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In Gildersleeves Latin Grammar you can find declension charts with the word wanting inserted in 3 places

            I                      II                        III
Nom. a.                 us (os) ; wanting ; um (om).     s ; wanting.
Gen. ae (ās, āī, āi).   ī (ēī).                          is (us, es).
Dat. ae (āī).           ō.                               ī (ēī, i).
Acc. am.                um (om).                         em, im.
Voc. a.                 e ; wanting ; um (om).           s.
Abl. ā (ād).            ō (ōd).                          e, ī (ēd, īd).

(The plurals are ommitted since it does not appear there.)

I'm wondering what this wanting is supposed to indicate. I ran a find for the word wanting through the entire text. There is no explanation as to what this means anywhere as far as I can find. It does seem to be used elsewhere to mark forms that are missing, but that doesn't really make sense here.

The only hypothesis I have currently is that it is that for the 2nd declension it marks the locations at which non-o-stem nouns such as puer, remain uninflected. And that lines up, but if that were true I would also expect a wanting to be present in the Vocative singular for third declension as well, since 3rd declension nouns have the same nominative and vocative forms. But it is not.

What is this there for?

The entire the 3rd edition of this text can be viewed on archive.org the chart in question is on page 13.

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  • The Google books link shows nothing to me. What is shown depends on the user, so it's a little untrustworthy for linking. Can you add a screenshot of the table (and surrounding text if relevant)?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 5 at 16:31
  • @JoonasIlmavirta The table is just the text as appears. I found the chart in the 3rd edition though so the google books link has been removed entirely. Jul 5 at 16:37
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    "Wanting" is indeed old-fashioned English for "missing, lacking, absent", so in this context it means that in these forms the ending is zero.
    – TKR
    Jul 6 at 3:57
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It seems to mean simply "no ending". That is, at least in some situations you don't have to add anything to the stem to form the given case. This only happens in the singular; the plural cases always add something.

That table at the top1 of page 13 only outlines the general tendencies or historical forms of Latin case endings. What really matters for the practical purpose of using the language are the actual endings of the five declensions. They are listed afterwards, with the typical endings at the bottom of page 13 in the table you quote.

I recommend against reading too much into this table. If you only want to use the language, then this table just points out some similarities across the five declensions. If you want to learn how the case endings ended up being what they are, then you need a more thorough treatment of historical morphology.

The table suggests that the third declension vocative might be different from the nominative, but that is not the case. (Perhaps apart from some rare edge cases like Greek names.) The most sensible reading of this to me is: In the masculine and feminine the ending is -s for both nominative and vocative, and only in the neuter can the nominative have no ending at all, and the neuter has no vocative. I don't agree with this interpretation — you can address neuters and it is too much of a blanket statement to say that masculines and feminines always have the -s — but this is what it might mean. But again, I recommend against reading too much into this. If there was an important message in there, it would have been stated explicitly.


1 I thought you meant this table and only later realized you meant the bottom one.

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