German course -part 1a - German-online, quick, easy and direct - Intro - denomination - case in general - nominative case - what is that?

I'm Karsten and I want to help people learn German.
Buy me a coffee if you feel I did well.

German course - part 1a - Denomination

Learn German right here online, quick, easy and direct - Intro - denomination - case in general - nominative case - what is that?

I am elaborating on this for one reason. I want my students to know what they are doing so that they can do it well. Fact is German does indeed contain many aspects of grammar that are redundant or less important. Giving each aspect equal focus seems as it were a methodological mistake. One field of German grammar has very high priority though: case. It is so important because it is a prerequisite in order to understand all the other structures of German. And this is exactly where many other courses don't lay the foundation that the student actually needs, but then how should he or she know about its value?

The texture of meaning: nouns and case

You might be wondering why I am talking so much about grammar. It occurred to me that I take it for granted that everyone understands the significance of grammar. But this is not so. many people believe that to learn a language you just have to learn certain standard phrases and be done. If that's what you wish, I respect that. But if you want to really master German, stay with me and please give it a try. You will see that grammar is not an abstract system, but can help you understand better.

What is language? Language is systematization of words. Mainly words consist of nouns and verbs, nouns are the most important category. The reason is simple. When you think of a noun, you automatically imagine an action that might be happening to it. Try to think of a person that you know. In your thoughts, what is he or she doing? There is always an action, isn't it so? When you refer to objects (things) you will find that they have a context because nothing on this planet is isolated and detached, absolute, one might also say. Take the context as the verb, the "action". Whereas you cannot imagine an action taking place without the noun that performs the action. Action is therefore dependent on the noun and not vice versa. If you want to be exact, the noun and the verb form a single unit. But for grammatical or analytical purposes we have to keep noun and verb apart. Keep in mind that in reality this is not possible. Shall I tell you why?

Because by keeping this in mind we will not fall into the traps that other grammars fall into. By seeing grammar as is, that is, a way of describing a language that is alive, and not building too much terminology around it, we get hold of it. We learn, understand, grasp and therefore remember stuff. Philology is such a vast field. So much has been written on it and some principles have to get reevaluated.

library with tons of German grammars Knowledge   depiction   ( en , 889 x 579 ):   Library, knowledge, reevaluation of principles, understanding, grasping, learning, reading, German grammar

So the noun stands out as one of the first constituent components of a sentence. In order to facilitate refering grammar we ought to define how we are going to use the term noun. We are going to speak a lot about nouns and what they denote, so we are not only going to regard those single entities made up of letters as nouns, but also we are going to regard the meaning of the entities as constituting a noun. This seems quite logical because you can randomly arrange a few letters, but that won't make it a word.

These "words" might serve as passwords.

Let's start out with a simple sentence:

John is writing a letter.

John is the one who is performing the action. The primary constituent being John, he is the actual denomination of this short sentence, in other words he is the carrier of the main information that we want to communicate. In English you can't exchange this order, or if you did, the sentence wouldn't make sense anymore. The letter is writing John. How's this sound? But in German this is possible because there exists case to support the significance of word order:

John schreibt einen Brief.
Einen Brief schreibt John.

John is writing a letter. John schreib einen Brief. A beautiful letter depiction   ( en , 889   x   597 ):  John (or was it Lilly?) writes a letter to the world.   Keywords:   Letter, poem, wisdom

Both variants are correct German (and logical). The second sentence differs from the first in that it stresses the role of the letter in the statement. But usually (in all languages) the denomination, being the pith of a sentence, protrudes at the beginning of a sentence, and this, too, in German. The second German sentence is not wrong, only awkward, meaning that the speaker has a certain intention to convey by exchanging the usual order. The main constituent noun (the performer of the action) is called in German Nominativ. We are going to use the German terms continuing from this point. In English there exist only remnants of case with the pronouns, like he (Nominativ) and him (Akkusativ), she and her, we and us, they and them, I and me. The Akkusativ is a secondary constituent, it can be regarded as a context, too, but we shall elaborate on this later in more detail. Fact is that this constituent (the letter) doesn't do anything or perform an action. For now we will take a look at the most important case, the denominative case. Because it is a denominator it is called Nominativ. The denominator (John) is the vessel of the whole of significance of this utterance or information.

The greatest part of case is marked by the determiner (der, die, das / ein, eine, ein). So that is why determiners are very important in German.  

Wallboard depiction   ( en , 800   x   533 ):  case, gender, declension, determiners, German

You don't have to learn this table (now), just take a look:

Case der Brief (the letter)
Nominativ der Brief
Akkusativ den Brief
Dativ dem Brief
Genitiv des Briefes
Nominativ die Briefe
Akkusativ die Briefe
Dativ den Briefen
Genitiv der Briefe
Case ein Brief (a letter)
Nominativ ein Brief
Akkusativ einen Brief
Dativ einem Brief
Genitiv eines Briefes
Nominativ Briefe
Akkusativ Briefe
Dativ Briefen
Genitiv Briefe
>> continue

submit to reddit

Sneak peek of the server side code