I am an avid Latin III student studying in high school, and I often think about the effect that Latin has had on English, not just through etymology and morphology, but in semantics and pragmatics.
In church today, I noticed again that the pastor says "The Word Of the Lord" and that the congregation replies "Thanks be to God" to this. "Thanks be to God" at first sounds very awkward until I actually thought about what the phrase might be trying to convey.
I began to think about the Dative of Possession in Latin where "Nomen mihi est..." literally means "The name to/for me is..." and is used to show possession of the subject of the sentence by the dative. The way the phrase in question sounds is similar (with the dative and the copula); if it is styled so, it is "The Thanks is to/for God".
- Is this what the phrase is trying to get across to the congregation, or is it some remnant from an older, more complicated English?
- If so, is it really proper to use the Latin Dative of Possession like that?