Query for Southern(er)s, Southrons, or...

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Dec 20 15:40:55 UTC 2001

>We've spent some sporadic time discussing the construction extant in
>parts of the South and Appalachia variously referred to as the
>"Personal Dative" (Christian 1991), "Southern American Double Object"
>(Dannenberg & Webelhuth 2000), dialectal or bound pronominal (e.g.
>Sroda & Mishoe 1995), or ethical dative (various sources).  This
>involves the appearance immediately after the main verb of an
>ordinary objective pronoun (rather than a reflexive) coreferring with
>the subject; generally a "real" object must also be present, and it
>must be quantified.  The verb in question is not normally a
>ditransitive.  Some sample cites (in each case, coreference between
>subject and "dative" is assumed):

I'm no Southron, and I'm only an Appalachian by immigration, but to some
extent these expressions are familiar to me from childhood. It is my
feeling that the pronoun in question is a reflexive indirect object or
dative, more or less equivalent to "[for [the sake of]] ...self". A few of
Larry's more outlandish examples do not seem acceptable to me. The concept
of "success" is often implicit in "to do ... for oneself": at least I think
purposefulness is generally implicit.

>I married me a pretty little wife

= "I married for myself a ..." [borderline, maybe. Here "married" must have
the flavor of "[purposefully/successfully] acquired". I would not accept "I
joined me the NRA/ADS/Taliban/Yale faculty/etc." nor "I have to marry me
whichever girl Rev. Moon chooses".]

>I'm gonna buy me a shotgun, just as long as I am tall.

= "I'm going to buy [for] myself a ..."

>I'm gonna catch me a freight train.

= "I'm going to catch [for] myself a ..."

>Get you a copper kettle, get you a copper coil.  [underlying 2d person

= "Get yourself a ..."

>He's gonna buy him a pickup.

= "He's going to buy himself a ..."

>I seen me a mermaid once.

= "I saw for myself a ..." [a borderline example ... but I wouldn't have
too much trouble with something like "I've had me some fun, I've raised me
some children, I've seen me the Taj Mahal, ... [I've lived a full life,
I've fulfilled my ambitions]."]

>She wants her some chitlins.

No good.

>Papa needs him some new boots.

= "Papa needs for himself some ..." [borderline]

>What I like is goats.  I jus' like to look at me some goats.   [title of
>Sroda & Mishoe 1995]

No good. There are wrong/poor/stupid ways to use nonstandard constructions,
just as for standard ones, IMHO.

>On the assumption that the pronoun in question is not a true object
>of the verb but a marker implicating that the action or event in
>question represents success/good fortune for the subject, I've been
>wondering if the following judgments (from this non-native speaker)
>are on- or off-base.  (Feel free to replace these with clearer
>examples of your own.)
>(1)  *She fed her some chitlins.
>(2)a.  *She gave her a big raise.   (vs. pandialectally OK:  She gave
>herself a big raise.)
>     b.  She got her a big raise.
>(3)a.  *I caught me a cold.   [or maybe OK if I was trying to catch a cold?]
>     b.  I caught me a catfish.
>(4)a.  He shot him two squirrels.
>     b.  *He (got drunk and) shot him two coonhounds (by mistake).
>(5)a.  He got him a case of beer.
>     b.  *He got him a case of the clap.

I agree with these judgements. But I'm not convinced that the pronoun in
question is clearly other than an indirect object of the verb.

I think purposefulness/accomplishment is implied; e.g., "I found me a good
opportunity" but not "I encountered me a good opportunity", "I inspected me
some goats" but not "I noticed me some goats".

It seems to me that "buy me" etc. is parallel to "buy you", "buy him",
etc., in many cases, so virtually standard except for lack of reflexive
marking ("me" for "myself" etc.).

-- Doug Wilson

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