dative uses (was Re: Prescriptive Linguists)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 31 18:41:01 UTC 2008

At 1:20 PM -0500 1/31/08, Mark Mandel wrote:
>On Jan 31, 2008 10:52 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>>  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.
>I would distinguish "build" and "buy" from "pawn". The first two don't
>(can't?) have dative arguments distinct from benefactives, while "pawn" can.
>The song as I learned it has "If my woman says no, I won't railroad no more
>/ Sidetrack that main line and go home", not "If you say so..." as in the
>text I quoted from Mudcat/DigiTrad, and there's no context that indicates
>that the addressee is anyone in particular. So in the relevant lines --
>>I will pawn you my watch, I will pawn you my chain
>>Pawn you my gold diamond ring.
>-- I interpreted "you" as a dative -- addressed (apostrophized) to a
>pawnbroker, or to another listener with about the same meaning minus the
>pawnbroker's license and shop. That's not a "tricky example" in the way you
>describe, which does apply for Woody's words and the Mary example.

Well, if (as Tom Z and you agree[!]) the singee of the Carter song is
indeed the (real or virtual) pawnbroker/recipient of the hypothecated
goodies rather than the benefactive, then this construction does
completely reduce to ordinary dative-shift, as with "give" or "sell".
I always heard it as involving the singer, the singee, and an
unmentioned third party serving as pawnbroker.  Your version involves
a bit of a metaphorical stretch, but not a linguistic one, and that
certainly takes all the trickiness out of the construction.  I was
thinking that the awkwardness of "She was pawned a gold watch" might
argue for the for-dative ("She was built a house" or "She was bought
a Cadillac" are similarly awkward for me, although perhaps less so)
rather than the to-dative ("She was given/sold a gold watch and
chain"), but who really knows.

>(And for
>me, the original Mary example was also further obscured by the Wh-movement.)


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list