FW: Primary object languages & pronouns

David Tuggy david_tuggy at SIL.ORG
Sat Apr 26 23:18:10 UTC 2003

I would rather you had said "dative-shift types of examples with pronouns,
especially ... me in English, may not be typical of all such structures",
and "different patterns will show up if you examine examples using names or
NPs". The examples with "me" or other pronouns are perfectly good data too,
and I see no call for a value judgment such that some kinds are deemed
"better" than others.

But I agree they do not behave in every way exactly alike. (It underscores
once more the subtlety of these constructions and thus of the interrelations
between them.) It would indeed be much harder to use a proper name or
(other) NP in "Eat me some hallacas". An explanation that helps me
understand why (though not one that would let me predict that no language
could do it differently) is that in "Eat me some hallacas" the benefit that
will accrue to the dative from the accomplishment of the process is so
subjective as to be difficult to perceive in the case of anyone other than
oneself. (Benefit of that or a similar sort is probably to be taken as
definitional for "ethical" datives.) If I say "Eat Tom some hallacas" I am
assuming that your eating hallacas will give Tom such a subjective
satisfaction, and usually I do not know that. I can construct contexts, of
course. If I were going to Venezuela and in our family email group my mother
were to tell me "eat me some hallacas while you're down there", I could
later list as one of my accomplishments for the trip "I ate Mom some
hallacas" (or better, interestingly, "I ate Mom her hallacas".) It would be
stretching the norms, but I might well do it, and my family would understand
it and even enjoy it.

The patterns that will show up if you just look at proper name or NP datives
will probably come closer to a Highest Common Factor for the construction as
a whole than what you will find if you look at pronouns, esp. "me". So if
you're looking for an H.C.F. I suppose that is "better". But their
centrality to the category is questionable at best. I haven't done any stats
on it, but I'd bet a study of datives in natural speech would find an
overwhelming preponderance of pronouns, especially 1st and 2nd person
pronouns, over proper names or (other) NP's. The patterns the pronoun cases
display are important too.


-----Original Message-----
From: FUNKNET -- Discussion of issues in Functional Linguistics
[mailto:FUNKNET at listserv.rice.edu]On Behalf Of Dan Everett
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2003 12:30 AM
To: FUNKNET at listserv.rice.edu
Subject: Re: Primary object languages & pronouns

One caveat: constructing dative-shift types of examples with pronouns,
especially the first person accusative/dative 'me' in English could be
misleading. I suspect that this pronoun has a little bit of 'ethical
dative' in it (as common in Romance languages). It is better to
construct examples using names or NPs.

-- Dan

Dan Everett
Professor of Phonetics and Phonology
Department of Linguistics
Arts Building
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
M13 9PL
Manchester, UK
dan.everett at man.ac.uk
Phone: 44-161-275-3158
Dept. Fax and Phone: 44-161-275-3187

-----Original Message-----
From: FUNKNET -- Discussion of issues in Functional Linguistics
[mailto:FUNKNET at LISTSERV.RICE.EDU] On Behalf Of David Tuggy
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2003 1:16 AM
Subject: Re: Primary object languages & pronouns

True. The relationship (whether one tries to express it in a "rule" or
not) is complex, not exactly the same for all different subcases, not
fully bi-directional, not blindly or mechanically applicable, and so
forth. I guess it depends on one's definitions whether a relationship of
this kind can be "systematic". There are certainly reasonable
definitions by which it can. I was maintaining that I think there are
systematic relationships of that non-absolute sort which hold between
the two types of constructions, and that speakers know this.

I think you describe well the prototypical cases, and your "he blew me
the whistle" example is nice. But there are other cases where something
not clearly "construable as a recipient, even if it is also (and maybe
basically) a beneficiary" can still be coded by the dative construction,
e.g. I could say "eat me a couple of hallacas" to someone going to
Venezuela. (Maybe I use the construction more loosely than many: I could
say "mow me the lawn" with little if any discomfort. "Mow me the lawn
and I'll fix you a black cow"--why not?)

Ellen's "spare the wild claims for me" and "donate the LSA something"
examples are fun, too, though it's noteworthy that "spare" is not
causing a change of any sort, and "donate" has little sense of motion.

All of this underlines the fact that there are subtleties to the
relationships, but of course doesn't deny that the relationships are

--David Tuggy

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