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    • Join Date: Jan 2006
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    #1

    "of " or "possessive case"

    Could anyone tell me about the differece of following sentences.

    (1) It was important for him to think about happiness of people.
    (2) It was important for him to think about people's happiness.

    Thank you!


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
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    #2

    Re: "of " or "possessive case"

    The first sentence is ungrammatical. It should be "...about the happiness of people."

    Otherwise, the sentences are identical. The second uses the Saxon genitive, while the first uses the Romance genitive, that's all.


    • Join Date: Jan 2006
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    #3

    Re: "of " or "possessive case"

    Quote Originally Posted by Coffa
    The first sentence is ungrammatical. It should be "...about the happiness of people."
    Otherwise, the sentences are identical. The second uses the Saxon genitive, while the first uses the Romance genitive, that's all.
    Coffa,
    Thank you very much for your reply.
    So, Can I understand that the meaning of two sentences are same?
    Both <Saxon and Romance genitive> are the word of linguistics?

  1. Mister Micawber's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: "of " or "possessive case"

    .
    The Saxon genitive is the traditional term used for the "'s" word-ending in the English language. The term is now infrequently used by linguists who argue that "'s" represents a possessive, not a genitive. And, moreover, many contend that "'s" now functions as a clitic rather than a case ending.... The term "Saxon genitive" is in analogy to the genitive in classical Latin.(Wikipaedia)

    You won't find the term 'Romance genitive' (de/di) used much either.
    .


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
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    #5

    Re: "of " or "possessive case"

    Yes, they are the same. "Saxon genitive" is the linguistic term for the possessive construction in English (apostrophe plus s for singular, or just apostrophe for plural). The name derives from the language of the Saxon tribes who were one of a group of Germanic tribes to invade Britain after the Romans left in the 5th Century AD. In Old High German, the genitive case was formed by the ending -es in the singular. This became shortened in English to -'s (the apostrophe standing for the missing 'e'). The Saxon genitive is not now regarded as a true genitive case because it is used solely as a possessive rather than to decline noun endings.

    The Romance languages are European languages derived from the Latin language spoken by the Romans. They are primarily the languages of Southern Europe (French, Spanish, Italian, etc.), and the 'Romance genitive' is the genitive construction used in these languages (a preposition meaning 'of', followed by the possessive noun - for example, 'La maison de la Reine' in French; 'The house of the Queen'). Again, the Romance genitive does not decline nouns, and so is not a true genitive case.

    English is unique in having both constructions, because it absorbed the Old French of the Normans, who conquered England in 1066. That is why there are two variants for the possessive in English.

    There are other genitive forms used in European languages. Romanian, for example, is (I believe) the only Romance language to have retained the classical Latin genitive case, which declines nouns. For example, "Capitala Americii este Washington"; "The capital of America is Washington." Here the noun "America" is declined to "Americii" to form the genitive, just as it would be in Latin.

    Additionally, there is the Celtic genitive, used by the European languages derived from the Celtic tribes (Irish Gaelic, Welsh, Scottish Gallic, Cornish, Breton), which is unrelated to Latin, and there is the even older Basque language, spoken by the Catalans of northern Spain and southern France. These are now all minority languages, and have not influenced the major European languages to any great degree.

  2. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
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    #6

    Re: "of " or "possessive case"

    Additionally, (1) is an example of what's more commonly known as the periphrastic genitive (...of...) and (2) is an example of the inflected genitive ('s).

    periphrastic genitive
    (1) It was important for him to think about the happiness of people.

    inflected genitive
    (2) It was important for him to think about people's happiness.

    With It-expeltive constructs, such as the ones above, the true subject follows the verb. Like this,

    (1b) To think about the happiness of people was important to him.

    (2b) To think about the people's happiness was important to him.

    Now, let's take a look at the two genitive objects (of the preposition about). Below in (1c), the noun "people" lacks a determiner/article, whereas in (2c) the noun "people" is modified by "the":

    no article = people in general
    (1c) To think about the happiness of people (i.e., people in general)was important to him.

    the article "the" = specific group of people
    (2c) To think about the people's happiness was important to him.

    Adding "the" to (1c) results in a similar meaning as (2c):

    (1d) To think about the happiness of the people was important to him.
    (2c) To think about the people's happiness was important to him.

    Note, "the" modifies the closest noun. In "the happiness of people", 'the' modifies the noun 'happiness', not 'people'. In short, (1) and (2) do not express the same meaning. It's not about the genitive; it's about the missing deterimer/article.

    Furthermore, the to-infinitive expresses an unactualized event, one that hasn't happened yet:

    ? To think about ... was important to him. <semantically awkward>

    Hope that helps.


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
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    #7

    Re: "of " or "possessive case"

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    Now, let's take a look at the two genitive objects (of the preposition about). Below in (1c), the noun "people" lacks a determiner/article, whereas in (2c) the noun "people" is modified by "the":
    no article = people in general
    (1c) To think about the happiness of people (i.e., people in general)was important to him.
    the article "the" = specific group of people
    (2c) To think about the people's happiness was important to him.
    Adding "the" to (1c) results in a similar meaning as (2c):
    (1d) To think about the happiness of the people was important to him.
    (2c) To think about the people's happiness was important to him.
    Note, "the" modifies the closest noun. In "the happiness of people", 'the' modifies the noun 'happiness', not 'people'. In short, (1) and (2) do not express the same meaning. It's not about the genitive; it's about the missing deterimer/article.
    I'm sorry, but I have to disagree, Casiopea.

    You have said above that (1d) is "a similar meaning" to (2c):
    1d) "To think about the happiness of the people was important to him."
    2c) "To think about the people's happiness was important to him."

    This is grammatically exactly equivalent to:
    "To think about the happiness of people was important to him."
    "To think about people's happiness was important to him."

    The only difference between the first and second examples is the definite/indefinite article used for the subject, ie 'the people' and 'people'.

    This is because the possessive implies a definite article simply by being an identifiable noun. It has nothing to do with whether the subject itself is definite or indefinite. "The happiness" is definite in ALL of the above because it is a PARTICULAR happiness (the one belonging either to 'people' or 'the people').


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    #8

    Re: "of " or "possessive case"

    Apologies - in the above message, "subject" should read "subject's possessor".


    • Join Date: Jan 2006
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    #9

    Re: "of " or "possessive case"

    Mister Micawber
    Coffa
    Casiopea

    Thank you for your detailed explanation. Yours are really helpful for me.
    I am sorry for my late gratitude since there has been something wrong
    with my computer for a few days.

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