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Modern Philology 

Volume XI October IQIJ Number z 



The appearance of Mr. Bradley's The Making of English in 1904 
brought to the writer of this article several very delightful hours and 
a little later great unrest of mind and much weary labor, for the two 
pages 59 and 60 treating of the origin of the English analytic genitive 
with "of" presented views quite different from those which had for 
years been slowly ripening in the course of his own investigations. 
Among other things Mr. Bradley says: "We do not know whether, 
apart from French influence, the English language would not have 
evolved this convenient device for obviating the ambiguities arising 
from the decay of the old inflections; but imitation of French idiom 
certainly helped it attain currency." The opinion of a scholar like 
Mr. Bradley had considerable weight and views scarcely formed and 
not yet securely established began to totter. Moreover, Mr. Bradley 
is very fair in giving credit to both native English tendencies and the 
foreign influence of French. Nevertheless his words did not bring 
peace. Old thoughts returned and demanded a new hearing. To 
restore harmony once more the writer took up work again on this 
subject. It soon became evident that the analytic genitive did not 
spring at once into being. It had a very modest beginning. It 
was at first only occasionally used instead of the old simple synthetic 
genitive. Thus its history is intimately connected with the history 
of the older synthetic form. It became perfectly clear to the writer 

145] 1 [Modern Philology, October, 1913 

2 George 0. Curme 

that the meaning and growth of the new form could be understood 
only in the light of the meaning and the growth and decline of the 
old form. Thus, before we take up the study of the first beginnings of 
the analytic form, a brief history of the older synthetic genitive is 
here given. 

Scholars would fain penetrate the darkness that surrounds the 
origin of the genitive case, but up to the present nothing whatever 
has been discovered. We do not even know whether its original use 
was adnominal or adverbial. As, however, the new analytic genitive, 
which has similar meanings and exactly the same functional force 
as the older synthetic genitive, is of adverbial origin, it is quite 
possible that this is also true of the origin of the synthetic form. 
While the synthetic genitive is more used than any other case to 
modify nouns, it was also in former periods freely used with verbs 
and adjectives. Only in recent times has it become restricted almost 
exclusively to adnominal use. On the other hand, the new analytic 
genitive is freely used with both nouns and verbs. In a study of the 
genitive it is important to remember that there has always been a 
close relation here between adverbial and adnominal functions. 
This can best be illustrated by showing the relation between adverbial 
and adnominal function in the new synthetic genitive which has 
developed in historic times where the stages of development are 
open to study. Thus in the following sentence hinz (hin ze) got has 
probably still adverbial force: "Swer die minne hinz got hat daz 
er durch sine hulde alle dise welt versmaht .... daz ist . . . . 
diu heilige gots minne" (AUdeutsche Predigten, III, 119, thirteenth 
century), "If anyone has his love directed to God so that he for 
His favor despises this world, that is truly the holy love of God." 
Here ze got may be, perhaps, more closely related to the verb than 
to the governing noun minne, but it was often felt as belonging 
to the governing noun and in that case it ceased to be an adverbial 
element and became an adnominal adjunct, the modern representa- 
tive of the older objective genitive, as in "Die Liebe zur Freiheit 
[instead of the older genitive der Freiheit] wohnt im Herzen." 

Although the development is usually perfectly clear in case of 
the new analytic genitive. the development of the older synthetic 
genitive is wrapped in darkness. Thus in the Middle High German 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 3 

sentence quoted in the preceding paragraph nothing is known of the 
origin of the objective genitive gots. The genitive in gots minne is 
usually explained as an objective genitive, which is a development of 
the possessive genitive, and minne is interpreted as having passive 
force. Thus the expression would mean "God's being loved," or 
"the love of God," i.e., love which God possesses in a passive sense, 
not love that God has, feels, but love which God has, receives as a 
passive recipient. There is, however, another view as to the origin 
of the objective genitive: "Der subjektive Genitiv ist nur eine 
Abart des Genitivs poss., der objektive hat ein eigentumlichere 
Bedeutung. Er bertihrt sich mit den Genitiven, die zu einem 
durch ein Substantivum bestimmten Verbum als weitere Bestim- 
ming hinzutreten: Johannes vollzog die Taufe Christi=er vollzog 
die Taufe an Christus" (Wilmanns, Deutsche Grammatik, III, 600). 
According to this theory the objective genitive was originally an 
adverbial genitive of reference or specification: "With reference 
to Christ John performed the baptism." This theory explains a 
large number of objective genitives. Thus gots minne would mean 
"love with reference to God," or "love of God." It may possibly 
be that the objective genitive is of composite origin, sometimes a 
possessive genitive, sometimes a genitive of specification. The 
adverbial genitive of specification also has often seemingly close 
relation to the attributive possessive genitive: "We sceolon us 
gearcian on eallum f>ingun swa swa Godes penas .... on micclum 
gepylde .... on fsestenum, and on claennysse modes and licaman" 
(Aelfric, "The First Sunday in Lent," tenth century), "We should 
prepare ourselves just as God's disciples by patience, by fasting, and 
by cleanliness of mind and body." Are modes and licaman possessive 
genitives or adverbial genitives of specification ? We find the same 
ambiguity in modern German: "die Gleichheit der Gesinnungen," 
"der Unterschied der Jahre," "ein Muster der Trefflichkeit." In 
years gone by the writer had definite ideas as to the growth and 
development of the synthetic genitive and ready explanations for 
the most puzzling genitive constructions. Today these speculations 
seem to him perfectly idle, for we do not know anything about the 
origin of the genitive and hence cannot construct any trustworthy 
theories of its development. 


4 George O. Curme 

Although the writer is not disposed to enter upon the question 
of the development of the different synthetic genitive categories, he 
believes that a close study of the meaning of these categories is very 
helpful. The English genitive reached its culmination in the ninth 
century, while it still flourished in almost full power in the thirteenth 
century in Germany, even in simple prose. At this time the genitive 
had in both countries developed a rich store of meanings which were 
identical in the two languages. It could indicate source, cause, 
authorship, possession, the subject, the object, material, composition, 
quality, characteristic, measure, the appositive idea, the partitive 
idea, means, removal, separation, deprivation, specification, a goal, 
and still other shades of meaning. It meant so much that it often 
didn't mean anything at all. The constructive force that built the 
genitive categories up, the feeling for fine shades of meaning, now 
began to tear them down. There arose in all the Germanic peoples 
a longing for a clearer and more concrete expression of these ideas. 
The genitive had the great disadvantage that its original force was 
not known. It did not convey a vivid concrete picture of any kind. 
Over against the vague idea of separation contained in the colorless 
genitive stood the clear forceful preposition "of" in English, von 
in German, af in Swedish, de in Late Latin and French, etc. The 
writer in earlier years misunderstood this common development in 
the direction of greater clearness and concrete force. To him then it 
was deterioration, decay. Today this destruction seems only intel- 
ligent reconstruction. There is, however, a grave danger here. 
The too extensive use of the expressive prepositions may in time 
destroy the vividness and forcefulness of their original meaning. 
They often are thoughtlessly used to replace the synthetic form in its 
many categories without regard to the meaning of the preposition. 
Thus the preposition becomes loaded down with too many meanings 
as was formerly the simple genitive. French has gone too far in this 
direction. English has gone far enough. German is fortunate in 
retaining the old synthetic form in such large measure. For many 
years the writer has studied the German development of the last 
century. From an extensive collection of materials it is entirely clear 
that there is in a number of cases a tendency in the present literary 
language to prefer the simple genitive to the use of von where this 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 5 

preposition once seemed to threaten the life of the synthetic form. 
The large decrease of the use of the German simple genitive in ad- 
verbial function has made it more available for forceful use in the 
adnominal relation. Although, however, the use of the simple 
genitive has decreased here in adverbial function, many felicitous 
compounds preserve the older formation: wesensahnlich, mannstoll 
geistesumnachtet, etc. The writer takes no stock in the cheap fun 
that has often been poked at German compounds. He admires 
the union of simple beauty and strength in English, but he is not blind 
to the beauties in other languages. He loves to find them and feel 
them. He has often paused in reading German to muse over a 
compound with the pronounced feeling that the Germans here are 
great masters and that English would be richer today if it had not 
destroyed so much of its former wealth. Alas, the destruction men- 
tioned above was not always intelligent reconstruction! We now 
turn to a detailed study of the development of the new analytic 
genitive in the different Germanic languages. 

