Personal dative

Mark A. Mandel Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Mon Jul 16 17:54:28 UTC 2001

Rudolph C Troike <rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU> scripsit:

Also properly dative, but expressed with the locative "on" is the
"affected person" (usually adversely, interestingly):

        My car died on me last night.
        The computer crashed on me when I tried to use it.

I have always called this construction the malefactive "on". Why do you
describe it as "properly dative"? Only yesterday I somewhere saw a
reference to it in a title ... hmm...

Google finds 35 cites for "malefactive" and helpfully asks, "Did you mean:
male factor". One cite, though not the one I saw:
a paper by Andrew McIntyre of the Univ. of Leipzig,
     "Argument blockages induced by verb particles in English and German:
Event modification and secondary predication"
(more info is on his page
). A quote:

For instance, the malefactive use of
     on (my cat died on me, my car broke down on me, they walked out on me
etc.) is only licensed in a VP context, although there is no principled
reason why it could not occur in a nominal projection
     (*an accident on me, *a breakdown on me).
[Italics in the parts I have indented]

Well, anyway, I should be working. (But I am working! My title is Senior
Linguist, and I'm doing linguistics!)

                  Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist
            Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA :

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