Friday, June 6, 2014

Sanskrit origins of English's possessive case using apostrophe

I always wondered where does the apostrophe 's come to mean possessive case. Like John's = Of John, car's = of car etc.

It also struck me the ShaShThI ekavachana षष्ठी एकवचन (sixth vibhakti, singular) for masculine and neuter gender end in -sya. Like rAma-sya = of rAma; deva-sya = of deva etc.

So I did some searching around and here is what I found.

The possessive 's comes from the masculine genitive case ending on -es in Old English. This means that you could say "of [the] man" by simply sticking -es after "man". The genitive case was often used to indicate the possessor of something. In German, the genitive case is still used, and it ends on -(e)s for masculine and neuter singular words: the man = der Mann; the man's house = des Mannes Haus. As you see, the genitive is also used with articles.  [ From http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/9467/origins-of-possessive-pronouns]
And,

When the apostrophe mark was introduced into English in the 1500s, it was originally used to show where a letter or syllable had been omitted. 
We still use it this way in contractions, but in fact it’s also how the apostrophe came to be a mark of possession.   
In Old English, long before the apostrophe came into use, the possessive ending for most nouns was es.
A house belonging to John, for example, would have been called something like “Johnes house.” (Another way to show possession was by using the word “of,” as in “the house of John.”) 
After the apostrophe came along, a possessive word like “Johnes” was written as “John’s” to show that a letter had been dropped—the e in es.
But the story is not as simple as that.
In Middle English (around 1100-1500) and later, the possessive ending es was often misheard as the possessive pronoun “his.”
This accounts for such erroneous old constructions as “John his house” (meaning “Johnes house”).
Historians have suggested that printers used the apostrophe (“John’s”) as a shortened form of either possessive, the legitimate “Johnes” or the illegitimate “John his.”
In “Axing the Apostrophe,” a 1989 article in English Today, the language writer Adrian Room has called the word for this punctuation mark “a cumbersome name for an awkward object.”
Where does this clunky name come from?
The short answer, John Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins tells us, is that we got it via Latin and French from the classical Greek phrase prosoidia apostrophos, literally “accent of turning away.”
[ From http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2010/09/apostrophe.html ] 

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And that is where the Sanskrit influence can be seen, not in 1500's but in Greek times.





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2 comments:

vj islaniya said...

Thus is true. It is definitely originated from Sanskrit.

Jay said...

Interestingly eye opening!

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