Stages in deflexion and the Norwegian dative

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The four cases of Old Norse were lost in Norwegian during the Late Middle Ages. The present paper examines what happened in more detail, aiming to sort out discernible stages in the deflexion process and suggesting a relative and absolute chronology. Some Modern Norwegian (and Swedish) dialects still retain a dative case, which in itself shows that case inflection did not simply disappear. Two main phenomena will be discussed here: (a) Former genitive-governing prepositions are increasingly found with dative complements, showing that the genitive was lost as a lexical case; and (b) changes in the paradigm of some pronouns and especially the demonstrative þessi “this” indicate that marking the dative remained decisive. It thus seems that Norwegian at one stage, presumably much more widely than in present dialects, had a two-case system where dative was the only marked alternative.


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