In tracing the development of the analytic genitive it is desirable 
to begin with the oldest examples of the new usage. It is, however, 
quite difficult to draw the line between adnominal and adverbial 
function as nicely illustrated by the use of the words in italics in the 
following sentence: "manna us pizai managein ufwopida qipands" 
(Wulfila, Luke 9:38), "a man of the company cried out saying" 
(King James Version). According to the King James Version the 
words are undoubtedly adnominal, an analytic partitive genitive. 
Both the use of the preposition "of" and the position of the verb 
show this. The verb follows the subject and its modifiers. In 
Gothic, however, the position of the verb could not decide this 
question, for it does not of necessity follow the subject immediately. 
The words "us pizai managein" may modify the verb as well as the 
subject. This difficulty is a serious one and the writer believes that 
it was felt in the older periods as such and gradually led to the 
establishment of the verb in the first place after the subject and its 
modifiers. This new word-order has, in general, become fixed in 
both English and German. In English it led to a still further step, 
as becomes evident by comparing the above sentence from the King 
James Version with the following form from the Corpus Version 


6 George 0. Cttrme 

1000 a.d.: "pa clypode an wer of pcere menego." Here the words 
"of paere menego " may easily be an analytic partitive genitive belong- 
ing to wer, for the new genitive is quite common at this date, but it 
may also be considered as an adverbial element modifying the verb. 
The adnominal genitive with "of "was originally an adverbial form. 
Perhaps it stood originally between the subject and the verb just 
as the Gothic words "us pizai managein" in this same passage. It 
became adnominal when it was felt as belonging to the subject more 
than to the verb. The form, however, was at first adverbial. In 
1000 a.d. when the Corpus Version arose there was as yet no differ- 
entiation between "of" in adnominal function and "of" used 
adverbially. Thus the words "of paere menego" from the Corpus 
Version are ambiguous. Later to give the words adnominal force 
they were placed immediately after the subject and before the verb, 
as in the King James Version, and to give them adverbial force 
they were placed after the verb and the form "of" was replaced 
by "from" or "from out": "Then a man cried from out the crowd." 
When an adverb introduces the sentence as in this example the 
German cannot follow the English in placing the subject and its 
modifier before the verb, but must place both after the verb: "Da 
rief ein Mann writer dem Volk" (adnominal element), but "Da rief 
ein Mann aus dem Volkshaufen heraus" (adverbial element). The 
preposition distinguishes the two elements. 

A careful study of the preceding paragraph will make it perfectly 
plain that it is very difficult to determine accurately when the new 
analytic genitive arose, as it was at first adverbial in form and could 
not be distinguished from an adverbial element by any formal sign 
either in the words themselves or in the word-order. The new Eng- 
lish word-order often seems to present a good test as illustrated in 
the preceding paragraph, but in the older periods the older word- 
order existed alongside the new and nothing definite can be determined 
by this test, and the writer absolutely rejects it as too untrustworthy 
for scientific purposes. It may easily be that the first beginnings of 
the analytic form belong to the Gothic or the prehistoric period. 
Although we cannot assign dates and cannot always distinguish the 
adnominal relation from the adverbial, there are nevertheless clear 
indications that the new genitive was developing. By comparing 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 7 

the Gothic Testament with the Corpus Version we find that a very- 
large number of Gothic adnominal genitives are represented in the 
English of 1000 a.d. by the analytic form with "of." Here we are 
on fairly safe ground. What Wulfila considered adnominal and 
translated by the synthetic genitive, which cannot in most cases be 
possibly interpreted as belonging to the verb, is often rendered in 
the Corpus Version by the analytic genitive with "of." Many of 
Wulfila's expressions with adverbial form may also be adnominal, 
but here there exists a good deal of doubt. On the other hand, the 
expressions with the synthetic genitive in connection with a noun 
are probably in every single case true adnominal elements, and if we 
find in the Corpus Version the form with "of," in these same pas- 
sages we may be quite sure that we have the new genitive before us. 
A few parallel passages from the two documents are here given for 
careful study. Partitive genitive: "anparuh pan siponje is qap du 
imma" (Matt. 8:21), "Sa cwseS to him of>er of hys leorningcnihtum," 
"Another o/his disciples said unto him"; " gasaihwandans sumans 
pize siponje is" (Mark 7:2), "pa hi gisawon sume of his leorning- 
cnihtum," "When they saw some of his disciples"; "Sahwazuh saei 
gamarzai a,ma,na, J>ize leitane" (Mark 9:42), "Swa hwa swa gedrefS 
aenne of pyssum lytlingum," "Whosoever shall offend one of these little 
ones." This is a very common group and is already not infrequent 
in the prose of the ninth century both in Germany and in England. 
In Latin we find the same tendency. If there has been any foreign 
force at work at this point on the development of the analytic form 
in English and German it is the influence of Latin. English and 
German translators often follow the Latin literally. The fact, 
however, that this development is stronger in dialect than in the 
literary language shows clearly that the Old English and German 
translators in following the Latin here closely were at the same 
time following strong native tendencies. There was early in the 
historic period a desire for a clearer expression for the partitive idea. 
The English "of" and German von graphically represent the separa- 
tion of one or more from a group. This seems evident in case of von, 
but it is also true of "of," for it had in Old English the force of "from." 
Indeed, we sometimes find "from" where we now use "of." Since 
the Old English period, "of" has lost much of its old graphic force. 


8 George O. Curme 

It is becoming more and more to be a mere colorless adnominal form 
with the force of the older colorless synthetic genetive. This was, 
however, in earlier periods quite different. 

This new partitive genitive was not only used in adnominal 
function, but was also often employed with verbs instead of the old 
simple partitive genitive: "jabai hwas matjip pis hlaibis" (Wulfila, 
John 6:51), "swa hwa swa ytt of dyson hlafe" (Corpus), "if any man 
eat of this bread"; "ni sijup lambe meinaize" (John 10:26), "ge ne 
synt of minum sceapum," "Ye are not of my sheep." The German 
developed here in exactly the same way: "gebet uns fon iuuueremo 
ole" (Tatian, 148.5), "Give us of your oil"; "ir ni birut/on minen 
scafon" (ibid., 134.3), "ye are not of my sheep." 

This common genitive construction developed later quite differ- 
ently in German and English. In order that the later development 
may become perfectly clear the origin of the construction is here given 
in brief with the entire subsequent development in both languages. 

The freedom of position in case of the word denoting the whole 
so often found in partitive constructions in both English and German 
seems to indicate that it was originally not an attributive genitive 
modifying the noun denoting the part of the quantity, but was a 
modifier of the verb: "Des Brotes [partitive object] isst er, einen 
Bissen" (explanatory addition), or with different word-order: "Er 
isst des Brotes, einen Bissen." In time a close relation developed 
between the two nouns, so that the genitive was felt as belonging to 
the following noun rather than to the verb: "Thiu faz thiu namun 
lides zuei odo thriu mez" (Otfrid, 2. 9. 95), "The vessels contained 
two or three measures of wine." The punctuation here indicates that 
the genitive lides modifies the noun mez, but in such a delicate ques- 
tion as this we cannot rely on the punctuation of a printed text or 
even the manuscript itself. The punctuation may in fact represent 
the true state of things, but it is also possible that lides here is the 
partitive object of the verb and that "zuei odo thriu mez" is an 
explanatory addition. The next step in the development made the 
situation perfectly clear. In those cases where the genitive was felt 
as belonging to the noun a change in the word-order developed. 
The genitive instead of preceding the governing noun followed it in 
accordance with the general tendency elsewhere to place the genitive 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 9 

after the governing noun: "Er isst einen Bissen des Brotes." Eng- 
lish examples are not given, as they correspond in the older period 
exactly to the German ones just given. Later English usage varies 
only in that the older synthetic genitive was replaced by the new syn- 
thetic form with "of": "He is eating a piece of the bread." 

