Volitional patients

Hartmut Haberland hartmut at RUC.DK
Wed Mar 22 20:08:43 UTC 2006

Paul Hopper wrote:

>On Aashild's query about volitional patients: Some German verbs also take the dative when the human object is in some way complicit in the action. Examples would be schmeicheln "flatter", gratulieren "congratulate", folgen "follow", begegnen "meet". But unlike Aashild's Icelandic example, the accusative is never an alternative.
>Goethe notoriously wrote "Wer ruft mir?" "Who calls me?" (Faust I,1). "Mich" (acc.) in place of "mir" (dat.) would be correct here, and Goethe is routinely accused of committing a solecism, but perhaps there is a subtle intention--the object being a spirit (Erdgeist) waiting to be summoned.
I'm sorry to correct you, Paul, but Goethe's usage was quite normal for 
his times (see the article on rufen in the GRIMMs' dictionary), so this 
is only a solecism for modern ears. Originally (Old High German, Middle 
High German, and still some dialects) the Dative was the only option, 
today it is obsolete. For the time in between, some grammarians tried to 
set up a rule distinguishing between
rufen + DAT 'to call by name'
rufen + ACC 'to summon, to beckon'
Funny: it should be the other way 'round! And anyway, even the 'best 
writers' (Schiller, Goethe) got it wrong all the time (in the view of 
the schoolmasters), according to the dictionary, such that a clear 
pattern never emerged before the Dative was on the way out anyway.

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