective case is sometimes placed before the verb: 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?' 'Silver and gold have I none.'
Correction of Sentences. In his school exercises the student is sometimes required to alter the construction of faulty sentences. His aim should be to make them formally correct by the introduction of the smallest changes which are necessary for the removal of obscurity or error. A free paraphrase of an ungrammatical passage suggests an evasion of the difficulty. Thus I went into the garden and wetted my feet in the grass' expresses grammatically the meaning which the sentence 'Going into the garden, the grass wetted my feet' was intended to convey. But this new version raises a doubt whether the nature of the mistake has been grasped by the pupil. To take another illustration; the sentence 'Shakespeare is greater than any dramatist' is corrected, if we say 'Shakespeare is the greatest dramatist,' but this correction might be made by one who had failed to see anything amiss with the sentence in its original form.