Alongside this German and English form of statement there is 
another which represents a different development. The original 
form "Er isst des Brotes, einen Bissen" could be replaced by "Er 
isst Brot, einen Bissen," as the partitive object could be replaced 
by an accusative object. This is not a modern form but like the 
genitive construction is very old: "usnemun laibos gabruko sibun 
spwreidans" (Wulfila, Mark 8:8), "hi namon pset of pam brytsenum 
belaf, seofon wilian fulle" (Corpus), "they took up of the broken 
meat that was left seven baskets" (King James Version), "We 
sceolon ealle pa ping pe us gesceotap of ures geares teolunge Gode pa 
teopunge syllan" (Sweet, Selected Homilies of Aelfric, p. 48), "We 
should give to God the tenth part of all the things which accrue to 
us from our year's work." In the King James Version we have the 
partitive construction, in Wulfila, Aelfric, and Corpus the apposi- 
tional construction. Wulfila has followed the Greek here. This 
appositional construction is also found in colloquial Latin and in 
careless, easy style in general. It is of course also found later in 
English and German. "I yow foryeve this trespas every del" 
(Chaucer's "Knight's Tale," 969). "But there is gold and silver 
gret plentee" (Mandeville). "Silver and Gold have I none" (Acts 
3:6). "Aber Geld sieht man keins" (Karl Schonherr, Sonnewendtag, 
p. 9). "Schmerz empfand ich keinen" (Isolde Kurz, Nachbar 
Werner). It is much more common in modern German than in 
English. The writer gives a long list of examples from recent Ger- 
man literature in his Grammar of the German Language, p. 515, and 
has since found many additional examples, which show that this con- 
struction is a conspicuous feature of colloquial speech in the German 
of today. 

Especial attention is here called to the two forms, the usual 
literary form with the genitive and the colloquial form with the 
appositional construction, for the former has become fixed in Eng- 
lish and the latter in German. The word-order in the appositional 


10 George O. Curme 

construction, however, now more commonly follows the analogy 
of the word-order in the genitive form. Thus after the analogy 
of "Er isst einen Bissen des Brotes" the appositional form often 
becomes: "Er isst einen Bissen Brot." This appositional con- 
struction has in recent German almost entirely replaced here the 
genitive form, as the modern genitive has often no distinctive ending 
and the genitive construction has become confounded with the 
appositional construction: "Er trank ein Glas Milch" (perhaps 
genitive, but in form an appositive to Glas); "Er kaufte ein Paar 
Schuhe" (perhaps genitive plural, but in form an appositive to 
Paar). There is in modern English no construction exactly like this. 
A seemingly similar construction is found in "a dozen eggs," "much 
good," "a little good," "something good," "nothing good," "any- 
thing good," etc. In older English the substantive form was in the 
partitive genitive: "nan J>ing yfeles" (Twelfth Century Homilies, 
p. 138). A little later the synthetic genitive here ought to have 
been replaced by the analytic form as was the common usage outside 
of this little group, and this new form indeed occasionally appeared : 
"Of Nazareth may sum thing of good bet" (Wyclif, John 1:46, 
Pickering's ed.). The partitive genitive later disappeared as the 
preceding words "a dozen," "much," "a little," etc., had come to be 
felt as mere limiting adjectives. Hence the substantive was no 
longer felt as a modifier but as an independent noun. 

The real appositional construction, however, as found in modern 
German was also employed in older English: "no morsel bred" 
(Chaucer's "The Monkes Tale," 444), "pre pe noblest ryueres of al 
Europe" (Trevisa, Higden's " Polychronicon," 1. 199, about 1387 
a.d.), etc. This construction has entirely disappeared without 
leaving a single trace behind and the question of the cause of this 
disappearance naturally arises. This construction was in Old Eng- 
lish a favorite in colloquial speech and was felt as a distinct con- 
struction. In the early Middle English period after the destruction 
of the older declensions an occasional indistinct trace of the older 
synthetic partitive genitive survived. Such defective and often 
ambiguous synthetic forms were finally entirely replaced by the 
clear analytic form. There was no strong literature which, with the 
natural conservatism of standard speech, held the people to their 


The Analytic Genitive in Geemanic 11 

older synthetic genitive. Only dialectic influences prevailed and 
all the native tendencies were toward the clear analytic form. Thus 
every trace of the old synthetic partitive genitive disappeared. The 
old colloquial appositive continued a little longer than the indistinct 
synthetic forms, for it was in fact quite a different construction and 
some feeling for it was left. Still later it was felt as the last remnant 
of these old defective synthetic genitives and was replaced by the 
clear analytic genitive. 

Thus in fact the English development is the opposite of the 
German. In English the appositional construction was confounded 
with the genitive construction, while in German the genitive was 
confounded with the appositional form. German, on the other 
hand, developed as above described because there were no serious 
ambiguities of form which made imperative the use of von. All the 
tendencies in the literary language were in the direction of the reten- 
tion and the steady use of the synthetic genitive. The modern use of 
von in the partitive category rests, in general, upon the same basis as 
in the ninth century. It is employed only to emphasize the idea of 
separation: "Geben Sie mir ein Stuck vom Braten" emphasizes the 
idea of separation which is about to take place, while the appositional 
construction, "Das Kind hielt ein Stuck Braten in der Hand," 
contains the partitive idea without the idea of separation. There 
is here a double form and there is always a tendency to differentiate 
forms. It is possible that the so-called appositional construction 
here is dimly felt as a reduced form of the old synthetic form so that 
the new analytic and the old synthetic forms stand in contrast to 
each other. The former emphasizes the idea of separation, the latter 
contains the usual partitive idea as found in the synthetic partitive 
genitive. Differentiation cannot usually take place here in English, 
as we usually have only one form. The analytic form has not now 
its original idea of separation as it has been pressed into service as 
a substitute for the older ambiguous discarded synthetic genitive. 
Hence without differentiation in form we say: "Give me a piece 
of the roast meat," and "The child held a piece of roast meat in its 
hand," using "of" in both cases. 

The new analytic partitive genitive plays an important r61e in 
the development and spread of the new form. The origin of the 


12 George 0. Cubme 

old synthetic genitive is wrapped in complete darkness, but the 
principal source of the development of the new analytic form is in 
the new partitive genitive with "of" and von, which had already in 
the ninth century developed considerable force. Other genitive 
categories closely related to the partitive genitive laid aside their 
old historic form and assumed the new form employed in the partitive 
category. We shall now take up these different categories one by one. 
Very closely related to the partitive genitive is the genitive of 
material or composition: "and wundon cyne-helm of pornum" 
(Corpus, Matt. 27:29), "and when they had platted a crown of 
thorns" (King James Version), "plectentes coronam de spinis." 
We are here at the very source of the attributive construction. We 
cannot tell whether of pornum is an adverbial element modifying the 
verb or whether it is an attributive modifier of the noun cyne-helm. 
Even in the King James Version the distinction has not yet become 
clear. Today we can distinguish the adverbial element by using 
"out of" instead of simple "of" : "they made a crown out of thorns." 
Thus the "of" in the Old English was originally employed in the 
sense of "out of" and even in attributive function retained for 
centuries its full original force. Indeed, it must have been difficult 
at first to distinguish attributive and adverbial functions. In the 
translation of these same Latin words the glossarist of the Lindis- 
farne MS (about 950 a.d.) in John 19 : 2 seems to have tried to differ- 
entiate them: "8a oegnas gewundun of dornum 8a corna, or f>aet 
sigbeg of dornum." In the first use of of dornum we have beyond 
doubt the adverbial function, in the second it seems as though the 
glossarist intended the attributive use, as he puts it after the noun. 
It seems as though he were not entirely sure whether de spinis was 
an adverbial or an adnominal element and hence gave both trans- 
lations. We have a clear case of adnominal use in the Corpus 
Version: "se iohannes hsefde reaf of olfenda hserum" (Matt. 3:4), 
"John had raiment of camel's hair," "ipse iohannes habebat uesti- 
mentum de pilis camelorum." The Latin model has not been given 
because the writer thinks that the English has been influenced by it. 
The Corpus Version is characterized by great simplicity and inde- 
pendence. The development in English here runs parallel with the 
Latin. The analytic form is also found here in the Lindisfarne and 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 13 

