Prescriptive Linguists

David A. Daniel dad at POKERWIZ.COM
Wed Jan 30 22:52:13 UTC 2008

I'm not exactly sure what the question is here, but I'll make a stab at, at
least, clearing up what I think we are talking about. Here is what I am
talking about:

There was a post in which the poster said that someone else had said that
the question "Which car did you put Mary in the garage" was a correct
English sentence.

What I am saying is: This is poppycock. That sentence is gibberish in
English. It is English words used with non-English structure and syntax. The
fact that there may be a few folks out there who understand what the
sentence means is irrelevant.

Another sentence was proposed: "He's the one that saw you your hands."

What I am saying is: Though this is somewhat more intelligible than the
Mary/car situation, it is still English words being used with non-English
structure and syntax (also, was he the one that looked at her hands or sawed
them off?).

Here are some more English words being used with non-English structure and
syntax: "That car blue is the car new of the my mother." (Portuguese and
Italian syntax and structure, English words.) Many Anglophones reading that
are going to understand it after, perhaps, in some cases, a little thought.
Does that make it a correctly formed English sentence? Nope.

That is what I am saying.

Quoting "David A. Daniel":

> ...If said descendants were Portuguese/Brazilian we would get a lot
> of "I go to the cinema with the my friend Carlos," or "The your mother is
> you calling," or "Where is the my car new?" (Italian too). Just because a
> seemingly fluent speaker says something doesn't make it correct even
> acceptable, or even understandable, among those who do not share the same
> multi-linguistic background/knowledge.

A "multi-linguistic background/knowledge" isn't necessary for these
to occur or be understood, if I understand correctly that you mean
proficiency/competence/familiarity or even just more than passing exposure
more than one language.

While in my example another language provided an analogy that made the
ditransitive use of "saw" understandable in the sentence "he's the one that
you your hands" I could also have taken an analogy from  English itself: for
example a sentence like "He's the one that wrote you the letter."

Are you saying that it's only because of language contact that such a
exists? Or are you saying that it's only because of contact that the
acceptability of ditransitive use creeps onto other verbs?


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