Missing PREP differing by dialect

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Thu Apr 3 13:16:07 UTC 2008

Arnold, what I did mention in my note in AS 52(1977):28 was "shit" +/- "in" + "one's pants."

A native (and lifelong) speaker of a "Southern" dialect, I had never heard "shit" used without a preposition ("in" or "on") until I was middle aged.


---- Original message ----
>Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2008 09:47:12 -0700
>From: "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
>On Apr 2, 2008, at 8:58 AM, Larry Horn wrote:
>> At 11:14 AM -0400 4/2/08, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>> WE:
>>> "He shit/shat himself"
>>> "He pissed himself"
>>> vs. BE:
>>> "He shitted _on_ himself"
>>> "He pissed _on_ himself."
>> Actually, the latter two forms are perfectly acceptable in varieties
>> of WE I'm familiar with, and there's a slight
>> semantic/pragmatic/register difference between the two versions.  If
>> I inadvertently allow a couple of drops to hit my shoe, I pissed on
>> myself, but I didn't piss myself.  This actually follows from the
>> general association with direct objects and "affectedness"...
>i thought the shit/piss cases were in the list of P~zero alternations
>from charlie doyle's 1977 Am Sp paper, which he mentioned here back on
>11 february -- but apparently not.  in any case, a number of those
>variants differ subtly in conveyed meaning, and for some
>"affectedness" seems to be at issue (beat up (on) a person, play (on)
>a piano).
>the connection between direct objects and affectedness is a nice
>(though subtle) example of iconicity in grammar: closely linked
>objects (i.e., direct objects) tend to be understood as denoting more
>affected referents, and less closely linked objects (i.e., oblique
>objects, marked by prepositions) tend to be understood as denoting
>less affected, more tangentially connected, referents.  tighter
>syntactic connection, more direct connection in meaning.
>(this is not a novel observation of mine, by the way.  for
>"functionalist" linguists, it's a commonplace.)
>bonus observation: all this means that "direct object" is not a half-
>bad name for this syntactic function.  not exactly transparent, and
>certainly not a definition, but suggestive.

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