Rushworth MSS. It is quite probable that the analytic genitive 
of material was common in the plain prose of the late Old English 
period, for Mr. George Shipley in his Genitive Case in Anglo-Saxon 
Poetry, p. 89, gives an older example from poetry, which in general 
is quite conservative with regard to the use of new forms: "psere 
burge weard | anne manlican of er metodes est, | gyld of golde, gumum 
araerde" ("Daniel," 175, eighth century), "the lord of the city 
set up for the people against the Creator's will an image, an idol 
of gold." In German we find a case in the ninth century : " flehtente 
corona fon thornon" (Tatian, 200:2). We find here the same am- 
biguity as in the first English examples given above. The later 
spread of the analytic form is due in both English and German to 
the vivid force of "of," not to the loss of the declensions. Of course 
the loss of inflection facilitated the development in English. In 
1200 a.d. the triumph of the English analytic form is almost complete. 
In German the old synthetic genitive persisted throughout the 
Middle High German period and in figurative language is even still 
found: "Die Sonne versinkt hinter einer Wehr weisser Berge im 
Westen" (Ernst Zahn). Also in the broad sense of composition: 
"ein Schwann Heuschrecken," "eine Reihe bliihender Kinder." 
In spite of full inflectional forms, however, the analytic form has 
elsewhere by reason of the graphic force of von gained a complete 
victory: "ein Ring von Gold," etc. On the other hand, in com- 
pounds the oldest form, i.e., the synthetic genitive in the position 
before the noun, is still well preserved: "Dornenkrone," "Blumen- 
kranz," etc. 

The possessive genitive is in the new development closely related 
to the partitive idea as clearly seen in the following examples: 
"pat gemong Sara wyrtana of ivxzm treum receles" (Lindisfarne 
Glosses, John 19:39, about 950 a.d.), "the mixture made from the 
leaves of two fragrant trees." "paet he pe Sone ele syllan sceolde of 
pom treowe Saere myldheortnysse" ("The Harrowing of Hell," 
eleventh century, Bright, Anglo-Saxon Reader, p. 130), "that he 
should give thee the oil of the tree of mercy." In the first example 
the leaves belong to the tree but here they are represented as having 
been taken from the trees. The same is true of the oil in the second 
example. Here, perhaps, the idea of separation is stronger than 


14 Gbobge O. Cueme 

the idea of possession. In the following example the idea of separa- 
tion is entirely absent and the idea of possession alone remains: "Ne 
for-wyr9 a locc of eowrum heafde" (Corpus, Luke 21:18), "But 
there shall not a hair of your head perish." A single hair is a part 
of the head, it also belongs to the head. In still earlier periods the 
idea of possession ruled here supremely. From late Old English 
on the imagery of the language changed a little. For the expression 
of the conception of belonging to something as an integral part or 
an essential element the old synthetic genitive was discarded and the 
preposition "of" was employed, which retained in large measure its 
old original partitive idea, but with a new application of its force. 
Thus we read in the Saxon Chronicle for the year 992 E of the "Abb 
(ud) of Burch," "the abbot of Burch," for the year 1066 D 
of "Harold cyng of Eoferwic," "Harold king of York," "Harold 
cyng of Norwegon," etc. For this same year, however, in MS E 
we find the older synthetic genitive with the older conception of 
personal ownership : "Harold se Norrena cyng." The old synthetic 
form is still employed in warm poetic language, but by reason of 
the lack of a clear genitive form for the plural we today use the 
singular: "England's king," "Albion's queen," etc. The new 
analytic form also occurs in the German Otfrid: "ther keisor fona 
rumu" (1. 11. 2). As in this last example the analytic genitive is 
still used in German in formal titles, as in "der Kaiser von Deutsch- 
land," but in warm poetic language we can say: " Deutschland's 
Kaiser" (indicating pride in ownership). The analytic form is also 
employed in case of names of places ending in a sibilant: "die Strassen 
von Paris," but "die Strassen Berlins." Here the use of von is a 
mere matter of form. The s of the genitive ending in words ending in 
a sibilant is lost in the preceding s and the form is not felt as a clear 
genitive ending. Instead of the synthetic genitive we find the appo- 
sitional construction where the possessive idea disappears: "das 
Portrat W. Zimmermann," "the portrait of [representing] W. 
Zimmermann," "der Antrag Rumelin," "the motion made by 
Rumelin," etc. In general, however, the old synthetic form is 
remarkably well preserved in German in the possessive category. 
In English on the contrary it has almost entirely disappeared in case 
of nouns representing things. 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 15 

Why in the possessive category is the analytic genitive so much 
more used in English than in German ? There are two chief factors 
which favored in English the spread of the analytic form, the graphic 
force of the preposition "of" with its clear idea of separation, source, 
or integral part, and, on the other hand, the lack of clear genitive 
forms in the later period of the decay of the old declensions. Let 
us first study the first factor. There was already in the Old English 
period a distinct feeling for the graphic force of "of" in the possessive 
category. It emphasized the idea of source more than the colorless 
synthetic genitive. Although the synthetic form was usually 
employed with nouns representing persons, "of" was sometimes even 
there preferred that the idea of source might become prominent: 
"he gesceop ealle gesceafta purh pone Sune sepe wses aefre of him 
acenned wisdom of pam wisan Faeder" (Aelfric, Preface to Genesis, 
tenth century), "He [i.e., God] created all creatures through His 
Son, who born of Him and always with Him was the wisdom of the 
wise Father." This is a beautiful use of "of." It is still vividly 
felt when we say: "he walks in the strength of God." The 
picture becomes quite different when we say: "he walks in God's 
strength." This emphasis upon possession robs man of his dignity, 
of his independence. The full force and beauty of "of" is nicely 
brought out in: "fortitudo pat is, strengpe of gode" (Vices and 
Virtues, p. 81, about 1200 a.d.). The use of the synthetic genitive 
would entirely destroy the sense. Thus it becomes perfectly clear 
that although "of" is usually employed with nouns representing 
things it also often becomes necessary with nouns denoting persons 
when the idea of source becomes more prominent than the possessive 
idea. This was never true of German in the same measure as in 
English. This tendency is old in English. It arose at a period when 
the declensions were intact. Thus it is a question of feeling, not a 
mere question of form. 

The natural fondness for the expressive "of" led to its use in 
different shades of the original meaning with different applications 
of its force: "bituih medo gemsero of decapol" (Mark 7:31, Lindis- 
farne MS, about 950 a.d.), "through the boundaries of Decapolis." 
The glossarist uses the analytic form with "of" although the Latin 
text over which he wrote the English words has the synthetic genitive 


16 George 0. Curme 

decapoleos. The " of " here has a force quite different from its original 
meaning. There is no idea of separation. It has the derived mean- 
ing of belonging to something as an integral part of it. The idea 
of an integral part is, however, rather faint. The force of "of" 
has here become almost as colorless as the older synthetic genitive, 
which we find in this same expression in the ninth century: "eal 
Breotene gemaero" (Bede, Ecclesiastical History, p. 338), "all the 
boundaries of Britain." The use of "of" here in the Lindisfarne 
MS seems to indicate a previous usage so long and steady that the 
original coloring had worn off considerably, and yet the new con- 
ception of integral part was felt vividly enough to be preferred to the 
older conception of possession. Even if the glossarist employed the 
analytic form to avoid the addition of an s to a sibilant, it remains 
true that the form was felt as a genitive. The glossarist might have 
retained the foreign genitive as he does elsewhere and as the trans- 
lator of the Corpus Version has done in this same passage. He pre- 
ferred, however, the analytic form just as we do today. The idea 
is removed a little too far from that of personal possession for the 
use of the synthetic form. Modern Swedish, which has much wider 
boundaries in the possessive idea than English, preserves the syn- 
thetic form here even though the noun ends in a sibilant: "midt 
igenom Dekapolis' gransland." The Rushworth glossarist followed 
the example of the Lindisfarne glossarist and wrote : " bitwih middum 
gimserum of decapolem." The Latin of the Rushworth text has the 
appositional construction with the non-inflection of the proper 
name: "medio finis decapolis." Thus also the Rushworth glossarist 
translated independently of his Latin model. Also in another pas- 
sage in the Lindisfarne text, John 19:39 quoted above, the English 
glossarist employs the analytic genitive independently of the Latin 
text. Thus we are forced to the conclusion that " of " had in northern 
English already attained wider boundaries than a careless reading 
of this text might suggest. This is confirmed by the remarkable 
fact that in this extensive translation consisting of the Four Gospels 
the translator or translators have never once failed to translate an 
analytic genitive by the corresponding English analytic form. The 
two forms de and ex are used in the Latin, but the English glossarist 
almost uniformly uses "of." Only occasionally does he employ 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 17 

