- Vocative case
The vocative case (abbreviated voc) is the case used for a noun identifying the person (animal, object, etc.) being addressed and/or occasionally the determiners of that noun. A vocative expression is an expression of direct address, wherein the identity of the party being spoken to is set forth expressly within a sentence. For example, in the sentence, "I don't know, John," John is a vocative expression indicating the party who is being addressed, as opposed to the sentence "I don't know John," where John is the direct object of the verb, "know."
Historically, the vocative case was an element of the Indo-European system of cases, and existed in Latin, Sanskrit, and Classical Greek. Although it has been lost by many modern Indo-European languages, some languages have retained the vocative case to this day. Examples are Modern Greek, Albanian, Baltic languages such as Lithuanian and Latvian, Slavic languages such as Polish, Czech, Croatian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, and the modern Celtic languages such as Scottish Gaelic and Irish. Among the Romance languages the vocative was preserved in Romanian: it is also visible sometimes, in languages such as Catalan or Portuguese which employ the personal article but drop it in front of vocative forms. In Extremaduran and Fala language, some post-tonical vowels open in vocative forms of nouns, but it is a new development which doesn't come from the Latin vocative case. It also occurs in some non-Indo-European languages, such as Georgian.
The vocative case in Indo-European languages
Three historical Indo-European languages
Take, for example, the word for "wolf":
Case Proto-Indo-European Latin Classical Greek Sanskrit Nominative case *wl̥kʷ-o-s lup-u-s λύκ-ο-ς (lúk-o-s) vr̥k-a-s Vocative case *wl̥kʷ-e-Ø lup-e-Ø λύκ-ε (lúk-e-Ø) vr̥k-a-Ø
Notes on notation: The elements separated with hyphens denote the stem, the so-called thematic vowel of the case and the actual suffix. The symbol "Ø" means that there is no suffix in a place where other cases may have one. In Latin, e.g., the nominative case is lupus and the vocative case is lupe, whereas the accusative case is lupum. The asterisk before the Proto-Indo-European words means that they are theoretical reconstructions, not attested in a written source. The symbol ̥ (ring below) indicates a consonant serving as a vowel; it should appear directly below the "l" or "r" in these examples, but may appear after them due to font display issues.
In the singular there is no special form except for first declension nouns. These are masculine nouns ending in a broad (non-palatal) consonant which is made slender (palatal) to build the singular vocative (as well as the singular genitive and plural nominative). Adjectives are also lenited. In many cases this means that (in the singular) masculine vocative expressions resemble the genitive and feminine vocative expressions resemble the nominative.
The vocative plural is usually the same as the nominative plural except once again for first declension nouns which show the vocative plural by adding -a.
Gender masculine feminine m f English the big man the big boy the big woman the big hen John Mary Sg. Nominative an fear mór an buachaill mór an bhean mhór an chearc mhór Seán Máire Genitive an fhir mhóir an bhuachalla mhóir na mná móire na circe móire Sheáin Mháire Vocative a fhir mhóir a bhuachaill mhóir a bhean mhór a chearc mhór a Sheáin a Mháire Pl. Nominative na fir móra na buachaillí móra na mná móra na cearca móra Genitive na bhfear mór na mbuachaillí móra na mban mór na gcearc mór Vocative a fheara móra a bhuachaillí móra a mhná móra a chearca móra
In Gaelic, the vocative case causes lenition of the initial letter of names. In addition, male names are slenderized, if possible (that is, adds an 'i' before the final consonant). Also, the word a is placed before the name unless it begins with a vowel (or f followed immediately by a vowel, which becomes silent when lenited), e.g.:
Nominative case Vocative case Caitrìona a Chaitrìona Domhnull a Dhòmhnaill Màiri a Mhàiri Seumas a Sheumais Ùna Ùna
The name “Hamish” is just the English spelling of “Sheumais”, and thus is actually a Gaelic vocative. Likewise, the name “Vairi” is an English spelling of “Mhàiri”.
Cornish has retained the vocative case, with the particle being the same as in Scottish Gaelic and Irish, "a", and causing the second state mutation in the following word. Manx has the vocative case, at least to the extent of initial lenition, as has Welsh. Breton seems to have lost the vocative.
