Уӕ райсом хорз, Everyone.
Today we will delve into the Ossetian case system, in my other posts I talked about what grammatical case is, but now I will take a closer look at the cases and how specifically they are used in Ossetian. Moving forward in my writing, you will see a duel description; when referring to Ossetian people, the description will say 'Ossetian/Ирæттæ', and when referring to the language, it will read 'Ossetian/Иронау'. As we move into more advanced subjects, you will see more writing in Cyrillic, so being comfortable with it from the start can go a long way to helping achieve your goals.
A significant portion of the writing will be a transcription of Abaev's own writing on the subject, which can be found in one of the links in my other post (Herbert Paper, 2006). I will add my own notes where I think it is appropriate, but by and large Abaev's writing is succinct and nothing more is needed.
Within Ossetian/Иронау, there is some debate about how many cases there actually is in the language, Abaev says there are nine cases, but different viewpoints change this number, from as low as seven cases*, to eleven (Belyaev, 2010 adds 'directive' and 'regressive' as emerging cases). For the purposes of my writing, I will use Abaev's structure, as I believe this is the most faithful rendition of the case system.
Abaev gives two sub-categories for case-type, 'grammatical' and 'locatival' (location and space). Grammatical cases express: subject, object (direct or indirect), attribute (for example, plurality). Locatival cases express: not only location, but also movement from/to somewhere. According to Abaev, the cases in the first sub-category are: nominative, genitive, dative, partly adessive (this will be elaborated on later), allative, ablative, and comitative. The locatival cases are: inessive, adessive, allative, ablative, and comitative. There is also one exception, the equative, which Abaev says "is the case of adverbial usage", and does not fit into either of the two previous sub-categories.
Nominative - Affix: NIL (singular), '-ӕ' (plural, after the standard '-T-' plurality marker).
This is the 'subject' category within the language, you will find words in the dictionary written using this case. In the singular, words are left alone and written as they are, but the case marker is added in the plural. Normally, in Nominative-Accusative aligned languages, there is also an 'accusative' case that marks the direct object, however in Ossetian the function of the accusative case has been split between the Nominative and the Genitive cases. Direct objects are marked in the nominative case if they are generalized or unknown (indefinite), while known (definite) direct objects are marked in the Genitive case.
Abaev writes: "The nominative answers the questions 'who, what, whom'. Its sphere of usage is much larger than in Russian, and it would be better to call it the 'basic' or 'absolute' case". Other uses of the nominative case, according to Abaev, are:
Predicate nominative - also known as a 'predicate noun', according to wikipedia, predicate nouns: "make a claim about the subject (of the sentence)", "a predicate is seen as a property that a subject has or is characterized by".
-Ахуыргонд ысси - '(he) became learned'.
-ӕлыгӕс фӕцыдтӕну - 'I used to go as a herdboy'.
2. Vocative - In other languages, the vocative may be in its own case, but either way it refers to a person (this can extend to animals and objects as well) that is being addressed directly.
- Фесӕф нӕуӕндӕг!! - 'Get lost, coward!!.'
3. Modifier - Abaev writes "regardless of what case the modifier is in", meaning that in situations where you are describing a noun, the modifier isn't changed (given a case-ending) to make it agree (match) with the noun.
- Урс ӕхсырӕй - '(by means of) white milk'. The behaviour where the modifier is not modified along with the noun is known as 'group-inflection', and it is used throughout the language.
4. Time adverb - This only occurs in certain circumstances.
- Сӕрд дын ма 'мбийӕд, зымӕг дын ма сӕлӕд - 'May there be no rotting at your place (in) summer, no freezing at your place (in) winter'.
Genitive - Affix: '-ы' in both singular and plural.
Answers the questions 'of whom?, of what?, whose?' Like many other languages, this case is used to indicate possession of something, but in Ossetian/Иронау there is other uses as well. As mentioned above, direct objects that are definite or personal are marked in the genitive case, not nominative. For the other uses of this case, Abaev lists the following examples:
Determinatives and possessives - Хӕрдзары дзаума, 'house-hold things'; мады рӕвдыд, 'motherly caress' .
As the usual case for post-positional government - Йӕ мады цур, 'beside one's mother'.
Direct object (definite and personal) - Мӕ мады цур, мӕ мады рагӕй нал Федтон, 'I have not seen my mother for a long time'.
Dative - Affix: '-ӕн'.
Answers the questions 'to whom?, to what?, for whom?, for what?'. This case marks the indirect object of a phrase. Further uses are categorized as follows:
Indirect object - бӕхӕн холлаг радт, 'give the horse fodder'; аргъ нал уыд мӕ куыстӕн, 'there was no longer a price to my work'.
Indicates purpose or destination - Нӕ баззын чызгӕн, 'I do not fit the role of a girl'; Ӕрхаста дыккаг усӕн иу тылиаг чызджы, 'as a second wife he brought a girl from Tli'; Худӕн ыл уыди лалымы къуым, 'part of his wineskin served him as a cap'; Фиййауӕн нӕ хъӕуыс, 'you are not needed by us as a shepherd'.
Indicates goal, or purpose - Садуллӕ царды фӕрӕзӕн цуан кӕнын ӕрымысыд, 'Sadullah, for (earning) the means to live, decided to engage in hunting'.
Serves as the case of the attribute in special phrases with possessive pronouns - Уӕрхӕгӕн йӕ фырттӕ, 'Sons of Warxag' (lit. 'to Warxag, his sons').
Sometimes expresses locative relationships - Ӕфцӕгӕн фӕфалӕ, 'he crossed the pass' (lit. 'showed up on the other side of the pass'); Фынгӕн йӕ разы къӕй авӕрдта, '(he) laid a stone slab before the table'.
Used in comparisons - where the name of the quality, on the basis of which the comparison is made, is put in the dative: Доссанӕйы рӕсугъдӕн чызг зын ссарӕн уыд, 'it was very hard to find a girl equal to Dossana in beauty'.
Appears as the distributive case - Хӕрдзарӕн лӕгӕй, '(at the rate of) one man from (each) house.
Allative - Affix: '-мӕ' (singular.), '-ӕм' (plural)
Answers the questions 'to where?, to whom?, to what?, at whom?, at what?, for, after whom? for, after what?'.
Indicates direction of motion in space - Дыгурмӕ ахызт, 'he got over to Digora'; Фӕткъуы зӕхмӕ' рхауд, 'the apple fell to the ground'.
Indicates direction in time - Ӕхсӕвӕй бонмӕ, 'from night to day'.
Indicates goal, purpose - Чындз донмӕ ацыд, 'the daughter-in-law went for (after) water'; Даумӕ ӕнхъӕлмӕ кӕсын, 'I am waiting for you'.
Serves as the objective case - Мӕ бӕх иналмӕ баззадис, 'my horse was left at Inal's';