"from": "hua is from iuh" (Matt. 7:9), "hwylc man is of eow" 
(Corpus), "what man is there of you" (King James Version). 
Usually "from" is employed with adverbial elements as in present 
usage. The "of" has begun to lose its original force and has 
developed perceptibly in the direction of becoming a mere substi- 
tute for the old synthetic genitive. This process has gone farther 
in the Lindisfarne MS than in the Corpus text: "hwa awseltes us 
Sone stan from duro 3aes byrgennes?" (Lindisfarne, Mark 16:3), 
"hwa awylt us Sysne stan of f>sere byrgene dura?" (Corpus), "who 
shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher ? " (King 
James Version). Thus in the English Corpus text "of" is still 
used adverbially, and this usage continued for a long time. In the 
Lindisfarne text, on the other hand, "from" is occasionally used in 
adnominal genitive constructions, but "of" prevails in general, 
and the usage of today is already clearly foreshadowed. In German 
this differentiation between "of" and "from" was absolutely un- 
known, so that at this point the two languages from now on developed 
in different directions. In the Lindisfarne MS over against the 
many adnominal de's and ex's of the Latin text is the almost uniform 
"of" in the English glosses, a clear indication of the almost com- 
plete crystallization of the usage so familiar to us today. The 
firmness of this northern usage becomes apparent when we observe 
that the glossarist does not once put a second form, a synthetic 
genitive, alongside the "of," for it is his common practice to give two 
or three translations in cases where he is not quite sure whether he 
has rendered the word idiomatically. He often gives a close trans- 
lation and then gives a freer, more idiomatic rendering. He is 
uniformly contented to translate the analytic genitive de or ex by the 
analytic "of," for it corresponds to the common usage of his dialect. 
The use of "of" as a mere substitute for the synthetic genitive 
is found not only in northern English but also in the literary language 
of the South: "sum seoc man waes genemned lazarus of bethania 
of marian caestre and of martham his swustra" (Corpus, John 11:1), 
"Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the 
town of Mary and her sister Martha" (King James Version). The 
word-order here is very interesting. In the King James Version we 
have the modem order as found when we use "of." In the Corpus 


18 George 0. Cuhme 

text we have the older order as found when we use the synthetic form, 
as in "John's hat and William's." We often find this order in the 
Corpus text: "iocobes broSor and Iosepes" (Mark 6:3). In the 
passage from John 11:1 the author of the Corpus text used a syn- 
thetic genitive in the first instance and the new analytic genitive in 
the second instance, which in literal translation would now read 
"Bethany, Mary's home town and also that of Martha, his sisters." 
In modern English we must insert here the determinative "that." 
We do not now use the mixed form much, but it occasionally occurs. 
It is hard to account for the analytic form here in the Corpus text 
on the basis of the meaning. The "of," as in the Lindisfarne example 
quoted in the preceding paragraph, has entirely lost its original mean- 
ing. It is evidently used as a mere substitute for the synthetic 

The author of the Corpus text does what we told above of the 
author of the Lrindisfarne Glosseshe — he employs the analytic genitive 
where his Latin model has a synthetic form: "ne eom ic asend buton 
to pam sceapum f>e forwurdon of isrsela huse" (Matt. 15:24), "I 
am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (King James 
Version). The Latin text of the Lindisfarne MS has the synthetic 
form here: "domus israel." The same Latin reading is found in the 
Rushworth MS, also in Tatian. We do not know whether the Latin 
text used by the Corpus translator was different from the other texts. 
In general, however, this translator proceeds quite independently 
of the Latin text. He often uses the analytic genitive, often the old 
synthetic form without regard to the Latin model. He is familiar 
with both forms and uses both freely. This is true not only of the 
possessive category of which we are talking, but also of the other 
genitive categories. This translator was writing in a literary lan- 
guage with firm transitions fixed by centuries of usage. He natu- 
rally departed from tradition only under strong pressure, for he was 
undoubtedly a man of culture and refinement and had the conserva- 
tive regard for literary models that naturally accompanies culture 
and education. A learned man lives not only in the present but also 
in the past. Not only his thought but also his language is connected 
with the past. It must have been a really strong pressure that could 
lead a learned man to lay aside the established grammar of his 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 19 

language. This strong pressure in the present instance was the 
strong tendency that undoubtedly existed in spoken English toward 
the use of the analytic genitive. If "of" is used a large number of 
times in this translation it was surely used much more in natural 
spoken language. When this literary language disappeared in the 
twelfth century and dialect took its place, in every part of England 
"of" appeared at once with the wide boundaries of usage that it has 
today. This usage had been developing for centuries in the spoken 
language. In the same way the instances of the use of the analytic 
genitive in the Late Latin were only a faint indication of the strength 
that the new development had acquired in popular usage. We now 
turn to the consideration of the possessive genitive in the later period 
to study the formal factors involved in the development of the 
analytic genitive. 

We have seen in the preceding paragraphs that there was a 
natural inclination toward the use of the analytic genitive with "of" 
on account of a widespread fondness for the vivid force of its mean- 
ing over against the colorless synthetic genitive. The development 
of the new form was further favored by a mere formal force — the 
decay of the old declensions and the resulting ambiguity on account 
of the lack of distinctive endings. This disintegration began in the 
North. It can be noticed in the Lindisfarne Glosses: "sunu 3e 
monnes" (Luke 17:30), "the Son of man." The article de has lost 
its inflection here. Also the declensions of nouns and adjectives in 
this same manuscript show abundant signs of approaching disin- 
tegration. Later in all parts of England the old declensions of nouns 
and adjectives were quite thoroughly destroyed by a natural process 
of development. Doubtless the Norman-French invasion hastened 
this process, because it led to the neglect of the literary language. A 
rich, live literature always has a conserving power. The loss of in- 
flection here completed the work of the destruction of the syn- 
thetic genitive. The form was beginning to lose its popularity on 
account of its colorless meaning; now it became impossible on account 
of the loss of the different declensions. There was nothing left to 
distinguish the singular from the plural. The genitive singular and 
plural now ended in s. If we did not have the analytic genitive we 
should have to say: The branches the trees, the marbles the boys, 


20 George 0. Cuhme 

the fingers the hands, the legs the chairs, the eyes the girls, the grass 
the fields, the sides the mountains, the soil the valleys, etc. There 
is here no sense at all, it is all pure nonsense. It is not the English 
language, it is no language at all; for the most elementary language 
of the crudest people means something, but these words mean 
nothing. Someone might thoughtlessly reply that these are onry a 
few well-chosen examples, but the writer replies that there are many 
thousands of examples just as good. It was, moreover, not only the 
absolute danger of ambiguity that militated against the use of the 
old synthetic form in this reduced state of the inflectional systems. 
The rudest suggestion sometimes conveys an idea with perfect accu- 
racy. A mere fragment of a sentence reveals often the entire thought. 
The normal thought of a people, however, usually demands a clear 
grammatical expression. The mind is as much disturbed by slovenly 
conditions of speech as our bodily feeling is sensible to slovenly 
conditions around us. It demands imperatively law and order. In 
the words "chiueringe of to3en" (Vices and Virtues, p. 19, about 
1200 a.d.), "the gnashing of teeth," the "of" was inserted because 
the grammatical relations of the old synthetic genitive toden was not 
clearly expressed. The case might possibly be nominative, genitive, 
dative, or accusative. The connection suggested the genitive, but 
the feeling of the author demanded a clear and orderly expression 
and hence he inserted "of." In the same way a German says: 
"Blatter von Blumen" to avoid the slovenly expression "Blatter 
Blumen." Such language would sound more like baby talk than 
intelligent speech. 

