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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26

The Noun

The Noun.

The definition of a noun, where it departs from the simple statement that a noun is a name, or the name of anything, is generally either defective or redundant, or both.

In the definition of gender a confusion is made between gender, which is a distinction of words, and sex, which is a distinction of animals. The classification of words by gender is made the same as the sexual differences in animals, and English gender is declared to be of two kinds. Gender, however, is a verbal distinction. It is based upon difference in sex, but is not sex. Sex is dual, but words in English may have five genders or kinds as based on sex:—masculine= he of male; feminine=she or female; neuter= what has no sex, hence its name—neither; common; what has either sex; and words including both sexes, as children: or shortly thus,—he page 7 and she; and then either, neither, or both—all the possible varieties based on the idea of the two sexes.

Neuter is too often defined as "that which is without life"; one hears it almost daily. The word, of course, tells its own meaning; neuter is neither—i.e., neither "he" nor "she," life being only an accidental idea, which may be present or not. If neuter is without life, what is the gender of "spirit," "soul," which = it? What is the gender of the whole vegetable world, which certainly has life? A tree lives, and can die, and yet it is neuter.

Case.—In our grammars, English is said to have three cases, and yet, in these same books, we read not only of nominative possessive, and objective, but of the absolute case and the case of address. Then what is to determine case—inflection or function in a sentence? Let us adhere to either the one idea or the other. If it is to be determined by inflection, nouns have only two cases, pronouns three, if not four. If by function, English will be found to have at least these cases—nominative, genitive or possessive, objective or accusative, case of address or vocative, case absolute, and the dative case, which last it has both functionally and historically, as in him, "m" being the old dative termination.

Then, nominative absolute is a misnomer, and unphilosophic, nominative being the case in all languages of the subject, and the absolute case being always one of the oblique cases,—"genitive," as in Greek; "ablative," as in Latin; "dative," as in Saxon, &c.: "case absolute" would perhaps be the simplest name in modern English. The same objection holds of nominative of address.