Genitive: subject

Syntactical Level

The genitive signals the whole of which the subject is a part (with a personal or impersonal predicate). In addition the genitive usually signals the role of patient.

Lexical usage

The word in the genitive:

  • indicates an undefined number of units which form part of a whole;
  • agrees with the predicate in number and person.

Syntactic behaviour

This genitive could be interpreted as an elliptical construction: ‘(Some) of the men died.’ The fact that any potential predicate NP is put in the nominative, rather than the genitive, also points to this conclusion. However, the predicate does agree with the genitive in number and person (and gender).

Personal construction: syntactic properties

The (usually negated) predicate agrees with the subject in the genitive in number and person. Any predicate PN or modifier with the subject is put in the nominative.

Impersonal construction: syntactic properties

Usually an object in the dative is placed with the impersonal verbs in question, to signal the experiencer.

Pragmatic properties

Subjects in the genitive invariably add new information; this means that they constitute the rheme or comment of their sentence. For the same reason they usually follow the predicate.

Historical background

The use of the genitive as subject goes back to Proto-Indo-European. It is also found in Slavic languages and Lithuanian, among others. Partitive subjects also occur outside Proto-Indo-European (Finnish, Basque).

Example Sentences: 

ὁπότε μέντοι πρὸς τὸν σατράπην τὸν ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ σπείσαιντο, καὶ [ἔφασαν] ἐπιμιγνύναι σφῶν τε πρὸς ἐκείνους καὶ ἐκείνων πρὸς ἑαυτούς

Telkens [de Kardouchen] echter een verdrag sloten met de satraap op de vlakte, dan hadden sommigen onder hen [naar verluidt] contacten met die [Kardouchen], en sommige van die [Kardouchen] contacten met hen.

ἐμοὶ οὐδαμόθεν προσήκει τούτου τοῦ πρᾱ́γματος

Deze zaak past helemaal niet bij mij.

τῆς διαιτητικῆς ἐστι μέγιστον παρατηρέειν καὶ φυλάσσειν

Sommige delen van het dieet zijn de belangrijkste zaak om na te volgen en op te volgen.

πρὸς οὖν τοιαύτην δύναμιν οὐ ναυτικῆς καὶ φαύλου στρατιᾶς μόνον δεῖ, ἀλλὰ καὶ πεζὸν πολὺν ξυμπλεῖν

Tegen zo'n macht hebben we niet alleen een vloot en een waardeloos leger nodig, maar moet ook een talrijke infanterie meevaren.