There is a remarkable law here which defines accurately just 
what constitutes slovenly speech. Any deficiency of form however 
slight is considered unpardonable slovenliness if the form follows the 
governing noun, while the same deficiency is regarded as perfectly 
satisfactory if the form stands before the noun. This law can best 
be studied in the English of the twelfth century. At this time a 
few adjective forms occasionally retained the older inflection. In 
this case the older synthetic genitive was retained even where it 
followed the noun: "seinte poul hegest aire lorf>ew" {Old English 
Homilies, Series 2, p. 153), "St. Paul, the greatest of all teachers." 
It should be noticed here that the genitive is not a possessive genitive 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 21 

but a partitive and hence one that would naturally incline to the new 
analytic form, but the clear genitive form aire made the synthetic 
form possible even at this late date. It should also be noticed that 
the genitive lorjbew is not a clear genitive, as it is exactly like the 
singular. It expresses neither the case nor the number clearly, but 
it did not give offense here, as the preceding adjective expressed 
number and case clearly. The same thing is found in modern Ger- 
man: "Der Vater des jungen Goethe." Here Goethe has no ending 
at all, but it is not felt as imperfect as the preceding article expresses 
the genitive relation clearly. Now it should be noticed that these 
inflected adjective forms are in direct contact with the preceding 
noun. This explains the fact that the genitive that precedes the 
governing noun does not give offense, even though the preceding 
adjectives are not inflected. The genitive of the noun usually has a 
clear genitive form and this genitive is in direct contact with the 
following governing noun: "pis childes witige gost" (ibid., p. 127), 
" this child's prophetic spirit." Here pis is uninflected but childes has 
a clear genitive form and is in direct contact with the governing noun 
and its modifiers. Thus inflection was demanded only at the point 
where the two components of the adnominal group touched each 
other. This law the writer names "the law of immediate contact" 
for the want of a better term. The law is so simple that it must have 
been noticed by others, but the writer has not been able to find any 
record of it in his studies. This simple law explains the entire develop- 
ment in English. The danger of ambiguity in many places must have 
facilitated this development but the law itself has nothing to do with 
ambiguity. Swedish has much fuller synthetic forms than English 
and thus the danger of ambiguity was not as great, but the develop- 
ment there as in English was entirely controlled by the law of imme- 
diate contact. Thus after the loss of the inflection of the article 
and of adjectives the synthetic form entirely disappeared in English 
and Swedish wherever it followed the governing noun. 

Thus the study of this development does not point to French 
influence. The English language had developed the analytic form 
centuries before the Norman French came in. It was used at first 
for its vivid force. When the different declensions were destroyed, 
the analytic form already in a nourishing state of development simply 


22 Geokge O. Cueme 

replaced it. The development was so natural and inevitable that 
the writer rejects in his own thought the suggestion of the faintest 
influence from the French. Swedish, far removed from French influ- 
ences, has had a similar development. The only difference in the 
development in the two languages is the stronger life of the analytic 
form in English. This is amply accounted for by the strong inclina- 
tion to the analytic form which was already manifest in the literary 
language of the Old English period and by the later destruction of 
this literary language. The conserving power of the literary standard 
form of speech was eliminated and the language entirely given over 
to the dialects that in still greater measure favored the analytic 
genitive. We can see very plainly in modern German how the 
dialects favor the analytic form. 

The word-order is an important element in the study of the 
possessive genitive. The old synthetic genitive is preserved wherever 
it precedes the governing noun: "John's father," "the boy's father," 
"the emperor of Germany's father," "death's grip," "the sun's rays," 
"the earth's axis," "the planet's orbit," "hell's fire," "the World's 
Fair," "the jury's verdict," "a stone's throw," "a day's journey," 
"a quarter of an hour's ride," "a boat's length," "at a moment's 
notice," "the next day's supply," "the ship's crew," "my journey's 
end," "for goodness' sake," "for conscience' sake," "good for good's 
sake," "at his wits' end," "to his heart's content," "out of harm's 
way," "yesterday's mail," and many others. The list was once 
larger: "at his beddes heed" (Chaucer's "Prolog," 293), "unto our 
lyues ende" (ibid., "The Shipman's Tale," 434), etc. This usage 
is, in general, limited to the singular, as the plural form does not 
differ from the singular and could not in most cases be recognized 
as such. We say "the children's hats," "the women's hats," "men's 
clothing," but "the hats of the girls," etc. 

It is a remarkable fact that the synthetic genitive has not been 
preserved in a single instance where it formerly stood after its govern- 
ing noun. The ambiguity of the form here or the slovenliness of 
the form by reason of the lack of clear case forms to indicate in an 
orderly way the grammatical relations, as illustrated above, usually 
made its use impossible. It might have been used in the few cases 
where the noun had a different genitive form in the singular and plural 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 23 

as "woman's" and "women's," "man's" and "men's," "child's" 
and "children's," but these words almost uniformly stood before 
the governing noun. On the other hand, in the cases where these 
words or others stood after the governing noun the old synthetic 
genitive was impossible by the operation of the law of immediate 
contact explained above, for the preceding article was uninflected. 
Moreover, there was a strong tendency to the use of "of" on account 
of its meaning. Thus the two most powerful factors, form and mean- 
ing, conspired here to destroy the synthetic genitive wherever it 
followed the noun. It was purely native forces that brought about 
the loss of this form. The English-speaking people no longer had a 
choice here between the synthetic and analytic forms as in the period 
of richer inflection. They were forced to discard entirely the older 
genitive. The only way to prove French influence here would be to 
show that French has influenced English where the genitive stood 
before the noun, i.e., in the possessive category in the narrow sense, 
i.e., literal personal possession. This is, however, the only place 
where the old synthetic genitive has been preserved in its full extent. 
Thus it is quite clear that the loss or preservation of the synthetic 
form was solely a question of its position and its position was a 
question of its meaning. We turn now to a study of these two 

In oldest Germanic the genitive could stand either before or after 
its governing noun, but it preferred the position before it. The 
same is true of adjectives. Gradually the adjective began to aban- 
don the position after the noun and became ever more and more 
fixed in the position before the noun. In the same measure the 
genitive began to abandon the position before the noun and became 
established after the noun. The process went on steadily in both 
English and German for centuries. Only one class of genitives re- 
mained fixed before the noun, the possessive genitive in the narrow 
sense of personal possession. The only explanation for this remark- 
able exception that presents itself to the writer is the close relation 
in meaning between the possessive genitive and the possessive adjec- 
tive or pronoun. Thus "his book" might have influenced "John's 
book. " It seems a little easier to account for the gradual movement of 
the other genitives to the position after the noun. With advancing 


24 George O. Curme 

culture language loses its simplicity of structure. The sentences 
become more involved in intricate hypotactical formations. The 
genitive becomes loaded with modifiers of different kinds, other 
genitives, relative clauses, etc. It often became necessary to place 
the genitive with its modifiers after the governing noun. At the 
same time it often became desirable or even necessary to put the 
adjective modifiers before the governing noun. Neither in case of 
adjectives nor of genitives, however, was this change of position in 
every case a mere matter of convenience in the arrangement of words. 
There were psychological factors at work. There was a tendency 
for adjectives, especially pronominals, as "this," "that," "such," etc., 
to seek a position before the subject to establish a closer connection 
with what preceded. In case of genitives, as we have seen, the 
meaning of the genitive categories had considerable influence. 

