Why have case endings and gender endured in language?
October 23, 2012 3:03 PM Subscribe
Case endings and gender in language: why?
posted by stenoboy to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'm curious as to why so many languages employ what seem to be difficult grammatical structures, and I'm thinking particularly of case endings and also genders.
Historically, how did they develop? Is language easier without them?
I am sure 'difficult' is a relative concept, and growing up around a language you wouldn't find these endings or genders strange, but as an English speaker who doesn't have to deal much with these grammatical phenomena (other than the odd 'her' for a ship, and a 'whom' now and again), I find it odd that more langugages haven't dropped this grammatical baggage.
Take German: German has retained gender and case. However, the gender only seems to affect the articles and demonstrative pronouns (this, these - I might be wrong on the nomenclature!), whereas the noun themselves remain unmodified unlike as in Latin or Russian.
Why is it in English and other languages (Dutch, Scandanvian languages other than Finnish) did away with the case endings (although those other languages mentioned maintain a gender system).
Is there any evidence that these grammatical forms are weakening at all, or are they too ingrained within the structure?
Also, how do new words coming into a language get assigned a gender?
I must say, having to learn three genders AND cases puts me off learning a language. I don't know how people ever overcome this hurdle!