Primary object languages & pronouns

David Tuggy david_tuggy at SIL.ORG
Thu Apr 24 15:57:54 UTC 2003

I find it hard to believe that English speakers generally are not
consciously aware (I certainly was from childhood on) of the consistent
paraphrase relationship between utterances such as "Give me that!" and "Give
that to me!", "Hand me the scissors" and "hand the scissors to me", etc. and
able to effortlessly switch between the two types.

I see the major problem with the old transformational-type analyses (in
which tradition I gather your 1986 proposal stood, couched in Relational
Grammar terms) as being the way they tried to make one kind of structure
absolutely dependent for its existence on another, as if it didn't exist in
its own right. But to therefore deny that speakers know the two types of
structures are related seems unnecessary and intrinsically and
experientially unlikely.

Do you really see this as a non-productive pattern? It seems to me that if a
new verb is coined  which denotes causing a non-motional change of
state, --e.g. munge, which I learned the other day-- I know that if I can
say "munge me this file" I can also say "munge this file for me" and convey
very nearly the same thing. Similarly if it's a causing-of-motion verb (say
"falp"), if I can say "falp him that blivit", I can also (most probably,
anyway) say "falp that blivit to him". Especially if "falping" saliently
involves changing possession or control of the blivit (or whatever) it's a
sure thing.


--David Tuggy

-----Original Message-----
From: FUNKNET -- Discussion of issues in Functional Linguistics
[mailto:FUNKNET at]On Behalf Of Matthew Dryer
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 12:35 PM
Subject: Re: Primary object languages & pronouns

In answer to David Tuggy's question, I would at the very least deny that
they are related in the way that I proposed in my 1986 paper, by an
antidative rule by which the construction in "I gave the book to Mary" is
derived from "I gave Mary the book" by a rule which promotes the secondary
object to primary object and demotes the primary object to chomeur.  I am
skeptical that speakers are aware, consciously or unconsciously, of a
systematic relationship between the two syntactic frames in English, but if
they are, the awareness is akin to awareness of other nonproductive
patterns, and unlike the awareness of more productive relationships.

Matthew Dryer

--On Wednesday, April 23, 2003 12:19 PM -0600 David Tuggy
<david_tuggy at> wrote:

> Not sure what you mean, Matthew, by "not related by rule". Do you mean
> "the relation between them is not an absolutely predictive one" or "there
> is no relationship between them", or something else?
> I would prefer to see them as "alternative syntactic frames" as you do,
> but not deny that speakers are aware of (consciously or at some
> non-conscious cognitive level) systematic correlations between them.
> I'm not sure you're denying such sytematic cognitive correlation--that's
> what I'm trying to clarify.
> --David Tuggy
Incoming mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (
Version: 6.0.471 / Virus Database: 269 - Release Date: 4/10/2003

Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (
Version: 6.0.471 / Virus Database: 269 - Release Date: 4/10/2003

More information about the Funknet mailing list