In oldest English a genitive of any kind whatever preceded the 
governing noun if it had the natural sentence accent: "No his lif- 
gedal | sarlic puhte sicga aenegum, | |>ara-|>e," etc. (Beowulf, 841- 
42), "His deth did not seem grievous to any of the men who," etc. 
The measure shows clearly that sicga is stressed. Hence it precedes 
its governing word although it is a partitive genitive which in later 
English preferred the position after the governing word. Of course, 
a possessive genitive can also stand before its governing word if it 
has the sentence accent: "Unfer3 maSelode Ecglafes beam" (Beo- 
wulf, 499), "Unferth the son of Ecglaf spoke." The situation 
changed materially before the end of the Old English period. The 
genitive that precedes the governing noun is often unaccented: 
"gif ge dbrahames beam synt wyrceacS abrahames weorc" (Corpus, 
John 8:39), "if you were Abraham's children ye would do the works 
of Abraham." We have no poetic measure here with its well-known 
accents to guide us, but it seems quite probable that the first abra- 
hames is accented, while the second one is without sentence stress. 
The stress falls upon weorc. The sentence stress has nothing to do 
with the position as in oldest English. Other considerations which 
have been mentioned in the preceding paragraph now control the 
word-order. The word abrahames in both cases precedes the govern- 
ing word because it denotes possession. The more pronounced the idea 
of personal possession is, the more natural it is to put the genitive 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 25 

before the noun. The more indistinct this idea becomes, the more 
natural it is to put the genitive after the noun. Of course, the 
genitive that followed the noun later assumed the analytic form as 
explained above. Hence in the translation of this last example the 
authors of the King James Version used "Abraham's" in the first 
instance but "of Abraham" in the second instance, as the first case 
seemed a possessive genitive while the second seemed more a geni- 
tive of characteristic. Wyclif's translation of this passage reads: 
"if je ben the sones of Abraham do je werkis of Abraham." The 
syntax of this fourteenth-century translation is here nearer that 
of our own time than that of the King James Version. These 
Jews were not the sons of Abraham in the literal sense; they 
had, however, descended from him. Hence the "of" of the analytic 
genitive expresses this idea better. Thus we should more naturally 
say: "if you were the genuine disciples of Christ you would be more 
like him" than: "if you were Christ's genuine disciples." This 
latter expression seems to us to apply rather to the historic company 
of twelve. We do not say "the hat of John," because we feel the 
"of" as meaningless, but we may say either "by the grace of God" or 
"by God's grace" according to the meaning. We incline, however, 
more naturally to the use of "by the grace of God," for we do not 
think so much of the idea of possession as we do of the idea of the 
source of the manifold mercies that come to us. 

We may see the difference between the synthetic genitive of 
possession and the analytic genitive with "of," but it may be a little 
more difficult to see how this differentiation in large measure corre- 
sponds to the older distinction of placing the synthetic possessive 
genitive before the noun and the same synthetic genitive after the 
noun to indicate the other genitive categories. The facts of the 
German and English languages, however, point clearly to this differ- 
entiation. The exact boundaries of the idea of possession vary very 
much. A few examples are here given to show what wide bound- 
aries this idea still had about 1000 a.d. in English : " topa gristbitung " 
(Corpus, Matt. 8:12), "gnashing of teeth," subjective genitive; 
"uppan oliuetes dune" (ibid., Matt. 26:30), "the Mount of Olives," 
appositive genitive; "iudea cyning" (ibid., Matt. 27:27), "King of 
the Jews," possessive genitive; "swina heord," "a herd of swine" 


26 George 0. Curme 

(ibid., Matt. 8:30), genitive of composition, material, etc.; "mannes 
sunu" (ibid., Matt. 8:20), "the son of man"; " paes temples wahryft" 
(ibid., Luke 23:45), "the veile of the temple"; "Sses haelendes fet" 
(ibid., John 12:3), "the feet of Jesus"; "godes weg" (ibid., Matt. 
22:16), "the way of God"; "of pses wingeardes wsestme" (Luke 
20:10), "of the fruit of the vineyard." These expressions show 
plainly that the idea of possession in 1000 a.d. is quite different from 
that which obtains today. As we do not know what the origin of 
the synthetic genitive was, we do not know whether we have the 
right to say that the idea of possession is the central thought in all 
these examples, but the fondness of these words for the position 
before the noun seems to indicate this. Many of them still maintain 
this position, as "a stone's throw," "a boat's length," "the sun's 
rays," etc. Older usage is especially tenacious in the parts of the body 
in connection with a noun indicating a living being: "the cat's eye," 
or "the eye of the cat," but "the eye of a pansy," "the eye of a 
needle." In the Corpus Version we find: "purh are nsedle eage" 
(Luke 18:25), "A nedlis ije" (Purvey), "A needle's eye" (King 
James Version). The old conception is that of possession, the new 
one that of an integral part. The Old English expression "Mannes 
sunu" was also firmly fixed in English feeling. Wyclif and his 
reviser Purvey with their "Mannes sone" remain throughout their 
translation consistently true to the Old English. Later the idea 
of source displaced the older idea of possession as seen by the modern 
form "the son of man." The list of possessive genitives was greater 
in 1000 a.d., not only because the boundaries of the possessive idea 
were greater but also because the rich inflection of that period made 
it possible to use the genitive here freely in the plural: "wydywyna 
hus" (Luke 20:47), "the houses of widewes" (Purvey), "widows' 
houses" (King James Version). The fourteenth-century Purvey is 
closer to modern usage than the authors of the King James Version. 
Although we often follow the usage of the King James Version here 
and elsewhere in colloquial usage, we in general avoid the synthetic 
form here. The usage here in 1000 a.d. was not at all fixed except 
in case of geographical names, as "oliuetes dune," etc. The writer 
has not found a single instance where such genitives stood after the 
governing noun at this time. In all the other cases, however, these 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 27 

genitives also followed the noun. Wherever in any case the posses- 
sive idea was not quite distinct they inclined to the position after the 
noun. The examples are countless and only a few need to be given to 
indicate the nature of the usage. In a very large number of cases the 
idea of possession yields to the conception of inherence: "|>a micelan 
mihte his godcundnysse " (Sweet, Selected Homilies of Aelfric, p. 48), 
"the great power of his divinity"; "pa deopnyssa paere lare" (ibid., 
p. 54), "the depth of the teaching"; "pare nytennysse his gecorenan 
Cupberhtes" (ibid., p. 64), "the ignorance of his chosen follower 
Cuthbert." The idea of possession very often yields to the con- 
ception of source: "purh gife Hselendes Cristes" (ibid., p. 31), "by 
the grace of our Savior Christ," but also with the possessive idea as 
in "purh Godes gife" (ibid., p. 30), "by the grace of God." The 
idea of source is especially frequent in the subjective genitive: 
"purh mynegunge gelimplices lareowes" (ibid., p. 64), "through 
the admonitions of a suitable teacher"; "purh gescyldnysse sopes 
Drihtnes" (ibid., p. 68), "by the protection of the true God." 
These two categories, inherence and source, are very much used. 
Their meanings, "contained in" and "coming from," are closely 
related to the meaning of the preposition "of." When the declen- 
sions lost their distinctive endings it was very easy to pass from these 
synthetic genitives denoting inherence and source to the analytic 
genitive with "of." Attention has already been called to the fact 
that the analytic possessive genitive that originated in the partitive 
idea was already at this time in actual use. It was naturally adapted 
for use also in these two large categories, for the "of" of the new 
analytic possessive genitive no longer contained the possessive 
idea pure and simple but ideas closely related to inherence and 

Personal pronouns in the possessive genitive case have today a 
position different from that of nouns. In early Middle English, 
however, they sometimes had the same position as nouns. When- 
ever the possessive idea became indistinct and the idea of inherence, 
an integral part, or source became distinct they assumed the analytic 
form and followed the governing noun. "Wherefore I wole answere 
in this manere | by the leve of you" (Chaucer's "Merchantes Tale," 
11. 949-50). The idea here is that of source. In case of a genitive 


28 George 0. Cubme 

of a noun we would still employ Chaucer's order and say: "I did 
it with the permission of my father." We also have the idea of 
source in Chaucer's "Withouten help or grace of thee." In "whan 
that I considere your beautee | and ther-with-al the unlykly elde 
of me" (ibid., 11. 935-6) the idea is that of inherence. We do not 
possess age. It inheres. In case of nouns we should still say: "The 
beauty of the granddaughter contrasted strongly with the unsightly 
age of the grandmother." In Middle English this analytic genitive 
of a pronoun is found after the noun even in plain prose: "the 
voicis of hem woxen stronge" (Purvey, Luke 23:23), "The voices 
of them and of the chief priests prevailed" (King James Version). 
Again we have the idea of inherence. " Not as the scribes of hem 
and the Farisees" (Purvey, Matt. 7:29). The Jews did not possess 
scribes. The scribes were an integral part of their system. This 
passage from Matthew reads in the Corpus Version: "ne swa hyre 
boceras and sundorhalgan." Here we have the old idea of possession. 
The next step would be to put the genitive after the noun, and this 
order we find in the Lindisfarne Glosses: "ne suae uSuta Mora." 
We do not know whether the order here was the one found in actual 
speech, for the glossarist in this manuscript usually followed the word- 
order of the Latin original, as he simply wrote the English equivalent 
of every word over the Latin word. The change in the word-order 
of pronouns did not occur as early as the change in case of the nouns. 
The writer has not found in Old English a single synthetic genitive 
of a possessive pronoun after the governing noun except in the Lindis- 
farne Glosses. These Lindisfarne forms may not represent actual 
spoken speech, but it is possible that they do, for the language of the 
North often foreshadowed the later development of the South and 
Midland. The writer has found in German a few cases of the syn- 
thetic genitive of a personal pronoun standing after the noun : " Meine 
Mutter hatte meine Abwesenheit des Morgens beim Tee durch ein 
friihzeitiges Ausgehen meiner zu beschonigen gesucht" (Goethe, 
Dichtung und Warheit, Erster Teil, Funftes Buch). If such forms 
actually existed in English the writer feels that he ought to have 
found some traces of them. He is inclined to the opinion that the 
analytic forms which stand after the governing noun as quoted above 
from Chaucer and Purvey arose from the analogy of the usage with 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 29 

