Prescriptive Linguists

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jan 29 17:48:25 UTC 2008

At 12:18 PM -0500 1/29/08, Michael H Covarrubias wrote:
>Just this last weekend I overheard my father and mother (both L1 Spanish
>speakers but fluent in English) discussing a certain doctor. My mother didn't
>know which doctor my father was talking about. He said to her "He's
>the one that
>saw you your hands."
>My English ears didn't like it but of course in Spanish 'El que le vio las
>manos" and it makes perfect sense.
>And it's sounding better and better to my English ears now.

Seems like a compromise (a.k.a. Spanglish), since the literal would
be more like "He's the one that saw you the hands."  But the result
in either case, as with the Kentuckian/Texan sentence involviing Mary
below, is to extend the realm of non-argument datives in English, as
earlier espied in the threads relating to the personal dative ("You
need you a new muffler", "My husband loved him some Jack Daniels"),
as heard in Kentucky, Texas, and elsewhere.


>Quoting William Salmon:
>>  QSubject: Re: Prescriptive linguists
>>  >>
>>  >> *Which car did you put Mary in the garage?
>>  >>
>>  >> So this is supposed to mean "Which car did you put in the garage for Mary
>>  >> (or at Mary's behest/request)?"?
>>  >> DAD
>>  The starred sentence is fine for me, a native speaker of Texan English.
>>  I remember a syntax class, though, where my judgments on these kinds of
>>  sentences were met with such disbelief that I felt like I had insulted
>>  the instructor, who incidentally was a non-native speaker of English. I
>>  didn't press the issue after that. :-)
>>  > Yes, that was his interpretation.
>>  > The fun part was, that no one else in the class was a native
>>  > speaker--they were all international students.  I'm Jewish of the usual
>>  > Ashkenazic background, which he knew, and he took my rejection of the
>>  > sentence as further evidence that Chomsky and I ;-) were not native
>>  > speakers, having grown up solely around immigrants, and thus not exposed
>>  > to the full 'RANGE' of American dialects.
>>  >
>>  > Geoff
>>  >
>>  >
>>  > I am, among other things, a translator (Portuguese, Spanish, French,
>>  English
>>  > in various combinations) and it seems the non-native speaker syndrome is
>>  > common to both the translation and linguistics games. That is, there are
>>  > non-native speakers who believe the best defense is a good offense, and
>>  they
>>  > come up with all sorts of convoluted reasons why it is actually better to
>>  be
>>  > a non-native than a native speaker when studying/translating a language.
>>  Of
>>  > course, given reasonably equal levels of education, experience, smarts,
>>  > etc., they are wrong. I direct anyone who feels differently to
>>  > "I put Mary the car in the garage" would fit right in at
>>  > that site.
>>  > DAD
>>  >
>>  >
>>  >
>>  >
>>  > --
>>  > Geoffrey S. Nathan
>>  >
>    English Language & Linguistics
>    Purdue University
>    mcovarru at
>   <>
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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