Talk:Vocative case

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Linguistics / Theoretical Linguistics (Rated C-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Linguistics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Linguistics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ??? This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by the Theoretical Linguistics Task Force.

Marking vocative in English[edit]

I'm not completely familiar with the technical jargon of verb tenses in English (sorry), but what do you mean when you say that, in English, the vocative case isn't marked? Reason I ask is because of the form "Sing in me, O muse", which is vocative. I don't believe "O" has any other function in English, so is that not a mark? -- PaulDrye

I couldn't think of any other use for O either but you can make English vocative case sentences without O or any other mark. --rmhermen

Given vocative examples without marker can be made in English, that justifies the "unmarked" description. The existance of O I think qualifies as practically vestigial, rather like the word both doesn't indicate English actually has a dual number in addition to singular and plural. -- kd5mdk

O and Oh sound alike but are spelled differently. If you are a programmer designing a spellchecker, you should be aware that O and Oh might appear to be interchangeable in places, but Oh, Oh!, Oh? all have different meanings. Not all of them denote a vocative function. This is far from being a trivial matter. (talk) 18:12, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

The usage is often associated with old poetry and the Bible, and I'm not sure it was ever used commonly - is it not probable that English, and other Western European languages, did not develop this use of 'O' themselves but that it's a mere translation of the Greek (omega) used in the same way? Its use in Latin seems poetic, and could come from Greek (which was to the Romans the language of the Classicas too) and the Greek of the Bible and Classical Latin and Greek generally influenced this in poetic English? If someone has a reference that could clarify this, it would be worth putting in. Can't find anything on the internet as 'O' is not the most specific of searchwords. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:40, 27 January 2010 (UTC)

Addressing not only a person[edit]

The article currently states: The vocative case is the case used for a noun identifying the person being addressed. At least in Polish and I'm almost sure that in other Slavic languages as well, a vocative case of any verb may be used i.e. not only people, but also abstracts (eg. ciemności! = O, darkness) and objects (książko! = O, book) may be addressed and if so, these nouns are then used in the vocative case. Of course the two latter situations are rare compared to addressing people, but sometimes these forms are indeed used. The section Vocative-like expressions in English also provides examples that addressing people is not the only use of this case. As I hope to be agreed with, now I'm going to add appropriate examples to the Polish section of this article, but would like someone to update the article's initial paragraph as I'm having problems with terminology. Gdabski 23:11, 11 August 2005 (UTC)

Right you are! The Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian language example of which I can think is the song "Beograde" ('O, Belgrade', to stick with our way of representing vocative in English, and not forgetting that "Beograd" is the root (i.e. nominative form).) Language is open-ended. Adam Mathias 02:12, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

Vocative Cases in Arabic, Chinese, and Korean?[edit]

I have removed the references to vocative cases in Arabic, Chinese, and Korean, because they are not "vocative cases" in the grammatical sense. "A" or "ya" as described in Korean or Arabic are either interjections or grammatical particles, and they are not grammatically necessary. In Chinese, the use of "a" as the first syllable for calling someone is not grammatically necessary, but rather a common way of constructing nicknames. 阿明 is a nickname rather than the vocative case, as we can still use the same word to refer to him even if the name is not used in the vocative case. Same as in English, a person named Robert may be called Bob. However, the word "Bob" is not restricted in the vocative case, but the nickname can be used in the nominative, dative, or accusative cases. Wng 05:16, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

