dative uses (was Re: Prescriptive Linguists)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 31 15:52:30 UTC 2008

At 8:46 AM -0500 1/31/08, Mark Mandel wrote:
>Good point, Charlie: This clearly doesn't mean "pawn X to you" but "pawn X
>for you".
>I know that phrase in the song Nine Hundred Miles; is that by Carter?
>Discussion on the Mudcat Forum shows a lot of related songs. The lyrics
>listed there (below Charlie's letter) are approximately the same as the ones
>I learned. I haven't listened to the tune file to compare tunes.

Typically, such cases of what used to be called "dative movement"
(with either to-datives or for-datives) occur with monosyllabic
verbs, so we get (cross-dialectally, I believe) pairs like

I'll build you a mansion.
?I'll construct you a mansion.

I'll buy you a Cadiallac.
?I'll purchase you a Cadillac.

Unlike the personal dative of "He loves him some Jack Daniels" or "I
like to look at me some goats/girls", these ditransitives are not
restricted to pronouns coreferential to the subject.  (The direct
object "my..." is also definite, which is impossible or unusual for
the personal datives.)

Since "pawn" is indeed a monosyllabic verb, I suspect we can get the
same distinction:

I'll pawn you my gold watch and chain.
?I'll hypothecate you my gold watch and chain.
(?)I'll mortgage you the heart in my bosom.

Of course what makes it tricky is that the dative here is not the
recipient but the benefactive, but that's also true of "build" and
"buy", among other verbs.  What makes the "Mary" example ("Which car
did you put Mary in the garage?") so much more out there (but not, I
would submit, gibberish to those speakers on the right side of the
relevant isogloss) is that "Mary" is neither an argument of the verb
(unlike the "you" of the *pawn* example) nor a subject-indexing
pronoun (unlike the "him" of the Jack Daniels example).  It's much
closer to the "ethical dative" that we get in German, French, Hebrew,
and many other languages.


>On Jan 31, 2008 8:20 AM, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at uga.edu> wrote:
>>  Speaking of dative uses that may be unfamiliar to speakers of some
>>  dialects: I have always been especially fond of this stanza, the first in a
>>  song by A. P. Carter (of the famous Carter family):
>>     Oh I'll pawn you my gold watch and chain, love,
>>     And I'll pawn you my gold diamond ring,
>>     I will pawn you this heart in my bosom,
>>     Only say that you'll love me again.
>>  --Charlie
>>  _____________________________________________________________
>Well I'm walkin' down the track, I got tears in my eyes
>Tryin' to read a letter from my home
>cho: If that train runs me right, I'll be home tomorrow night
>'Cause it's nine hundred miles where I'm goin'.
>And I hate to hear that lonesome whistle blow
>'Cause I'm nine hundred miles from my home.
>Well the train I ride on is a hundred coaches long
>You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.
>I will pawn you my watch, I will pawn you my chain
>Pawn you my gold diamond ring.
>Well if you say so, I will railroad no more
>Sidetrack my train and come home.
>Recorded by Woody Guthrie
>@travel @train
>filename[ MILES900
>Mark Mandel
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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