Modern English lacks a formal (morphological) vocative case. English commonly uses the nominative case for vocative expressions, but sets them off from the rest of the sentences with pauses as interjections (rendered in writing as commas).
Historically, or in poetic or rhetorical speech, the vocative role in English may also be shown by prefacing the noun or noun phrase with the English word "O". This is often seen in the King James Version of the Bible: for example, "O ye of little faith" (in Matthew 8:26). Another well-known example is the recurrent use of the vocative phrase, O (my) Best Beloved, by Rudyard Kipling in his Just So Stories. This use of O may be considered a form of clitic, and should not be confused with the interjection "Oh" (The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, section 5.197). However, as the Oxford English Dictionary points out, "O" and "Oh" were originally used interchangeably. With the advent of "Oh" as a written interjection; however, "O" is the preferred modern spelling of the vocative in English.
See also Apostrophe (figure of speech).
The vocative case can generally not be found in Icelandic, although a very few words retain an archaic vocative declension from Latin, such as the word Jesús, which is in vocative Jesú. This comes from Latin, as the Latin word for Jesus is simply Jesus and the vocative of that word is Jesu.
- Jesús (nominative) elskar þig.
- Jesus loves you.
- Ó Jesú (vocative), frelsari okkar.
- O Jesus, our saviour.
The native words sonur ("son") and vinur ("friend") also sometimes appear in the shoretened forms son and vin in vocative phrases. Additionally, adjectives in vocative phrases are always weakly declined, whereas elsewhere with proper nouns, they would usually be declined strongly.
- Kær vinur (strong adjective, full noun) er gulli betri.
- A dear friend is better than gold.
- Kæri vin (weak adjective, shortened noun), segðu mér nú sögu.
- Dear friend, tell me a story.
Unlike the other Slavic languages, Bulgarian has entirely lost its noun declension. However, Bulgarian has preserved its vocative case.
Traditional male names usually have a vocative case.
- Иван (nominative case)
- Иване (vocative case)
More recent names and foreign names may have a vocative form but it is not used (Ричарде, instead of simply Ричард (Richard) sounds strange and funny).
Vocative phrases like господин министре (Mr. Minister) have almost completely given place to the corresponding common case forms, especially in official writings.
Proper nouns usually also have vocative forms, even though they are used less frequently. The following are examples of proper nouns that are frequently used in vocative:
- бог (god)
- боже ([,] God[,])
- господ (lord)
- господи ([,] Lord[,])
- Иисус, Иисус Христос (Jesus, Jesus Christ)
- Иисусе, Иисусе Христе
- другар (comrade)
- поп (priest)
- жаба (frog)
- жабо ([,] Frog[,])
- глупак (fool)
- глупако (you, fool!)
Vocative case forms also normally exist for female given names:
Except for the forms ending in -е, these are considered rude and are normally avoided. Exception are female kinship terms, whose vocative is always used: баба/бабо (Granny), мама/мамо (Mom), леля/лельо (aunt), сестра/сестро (sister).
Nominative case Vocative case paní Eva (Ms Eve) paní Evo! (Ms Eve!) pan profesor (Mr Professor) pane profesore! (Mr Professor!) Kryštof (Christoph) Kryštofe! (Christoph!) Marek (Mark) Marku! knížka (book) knížko!
In informal speech, it is usual that the male surname (see also Czech name) is in nominative when addressing men, e.g. pane Novák! instead of pane Nováku! (Female surnames are adjectives, thus they are the same in the nominative as well as in the vocative—see Czech declension.) Teachers often address their pupils with the surname in nominative. However, such addressing can seem impolite. Using the appropriate vocative is strongly recommended in the official and written styles.
In Lithuanian, all nouns have a vocative case, which is nearly always different from a nominative case (with an exception of plurals and some feminine nouns). Replacing the vocative case with the nominative, however, remains a common mistake in everyday speech. The form that a given noun takes depends on the declension and, sometimes, gender:
- (i)a declension
- -as "vyras" (m): "vyre" (man, husband)
- -ias, -ys "svečias" (m), "gaidys" (m): "svety" (guest), "gaidy" (rooster)
- -is "brolis" (m): "broli" (brother)
Exceptions: nouns ending in -ėjas, such as "vėjas": "vėjau" (wind) and "siuvėjas": "siuvėjau" (sewer).