Please cite your source, discuss and having reached a concensus before unilaterally delete sections, especially ones with multiple contributions, thanks. I don't speak Korean nor Arabic so I won't comment on them. But when you said "grammatical particle", isn't that the general classification of a vocative particle?
You are correct in that 阿 does not strictly indicate vocative case just as in the example in the intro: "John" itself is a vocative address. 阿 is just one way to express vocative, especially in Cantonese. Yes, it's by no means necessary but doesn't mean it's not a case either.
See the following links citing the use of 阿 as vocative and/or address:[1][2][3][4] --Kvasir 08:13, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
I won't touch the Arabic part then, as I don't speak Arabic and I'll let native speakers comment that. As for Korean, if it is used only in casual conversations and it is not required, then it means that Korean does not have the vocative case. English has lost the vocative case, and from the description, Korean is similar (from the discussion above, English can have the word "O" mark the vocative case, but no "O" is acceptable as well). In Chinese, the addition of 阿 is not required, as also acknowledged above. Although its use may be primarily vocative, 阿明 can be used in the nominative, dative, accusative, and all other grammatical cases without any grammatical declension. My opinion is that this article should be limited to languages that have noun declension with a vocative case or languages that have necessary morphemes (otherwise considered grammatically incorrect) to indicate the vocative case. Vestigial vocative cases (as seen in various Indo-European languages) that have morphemes making them different from other cases, as is the case of Venetian, may be worth mentioning. I have read the sources you cited, but none of them talks about grammar. Rather they're about culture, and how people address each other. All languages and cultures will have some kind of addressing each other, but this article is about grammar and should be limited to that. I placed the dubious mark in the article so other users may comment. --Wng 10:53, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
I would like to suggest someone confirm whether the vocative case is or is not used in the Korean language. As a native speaker of the Korean language, I would like to inform you that the use of "야" or "아" isn't optional; simply saying "경철 이리와" does not make sense. You have to say "경철아 이리와." I'm afraid I do not have a background in linguistics so I may very well be wrong, but wouldn't this prove that Korean has the vocative case? (I'm sorry, but this is my very first edit in wikipedia.. I'm not sure whether I should be editing this "page" in this way) -- (not sure of my user name.. I believe I had one, but I forget what it was) 10:47, 10 June 2007
I would like to support you on the use of 阿 in Chinese. I'm really surprised to see it listed like that here, and I think the part on Chinese should be re-written or deleted. Hzh 12:48, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
In the case of vernacular Cantonese Chinese my understanding is that the prefix 阿 is almost always obligatory - I am not sure whether this is the case in other spoken varieties - although this appears more to do with indicating politeness than with marking the addressee. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:36, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

Chinese, Korean, or Arabic should not be listed here unless someone can cite their sources that these languages indeed have the vocative case. Chinese and Korean nouns do not even have noun declension. Arguments that seem to indicate that "Bob" is the vocative case of "Robert" or "dad" is the vocative case of "father" should not be in this article. --Wng 08:45, 6 November 2007 (UTC)

I have provided references showing that the ya particle funcitons as the equivalent of a vocative case in Arabic, although the vocative case is not recognised as a distinct case in Arabic grammar. This should clear up the ambiguity, so I've taken the liberty of removing the "dubious" tags. Rashed (talk) 00:16, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

I am not a linguistics scholar and do not want to pronounce upon the question of whether a vocative must be a case, a separate form of each word; but I do know enough Chinese to be sure that "Ah" before a name is not a vocative. That is, not unless "Hey" is a vocative in English (as in "Hey John!"). --Evangeline 18:25, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Not so. The 阿 ā appears in many regional languages in China. 阿弟, 阿哥, 阿姨, are appropriate to use by family members when referring to "little brother," "big brother," "aunt," etc. Dr. Margery Chan at the University of Ohio is a linguist, and she refers to 阿(something or other) as "my vocative."
The function of the 阿 is clear. It can be argued that modern Chinese does not have "case," but early Chinese clearly did. (See the studies of Bernard Karlgren, for instance.) Whatever you call it, "ah" in these contexts in Chinese performs the same function as "ah" before a (changed) first name has in Irish. "Didi" is a kinship term, but it is not equivalent to "a di," because one can mention "my didi," but under normal circumstances not to "my a di." "A di" is ordinarily used in direct reference. You address your brother as "a di," but you don't say to him, "You are my a di," and it would sound like the utterance of a child who has not entirely figured things out if you said to some third party, "I like my a di but I don't like my a mei."
The eminent linguist, Y.R. Chao, in his A Grammar of Spoken Chinese, p. 66, says: "Vocative expressions [in Chinese] are nominal expressions yused to get the listener's attention before or without turning his attention to the nature or existence of anything." He also notes that vocatives have reduced pitch range over even the same locution when not used as a vocative. He gives the example of how you would say "Second-elder- sister" as a vocative -- with squeezed tonal range, and how you would return or perhaps even exaggerate "second elder sister" if you bumped into her in some unexpected social situation, "OH! Second elder sister, what are you doing here?" P0M (talk) 23:36, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

Tragically, nobody here seems to know what Wikipedia is about! To call something a "vocative case" you need to have a secondary source calling it that. All the remaining discussion is irrelevant to the article and would be more appropriate on a forum. The fact that Chao speaks of a "vocative expression" in Chinese is also irrelevant - "vocative expressions" exist in absolutely all human languages, including English "(Hey) John!", and are not identical to vocative case. -- (talk) 17:31, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

