Adverbial genitive

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In grammar, an adverbial genitive is a noun declined in the genitive case that functions as an adverb.

Adverbial genitives in English[edit]

In Old and Middle English, the genitive case was productive, and adverbial genitives were commonplace. While Modern English does not fully retain the genitive case, it has left various relics, including a number of adverbial genitives. Some of these are now analyzed as ordinary adverbs, including the following:

  • always[1] (from all way)
  • afterwards,[2] towards,[3] and so on (from their counterparts in -ward, which historically were adjectives)
  • once,[4] twice,[5] and thrice[6] (from the roots of one, two, and three)
  • hence,[7] thence,[8] and whence[9] (related to the roots of here, there, and where)

Some words were formed from the adverbial genitive along with an additional parasitic -t:

  • amidst[10] (from amid)
  • amongst[11] (from among)
  • midst[12] (from mid)
  • whilst[13] (from while)

The adverbial genitive also survives in a number of stock phrases; for example, in "I work days and sleep nights", the words days and nights, while nowadays analyzed as plural nouns, are in fact derived historically from the genitive or instrumental cases of day and night. (That they function as adverbs rather than as direct objects is clear from the rephrasing "I work during the day and sleep at night.") The modern British expression "Of an afternoon I go for a walk" has a similar origin, but uses the periphrasis "of + noun" to replace the original genitive. This periphrastic form has variously been marked as used "particularly in isolated and mountainous regions of the southern United States"[14] and as having "a distinctly literary feel".[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harper, Douglas. "always". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "afterwards". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas. "toward". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  4. ^ Harper, Douglas. "once". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  5. ^ Harper, Douglas. "twice". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  6. ^ Harper, Douglas. "thrice". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  7. ^ Harper, Douglas. "hence". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  8. ^ Harper, Douglas. "thence". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  9. ^ Harper, Douglas. "whence". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  10. ^ Harper, Douglas. "amidst". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  11. ^ Harper, Douglas. "amongst". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  12. ^ Harper, Douglas. "midst". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  13. ^ Harper, Douglas. "whilst". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  14. ^ "Our living language" comment to the entry of, page 1219, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition, Boston and New York:Houghton Mifflin, 2000 ISBN 0-395-82517-2
  15. ^ Entry of.3, page 680, Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 1994 ISBN 0-87779-132-5