Male names belonging to this declension have an -ai ending in the vocative case: "Jonas" – "Jonai". Diminutive forms are normally used without an ending ("broliuk") (little brother), but a full form is also valid ("broliukai").
- (i)o declension
- -a "galva" (f): "galva" (head)
- -ia "vyšnia" (f): "vyšnia" (cherry)
- -i "marti" (f): "marčia/marti" (daughter-in-law)
Female names, such as Rasa, Rūta, etc., are spelled in the same way in the vocative case, but undergo a stress change. In the nominative case the last syllable needs to be stressed; in the vocative case, the second last: Ilona (nominative) – Ilona (vocative).
- ė declension
- -ė "katė" (f): "kate" (cat)
Some nouns of this declension (both proper ones and not) are also stressed differently: "aikštė": "aikšte" (square). The ending of diminutive forms is usually omitted: "sesutė": "sesut" (little sister).
- (i)u declension
- -us "sūnus" (m): "sūnau" (son)
- i declension
- -is "dantis" (m), "avis" (f): "dantie" (tooth), "avie" (sheep)
- -uo "vanduo" (m), "sesuo" (f): "vandenie" (water), "seserie" (sister)
- -ė "duktė" (f): "dukterie" (daughter)
In Polish, the vocative (wołacz) is formed as follows: Feminine nouns usually take -o, except those ending in -sia, -cia, -nia, and -dzia which take -u, and those ending in -ść which take -i. Masculine nouns generally follow the complex pattern of the locative case, with the exception of a handful of words such as Bóg → Boże ("God"), ojciec → ojcze ("father") and chłopiec → chłopcze ("boy"). Neuter nouns and all plural nouns are the same as in the nominative case. Here are some examples:
Nominative case Vocative case Feminine Pani Ewa (Ms Eve) Pani Ewo! (Ms Eve!) Ewusia (diminutive form of Ewa) Ewusiu! ciemność (darkness) ciemności! książka (book) książko! Masculine Pan profesor (Mr. Professor) Panie profesorze! (Mr. Professor!) Krzysztof (Christopher) Krzysztofie! (Christopher!) Krzyś (Chris) Krzysiu! (Chris!) wilk (wolf) wilku!
The nominative is increasingly used in place of the vocative in some informal contexts but is unlikely in others. The vocative remains prevalent:
- To address an individual using his/her function, title, other attribute, family role
- Panie doktorze (Doctor!), Panie prezesie! (Chairman!)
- Przybywasz za późno, pływaku (You arrive too late, swimmer)
- synu (son), mamo (mum), tato (dad)
- After adjectives, demonstrative pronouns, and possessive pronouns
- Nie rozumiesz mnie, moja droga Basiu! (You don't understand me, my dear Basia!)
- To address an individual in an offensive or condescending manner, e.g.
- Zamknij się, pajacu! ("Shut up, you buffoon!")
- Co się gapisz, idioto? ("What are you staring at, idiot!")
- Nie znasz się, baranie, to nie pisz ("Stop writing, idiot, you don't know what you're talking about!")
- Spadaj wieśniaku! ("Get lost, peasant!")
- After "Ty" (second person singular pronoun)
- Ty kłamczuchu! (You liar!)
- Set expressions, e.g.
- (O) Matko!, (O) Boże!, chłopie
The vocative is also often employed in affectionate and endearing contexts such as Kocham Cię Krzysiu! ("I love you, Chris!") or Tęsknię za Tobą, moja Żono. ("I miss you, my wife.") In addition, the vocative form sometimes takes the place of the nominative in informal conversations, e.g. "Józiu przyszedł" instead of "Józio przyszedł" (Joe came).
