Why Russian is usually said to have only six cases, while most Slavic languages have seven?

The missing one - the vocative (звательный падеж) - is however clearly present, at least in the colloquial forms:

  • Маша → Маш
  • Зина → Зин
  • Дима → Дим



2 Answers 2


The new vocative has nothing to do with the old vocative (whose forms would've been *Маше, *Зино and *Димо, indistinguishable by ear from the nominative but probably reflected in writing).

If we are to count all such case-like forms limited to a single paradigm and/or context, we'd end up with quite a few: partitive (чашка чаю vs. вкус чая), locative (вороны что-то ищут в снегу vs. художники что-то ищут в снеге), and... essive? (произвести в генералы vs. верить в своих генералов) — of which at least the first two have origins in older Slavic declension paradigms, which is more than one can say for the new vocative. So if for the sake of the argument, we count these not-quite-cases as well, then Russian has, not seven, but at least ten cases.

But if we don't elevate any of those others to case status, it would be random to give the new vocative a special place just because Russian used to have a vocative in the past. It was a different vocative, and outside of боже, господи, отче, and старче, Russian has well and truly lost it.

  • 3
    this! When one tells that some case exists in a given language it usually means that it's applicable for a very wide domain of words. In other Slavic languages where vocative is present you can even address inanimate objects.
    – shabunc
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 12:24
  • 1
    there are actually quite a few words which vocative form is still present in modern russian. And as long as they are understandable I would not say that russian has completely lost this grammar case. Yes, it is very limited and not obligatory (for instance, one would rather address his father as отец than отче), and it is archaic but not inexistent. Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 13:34

I totally agree with the answer Nikolay provided, I just want to add one other important points made by opponents of calling this new forms vocative case, here's a quote:

Основное различие – с существительными в новой звательной форме, в отличие от звательного падежа в древнерусском и других славянских языках («Боже правый»), невозможно согласовать определение. Нельзя сказать «любимый пап» или «дорогая баб». По этой причине новая звательная форма падежом считаться не может. Ещё одна тенденция обособленного употребления новой звательной формы – несочетаемость имён в новой звательной формы в качестве однородных членов, соединённых союзом: «Маня и Вася! Домой обедать!» или «Мань! Вась! Домой обедать!», но не «Мань и Вась! Домой обедать!».

In other words, not only this new form is not applicable to arbitrary word (even if we limit our choice with animate nouns - actually, even if we limit our choice with names only!) but it can not be incorporated to regular grammar structures: you can not use adjective with this form - "Отче всемогущий" is a valid example of old vocative, "всемогущий пап" is impossible form of neovocative; you can not combine them etc.

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    interesting... If it is not a grammar case, what is it then? Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 13:36
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    @user7808407 the opponents (of acknowledging it as a case) call it just something like "новая звательная форма" or anything like that
    – shabunc
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 13:37
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    But who said a case necessarily should be able to have adjectives?
    – Anixx
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 10:42
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    Also, "Ребят и девчат!" does not sound wrong to me.
    – Anixx
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 10:45
  • 1
    I've heard it be called недопадежная форма before, that is, "not quite a case form" Commented Feb 2, 2020 at 21:23

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