nouns and thus did not come from older synthetic genitives which 
had shifted their position to the place after the noun. As far as the 
writer can see, the Old English usage here continued without change 
through the transitional period up to the fourteenth century, when 
the pronouns began to follow the usage of nouns which had been con- 
stantly growing more common. The synthetic genitive found in 
the passage quoted above from Goethe originated in the same way: 
It followed the common usage in nouns. As the genitive of nouns 
with this shade of meaning followed the governing noun, the genitive 
of pronouns sometimes assumed the same position. 

The usage of placing an analytic genitive of a personal pronoun 
after its governing noun has disappeared except in a few colloquial 
phrases : " for the life of me," as in " I couldn't for the life of me recall 
his name." "That will be the death of you." At one point, how- 
ever, the analytic genitive of personal pronouns cannot be avoided 
and hence is in general use. In connection with pronouns, as "all," 
"both," "three," etc., a real personal pronoun must be used, and 
hence the analytic forms "of you," etc., must be employed, as there 
are no synthetic genitives of personal pronouns which are clearly felt 
as such: "my book and the books of you all" (or, "you both," "you 
three," etc.). The synthetic genitive of personal pronouns has been 
confounded with the possessive adjectives "my," "his," etc., which 
now serve not only as possessive adjectives but also as the possessive 
genitive of personal pronouns except in connection with the pro- 
nouns "all," "both," etc., where a real personal pronoun must be 
used and not an adjective. Thus in the example just given the pos- 
sessive adjective "my" is used before "book," but in connection with 
"all" the analytic genitive "of you" is employed. The German 
also uses the possessive adjective in the first case, but employs the 
old synthetic genitive in the second: "mein Buch and Ihrer aller 
Bucher." About 1200 a.d. the English synthetic genitive was still 
in use here: "here beire friend" {Vices and Virtues, p. 81), "the 
friend of them both"; "ure aire heaued" (ibid., p. 131), "the head of 
us all." Aside from this one special case of use with the pronouns 
"all," "both," "three," etc., it seems that there was once a chance of 
a fine differentiation between the possessive adjectives and the 
analytic genitive of the personal pronouns. By the disappearance 


30 George O. Cubme 

of the analytic genitive we have lost a fine and beautiful shade of 
meaning. Why did it disappear? The writer feels inclined to 
answer: "Did it really disappear?" Was it ever a fixed part of the 
language ? After the analogy of nouns, a number of attempts were 
made to extend this expressive usage to pronouns, but alongside the 
few examples of this new usage were countless examples of the use 
of the old possessive in the position before the noun. At first thought 
it seems strange that this stupid, colorless possessive adjective could 
ever completely triumph over the expressive analytic form that had 
elsewhere scored so many victories. As we shall see below, insuper- 
able difficulties were in the way of the spread of the analytic form 
at this point. 

Mr. Eugen Einenkel raises the question whether the use of the 
analytic genitive of the personal pronouns as described in the two 
preceding paragraphs is not of French origin. It seems at first 
probable, for the examples began to appear at the time when French 
influence was strongest. The more, however, we study the ques- 
tion the less probable it seems. It is a clear fact that the objective 
genitive of a noun has become firmly fixed in the position after the 
noun, as in "the capture of the city," etc. It was only a natural 
result that the objective genitive of pronouns should assume this 
same position: "It will be the ruination of you." The development 
was a natural one, but it did not become strong. The old position 
before the noun is still more common: "my defeat," "his overthrow," 
"his ruin," "to my utter consternation," "it ended in our complete 
humiliation," "my bodily injuries," "his promotion to a higher 
grade," "his reduction to a lower grade," etc. The position after 
the noun is only in free use where it is necessary to prevent 
ambiguity: "fear of us," "hatred of us," etc. Mr. Einenkel mis- 
understands the English development here where he in his Streifzuge, 
p. 85, thinks that the position of the genitive of the pronoun after 
the governing noun is natural in case of the objective genitive, while 
it is imitation of the French in case of the possessive genitive. The 
spirit of English is equally averse to the position of the objective 
genitive after the noun. Violations of the rule occur more com- 
monly in case of the objective genitive for the simple reason that the 
position after the noun is sometimes absolutely required to make 


The Analytic Genitive in Germanic 31 

the thought clear. Thus we must say: " The sight of her " to keep 
it distinct from "her sight." That this tendency developed only in 
case of absolute ambiguity, in spite of the fact that it had become 
almost a universal rule in case of nouns, indicates very clearly that 
there must have been some hindering force in case of pronouns. 

The writer regards the new sentence accent as the hindering 
force here. Within the group made up of a noun and its modifiers the 
element that follows invariably receives in normal speech the sen- 
tence stress: "the little boy," "the boy's father" "the book on the 
table," "the capture of the city," etc. Thus the objective genitive 
invariably receives the sentence stress wherever it follows. This is 
uniformly the rule in case of nouns. The objective genitive of a 
personal pronoun does not usually follow the noun because its weak 
stress would be in conflict with the general rules for sentence accent. 
Attempts have been made at different times to place the objective 
genitive of pronouns after the noun where it naturally belongs 
according to all grammatical rules, but the harsh conflict with the 
sentence melody has prevented this grammatically and psychologi- 
cally natural tendency. Likewise in German we occasionally find 
a synthetic objective genitive of a personal pronoun after the noun: 
"aus Verachtung Euer" (Schiller); sometimes even in more recent 
literature: "die ungluckliche Nachricht der Arretierung Deiner" 
(Johann G. Reuter to his son Fritz, November 4, 1833). Where 
this word-order is unavoidable, as in case of the example from 
Schiller, prose usage prefers here the analytic form as it is a little 
heavier and gives the light pronoun a little more weight: "aus 
Verachtung fur Euch." In the example from Reuter the possessive 
would now be preferred: "die ungluckliche Nachricht Deiner 
Arretierung [or better Verhaftung]." The objective genitive of the 
personal pronoun itself can often stand after the governing noun if 
an accented word follows that can bring the construction in harmony 
with the sentence melody: "Anbeter Deiner selhst" (Wildenbruch, 
Die Quitzows, Act III). Likewise in case of the possessive genitive 
of pronouns there was an especially strong tendency to place the 
genitive after the noun and use the analytic form for the sake of its 
vivid meaning of source and inherence. In case of nouns this tend- 
ency developed into a fixed rule. In case of pronouns this natural 


32 George 0. Curme 

tendency came into conflict with the sentence accent and did not 
develop strength except where as above described the lack of inflec- 
tional endings made it necessary. That great poets like Chaucer 
and Goethe followed this tendency also elsewhere simply shows that 
in the war between the contending forces the forces of meaning had 
in their struggle with rhythm a decided advantage in the earlier 
periods. In one common case where it is necessary to place the 
genitive after the noun because a relative clause follows, modern 
usage replaces the personal pronoun by a stressed demonstrative, 
which brings the expression in perfect harmony with the sentence 
accent: "not the speech of them which [now those who] are puffed 
up" (I Cor. 4:19). Other cases of older usage have been left undis- 
turbed because an accented pronoun follows the unaccented personal 
pronoun which by its weight places the construction in harmony 
with the sentence accent: "your books and the books of us all." 
In the light of these facts it will become perfectly clear that present 
usage with regard to the position of the possessive genitive is the 
result of conflicting native forces and has not been at any point 
affected by foreign influences. 

[To be continuedl 

George O. Curme 

Northwestern University