The historical Slavic vocative has been lost in Russian, and currently can only be found in certain cases of archaic expressions. Few of those expressions, mostly of religious origin, are very common in colloquial Russian: "Боже!" (Bozhe, vocative of "Бог" Bog, "God"), often also used in expression "Боже мой!" (Bozhe moy, "My God!"), and "Господи!" (Gospodi, vocative of "Господь" Gospod', "Lord"), which can also be expressed as "Господи Иисусе!" (Gospodi Iisuse!, Iisuse vocative of "Иисус" Iisus, "Jesus"), vocative is also used in prayers, e.g. "Отче наш!" (Otche nash, "Our Father!"). These expressions are used to express strong emotions (much like English "O my God!"), and are often combined ("Господи, Боже мой"). More examples of historical vocative can be found in other Biblical quotes that are sometimes used as proverbs, e.g. "Врачу, исцелися сам" (Vrachu, istselisya sam, "Physician, heal thyself", cf. nominative "врач", vrach). Vocative forms are also used in modern Church Slavonic. The patriarch and bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church are addressed as "владыко"(vladyko, hegemon, cf. nominative "владыка", vladyka). In the latter case the vocative form is often also incorrectly used as nominative to refer to bishops and the patriarchs.
In modern colloquial Russian given names and a small family of terms often take a special "shortened" form that some linguists consider to be a reemerging vocative case. This form is applied only to given names and nouns that end in -a and -я, which are optionally dropped in the vocative form: "Лен, где ты?" ("Lena, where are you?"). This is basically equivalent to "Лена, где ты?", the only difference being that the former version suggests a positive personal, emotional bond between the speaker and the person being addressed. Names ending in -я acquire a soft sign in this case: "Оль!" = "Оля!" ("Olga!"). In addition to given names, this form is often used with words like "мама" (mama, mom) and "папа" (papa, dad), which would be respectively "shortened" to "мам" (mam) and "пап" (pap). In plural this form is used with words such as "ребят", "девчат" (nomenative: "ребята" "девчата", guys gals).
Such usage differs from historical vocative (which would be "Leno" in the example above) and is not related to such historical usage.
Until the end of the 1980s, the existence of a distinct vocative case in the Slovak language was recognised and taught at schools. Today the case is considered lost from the language, with only a few archaic examples of the original vocative remaining in religious, literary or ironic context, such as
- Boh (God) m.: Bože
- Kristus (Christ) m.: Kriste
- pán (lord) m.: pane
- otec (father) m.: otče
- človek (man, human) m.: človeče
- chlap (man) m.: chlape
- chlapec (boy) m.: chlapče'
- Ježiš (Jesus) m.: Ježišu
- priateľ (friend) m.: priateľu
- brat (brother) m.: bratu, bratku
- syn (son) m.: synu, synku
- mama (mother) f.: mamo
- žena (woman) f.: ženo
In everyday use, the Czech vocative is sometimes retrofitted to certain words, such as
- majster (maestro) m.: majstre
- šéf (boss) m.: šéfe
- švagor (brother-in-law) m.: švagre
Another stamp of vernacular vocative is emerging, presumably under the influence of the Hungarian language for certain family members or proper names, such as
- otec (father) m.: oci
- mama (mother) f.: mami
- babka (grandmother, old woman) f.: babi
- Paľo (Paul, domestic form) m.: Pali
- Zuza (Susan, domestic form) f.: Zuzi
In Latin the form of the vocative case of a noun is the same as the nominative, except for singular second-declension nouns that end in -us in the nominative case. An example would be the famous line from Shakespeare, "Et tu, Brute?" (commonly translated as "And you, Brutus?"), where Brute is the vocative case and Brutus would be the nominative case.
Nouns ending in -ius have distinct vocatives, but instead of the expected ending -ie they simply end with -ī. Thus, Julius becomes Julī and filius becomes filī. This shortening does not shift the accent, so the vocative of Vergilius is Vergilī, with accent on the first i, even though it is short. Nouns ending in -aius and -eius have vocatives ending in -aī or -eī even though the i is consonantal in the stem.
First and second declension adjectives also have distinct vocative forms in the masculine singular whenever the nominative ends in -us, with the ending -e. Adjectives ending in -ius have vocatives in -ie; thus the vocative of eximius is eximie.
Nouns and adjectives ending in -eus do not follow the rules above. Meus forms the vocative irregularly as mī, while deus does not have a distinct vocative, and retains the form deus. "My God!" in Latin is thus mī deus!, though Jerome's Vulgate consistently (and in deviation from classical use) uses deus meus as a vocative.
