needs/wants in/out

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Fri Jan 24 16:14:12 UTC 2003

larry's right; non-Midlanders like want plus particles better than
need plus particles, but I don't think the frozen construction
argument will fly here. Erica has used a great variety of contexts
around the items she has sought judgments on. Another interesting
observation of Erica's was that non-Midlanders like nonconcrete
versions of these constructions (It's a good deal; I need in) better
than concrete ones  (It's cold out; I need in). Go figger.


At 9:30 AM -0600 1/24/03, Joan Hall wrote:
>And DARE treats this at need (verb) sense 2.  The regional label is
>"Chiefly Midland, especially Pennsylvania."

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be at Erica Benson's talk, but for me
(and I venture to suggest my fellow northeasterners, or at least my
fellow New Yorkers) there's a big difference between "Bill wants in"
and "The cat wants out" on the one hand (both of which are fine) and
"The dog wants in the house", "The cat needs in the house" (both of
which are impossible).  I'm willing to believe that the latter ones,
with the full PP, are related to the needs/washed + participle, but
the ones with the bare particle (or intransitive preposition, as
people used to call it) seem distinct, and are possibly frozen (like
the poor cat and dog).  "needs in/out" sounds much less likely than
"wants in/out".


>At 08:31 AM 1/24/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>>>   Also, does anyone know if the following is a usage specific to the
>>>   because this is the only place I've heard it used (or noticed,
>>>anyway): the
>>>   dropping of "to be" after needs -- "my hair needs washed," "the clock
>>>   restored," etc.
>>_American Speech_ Spring 2002 (Vol 77 Number 1) pages 32ff has an article by
>>Thomas Murray and Beth Lee Simon on similar expressions, including maps of
>>where they appear or don't appear.  6 pages of bibliography, too.
>>       - James A. Landau
>>And Erica Benson (Michigan State Univ.) presented a paper at this
>>year's ADS meeting on the origins, spread, and status of the
>>apparently related need and want plus particle and prepositional
>>phrase constructions (e.g., Bill wants in; The dog wants in the
>>house, George needs out, The cat needs in the house). Her work shows
>>a decided Midwestern preference for these constructions as well (with
>>some surprising acceptance of them, however, in non-Midwest areas
>>where people would rather have hangnails than use the needs/wants +
>>participle construction).
>>Dennis R. Preston
>>Professor of Linguistics
>>Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic,
>>      Asian & African Languages
>>Michigan State University
>>East Lansing, MI 48824-1027
>>e-mail: preston at
>>phone: (517) 353-9290

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic,
      Asian & African Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027
e-mail: preston at
phone: (517) 353-9290

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