It seems clear that we have no authoritative sources for the vocative in Korean and in Chinese languages so I am removing the unsourced statements from the article.Sinazita (talk) 09:44, 29 June 2010 (UTC)

After confirming with Noun case, there seems to be only one remaining argument for the Chinese section's place in this article, the topic of which at present is exclusively the vocative case and not vocative expressions. That argument is P0M's suggestion that you cannot say "my a di", proving that "a di" is not just a vocative expression. In fact, in Taiwan it is perfectly acceptable to say "我阿公 [wo a gong]", "我阿媽 [wo a ma]", "我阿姨 [wo a yi]", etc., proving that 阿 [a] clearly does not function there as a vocative case. Unless a native putonghua speaker suggests otherwise, modern Chinese seems to have lost whatever vocative case it might once have had.

The Chao Yuen Ren citation is about fifty years old and has not proven the existence of a true vocative case. As such, I am deleting the section until someone provides positive evidence of the existence of a modern vocative case or wishes to write a section about the purported Middle or Early Chinese vocative case. The existing content is entirely about vocative expressions. Wiggin01 (talk) 08:21, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

Comma after O[edit]

There should be no comma after O, as in "O my God." If you are using Oh and not O, that is completely different. Entbark 18:53, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

Vocative of Tuus[edit]

Actually, I can't find "Tue" in text; I saw it listed under Tuus on Wiktionary. --Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici (talk) 23:24, 31 July 2008 (UTC)

Cannot find it in my grammar. But who's the addressed one? The item owned by "thou" or "thou"? The consequences of pondering that is potentially mindcracking. Maybe it's a psychological blind spot of the grammar authors. Said: Rursus () 08:06, 9 October 2008 (UTC)
Isn't it ti? Compare with the vocative of meus; mi? --BiT (talk) 10:58, 9 October 2008 (UTC)
No, those are barbarisms that are not to be found in traditional Classical Latin literature. 'Tuus' does not follow the model that applies to 'Meus'. It doesn't matter how drunk or debauched a civilized Roman could get, he would not resort to that kind of an abomination. (talk) 18:15, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

Vocative of Rasputin in Russian?[edit]

Seeing as how Rasputin was on the verge of godhood if not sainthood, can his name take a vocative ending in any of the Slavic languages?

Is there a rule for polysyllabic nouns taking a vocative ending in any of the Russian or Slavic languages? If a noun has three or more syllables, does that prevent it from taking a vocative form? (talk) 18:19, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

In Czech language the vocative of Rasputin is Rasputine. Jednoucelovy (talk) 18:56, 14 January 2010 (UTC)


"In informal neutral speech, the nominative is increasingly used in place of the vocative, but this is regarded as bad style in formal situations."

It's not true. It happens only with proper names. Appellative nouns must stay in Vocative, when the context needs it. Sentences like **"Pan profesor, mogę się o coś zapytać?" 'Professor, can I aks a question', **"Powiedz mi, przyjaciel" 'tell me, friend', **"co robisz, dureń" 'what are you doing, idiot' are UNGRAMMATICAL and are not used by any speaker of Polish, no matter if it's formal or unformal speech. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:14, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Hindi-Urdu has a vocative case[edit]

According to the Hindi-Urdu grammar page, that language has a vocative case; it is not listed among the Indo-European languages retaining a vocative case. Stifynsemons (talk) 05:04, 31 December 2010 (UTC)

English examples...[edit]

The article lists "Mr. President" and "Madam Chairman".

Should we also include other formal ways of addressing people like "Your Honor," "Your Majesty," "His Highness," etc.?

I know the third-person conjugation is often used when using these addresses, for example "Is His Highness well today?"

-Helvetica (talk) 19:58, 17 February 2012 (UTC)


Though Swedish doesn't have a vocative case, maybe it should be mentioned that Swedish adjectives do change when used as a part of a vocative phrase, similarly to Icelandic: (en) kär vän - (a) dear friend; Kära vän! - dear friend!

Furthermore, if I'm not mistaken, sometimes the definite forms of Swedish nouns are used in vocative phrases instead of undefinite forms, such as "Hej, farsan!" - "Hi, daddy!" where "farsa" means "daddy", and "farsan" otherwise means "the daddy, the father". Further examples may be "gumman", "tjejen" etc.

I know these are not examples for a real vocative case, but I don't think they are less relevant here than English 'O' either.

Abcd9999 (talk) 15:01, 12 June 2012 (UTC)