- singular masculine/neuter: "-e" as in
- "om": "omule!" (man, human being),
- "băiat": "băiete!" or "băiatule!" (boy),
- "văr": "vere!" (cousin),
- "Ion": "Ioane!" (John);
- singular feminine: "-o" as in
- "soră": "soro!" (sister),
- "nebună": "nebuno!" (mad woman),
- "deşteaptă": "deşteapto!" (smart one (f), but this vocative is always used sarcastically),
- "Ileana": "Ileano!" (Helen);
- plural, all genders: "-lor" as in
- "fraţi": "fraţilor!" (brothers),
- "boi": "boilor!" (oxen, used toward people as an invective),
- "doamne şi domni": "doamnelor şi domnilor!" (ladies and lords).
Often in formal speech the vocative simply copies the nominative/accusative form, even when it does have its own. This happens because the vocative is often perceived as very direct and thus can seem rude.
The vocative case in Venetian is not marked by any ending, since Venetian has lost case endings as most Romance languages, but it is still visible on feminine proper names due to the absence of the determiner; i.e. the personal article Ła / L' which usually precedes feminine names in other cases, even in predicates. Thus, vocative case is distinguished from both nominative and accusative cases although none of them bears endings nor prepositions. On the contrary, masculine names and other nouns only rely on intonation and voice breaks.
Case Fem. proper name Masc. proper name and other nouns Nom./Acc. ła Marìa ła vien qua / varda ła Marìa!
Mary comes here / look at Mary!
Marco el vien qua / varda Marco!
Mark comes here / look at Mark!
Vocative Marìa vien qua! / varda Marìa!
Mary come here! / look, Mary!
Marco vien qua! / varda, Marco!
Mark come here! / look, Mark!
The (presence/absence of the) personal article in feminine proper names also distinguishes the vocative case from predicates, differently from the definite article ła of common nouns which is dropped even in predicative constructions.
Case Fem. proper name Masc. proper name and other nouns Pred. so' mi ła Marìa
I am Mary
so' mi Marco / so' tornà maestra
I am Mark / I am a teacher again
Vocative so' mi Marìa!
It's me, Mary!
so' mi, Marco! / so' tornà, maestra!
it's me, Mark! / I am back, teacher!
In some vernacular German, where it is common to use the (gender-)appropriate article before a person's name, the article is, as in Venetian, omitted when calling the person.
Kurdish does have a vocative case. For instance, in the Kurdish dialect of Kurmanji, this case is created by adding the suffix of -o at the end of masculine words and the -ê suffix at the end of feminine ones.
Arabic name Kurdish vocative Abdullah (m) Apo Mostafa (m) Misto Mahmud (f) Maho Sayyid (m) Saydo Zaynab (f) Zaynê Fatima (f) Fattê
It is also possible to create the vocative without using the inflection suffix by using separate words. For this, Lê (feminine) and Lo (masculine) is used.
Name Vocative Azad (m) Lo Azad! Diyar (f) Lo Diyar!
Generally, Kurdish female names are ending with the -ê suffix, and male names with -o. Examples are Nazê, Gulê, Derdo, Şemo, Aso, Memo.
The vocative case in other languages
Properly speaking, Arabic only has three cases, the nominative, accusative and genitive. However, a meaning similar to that conveyed by the vocative case in other languages is indicated by the use of the particle ya (Arabic: يا) placed before a noun. In English translations, this is often translated literally as O instead of being omitted.
Most people have first names with two characters. First names (or, more commonly, one of the characters of the first names) would be preceded by Ah in casual situations in an affectionate manner.
In Georgian, the vocative case is used for addressing the second singular and plural persons. For the word roots ending with a consonant, the vocative case suffix is -o, and for the words ending with a vowel, there is no suffix for the vocative case (the suffix used to be -v in old Georgian, but is now considered archaic). For example, kats- is the root for the word "man." If one addresses someone with this word, it becomes, katso!
