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September 14, 2006

Naming: Nouns Decline to Conjugate, Even in Icelandic

IcelandIn reporting the Iceland Naming Committee’s approval of four new first names for babies, the Iceland Review claims that the Icelandic language “conjugates nouns as well as verbs.” This is impossible by definition, as anyone who has studied an inflected language like Latin knows. Verbs conjugate; nouns decline.

There’s an old joke about the decline (declension) of Rome that Latin students learn which may help readers remember this:

  • Roma - Nominative
  • Romae - Genitive
  • Romae - Dative
  • Romam - Accusative
  • Romā - Ablative

The Mímir Icelandic grammar website presents a strong and weak declension of nouns, each with variants for masculine, feminine, and neuter, with nominative (subject), accusative (direct object), dative (indirect object), and genitive (possessive) cases. A name which didn’t decline according to standard Icelandic grammar would confuse those trying to use it in sentences and set the child apart as “foreign.”

But conjugation, with personal names, is never at issue.

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Posted by Diane Prange at September 14, 2006 11:23 AM
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