Missing PREP differing by dialect

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Apr 3 13:45:53 UTC 2008

At 9:16 AM -0400 4/3/08, Charles Doyle wrote:
>Arnold, what I did mention in my note in AS 52(1977):28 was "shit"
>+/- "in" + "one's pants."

Ah, I still get the <+/- affectedness> distinction there.  If he shit
in his pants, a bit of scrubbing followed by detergent and the hot
water setting might do the trick.  If he shit his pants, best to just
toss 'em out.  (Talk about putting the "object" back in "direct


>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.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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