Adjectives are also declined in the vocative case. Just like nouns, consonant final stem adjectives take the suffix -o in the vocative case, and the vowel final stems are not changed. Compare:
- lamazi kali "beautiful woman" (nominative case)
- lamazo kalo! "beautiful woman!" (vocative case)
In the second phrase, both the adjective and the noun are declined. The second singular and plural personal pronouns are also declined in the vocative case. Shen you(singular) and tkven you (plural) in the vocative case become, she! and tkve!, with the drop of the final -n. Therefore one could, for instance, say,
She lamazo kalo! "you beautiful woman!"
with the declination of all the elements.
The vocative case in Japanese is formed with null morpheme, i.e. without any specific particle. Examples:
- 田中さんは部長を訪問してくださる (Mr. Tanaka shall visit the boss)
- 田中さん、 部長を訪問してください (Mr. Tanaka, [please] visit the boss)
The particle は marks the subject of the first sentence, i.e. it is the nominative case marker; the particle を marks the object, i.e. it is the accusative case marker. In the second sentence, there is no particle following 田中さん thus making it vocative.
Note that particles は and が are also frequently omitted in colloquial speech without making a word vocative. Example: 田中さん部長を訪問 Mr. Tanaka visits the boss.
In archaic Japanese, or when written as verse, a particle よ and や may be affixed.
- 少年よ、大志を抱け (Boys, be ambitious, quote by William S. Clark)
- 神よ、汝の誉れはその御名のごとく (O God, Thy praise is according to Thine name, from Bach's cantata)
- じいさまや、山さ雨は降っただけ (Old man, was it raining on the mountain?)
The vocative case in Korean is commonly used with first names in casual situations. This is done by suffixing 아 (a) if the name ends in a consonant and 야 (ya) if in a vowel:
미진은 집에 가겠어? (Mijin-eun chibe kagesseo?)
"Is Mijin going home?"
미진아, 집에 가겠어? (Mijin-a, chibe kagesseo?)
"Mijin, are you going home?
동배 뭐 해? (Dongbae meo hae?)
What is Dongbae doing?
동배야, 뭐 해? (Dongbae-ya, meo hae?)
"Dongbae, what are you doing?
In formal and somewhat archaic Korean, words are suffixed with 여 (yeo) if ending in a vowel and 이여 (iyeo) if ending in a consonant. The use of these suffixes is similar to that of the Japanese よ. Thus, 少年よ、大志を抱け (Boys, be ambitious, quote by William S. Clark) would be translated as
청년들이여 대망을 가져라. (Cheongnyeondeul-iyeo, taemangeul kajyeora.) Boys, be ambitious.
There are officially only five cases in the Turkish language. All the cases are created by unique suffix. These cases are the nominative, accusative (suffix -i), dative (suffix -e), locative (suffix -de), and ablative (suffix -den). As nouns, adjectives and adverbs are not inflected at all, the cases have not the importance that is given to them in some Indo-European languages. The genitive is not considered a case at all, although it is frequently used. The existence of something like the vocative case is oblivious to people, although a case coming from Arabic is used in archaic (often religious) or cynical cases. Examples:
- ^ Jiyad, Mohammed. "A Hundred and One Rules! A Short Reference to Arabic Syntactic, Morphological & Phonological Rules for Novice & Intermediate Levels of Proficiency" (DOC). Welcome to Arabic. http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/mjiyad/Arabic%20Grammar%20Book.doc. Retrieved 2007-11-28.
- ^ "Lesson 5". Madinah Arabic. http://www.madinaharabic.com/Arabic_Language_Course/Lessons/L005_007.html. Retrieved 2007-11-28.
- ^ "Al-Baqara". http://www.quranexplorer.com/Default.aspx: Quran explorer.com. http://www.quranexplorer.com/quran/. Retrieved 2011-07-06. "O ye who believe! Seek help in steadfastness and prayer. Lo! Allah is with the steadfast. (verse 153)"
- ^ "AYET KARŞILAŞTIRMA: Bakara / 153". http://www.kuranmeali.com/: Türkçe Kur'an Mealleri. http://www.kuranmeali.com/ayetkarsilastirma.asp. Retrieved 2011-07-06. "Ey iman edenler! Sabır ve namazla yardım isteyin. Şüphe yok ki Allah, sabredenlerle beraberdir."
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- Jesús (nominative) elskar þig.
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