Fourth and Fifth Declension
The most frequently used feminine
nouns in the fourth declension are domus “house” and manus
“hand”. Many other fourth declension feminine nouns are the names
of trees. manus declines like portus, but domus
is irregular in that it sometimes employs case-endings from the second
declension; see Chapter 15, for the locative domi
and the ablative domo.
Some ancient grammarians claimed
that the neuter nouns of the 4th declension were indeclinable throughout
the singular, but there is good evidence for -us in the genitive
and indeed for -ui as an alternative form in the dative.
and “knee” are cognate (as are cornu and “horn”), being
derived from the same word in IndoEuropean; the k in “knee”
was still pronounced in Old and Middle English.
The fifth declension is a very
small group, so little used that dies and res are, in
fact, the only such nouns for which we have evidence for all the forms.
Cicero specifically says that he would be reluctant to use the forms
specierum and speciebus.
These forms come under scrutiny
by Nosoponus in Erasmus’ Dialogus Ciceronianus; see the
Fetutinae to the Introduction. specierum occurs 3 times in
Apuleius and twice in the Digest, but speciebus is unremarkably
frequent. Cicero might have done better to object to speciei,
which occurs only twice in the grammarians [both gen., not dat., sing.].
The other Italic languages
make less use of the fifth declension than does Latin, and no other
IndoEuropean languages have a comparable declension. The majority of
fifth declension nouns have a nom. sing. ending in -ies, and
almost all nouns with an ending in -ies in the nom. sing. are
fifth declension and feminine. Exceptions are abies, abietis
fem. 3 “fir tree”, aries, arietis masc. 3 “ram”,
paries, parietis masc. 3 “wall”, (re)quies,
(re)quietis fem. 3 “rest”.
(requies, however, favors the fifth declension form of the accusative,
requiem, and requie is occasionally found as the ablative.)
When dies is feminine,
it usually refers to a specific day, but usage seems to vary from one
author to another. Heterogeneous nouns are fairly numerous, but many
are rarely used, or one gender predominates strongly. Perhaps the other
most widely used of such nouns are finis, -is 3, “end”,
usually masculine, but sometimes feminine (in Italian, fine is
feminine when the sense is “conclusion”, but masculine when the
sense is “purpose”), and locus, -i
2, “place”, which seems to be always masculine in the singular,
but usually neuter in the plural, masculine only when it refers specifically
to passages in a book or topics for discussion. loca will originally
have been a feminine singular collective noun (“places” = “region”).
Such a shift from the feminine singular to the neuter plural occurs
very extensively in Sanskrit and Greek, and explains why, in those languages,
neuter plural nouns, when used as the subject, take a singular verb.