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THEORY: English Pronouns (was Re: THEORY: Ergativity and polypersonalism)

From:Rob Haden <magwich78@...>
Date:Sunday, January 23, 2005, 3:15
Saw this in last week's messages and found it interesting.

On Thu, 20 Jan 2005 13:45:56 +1100, Tristan McLeay
<conlang@...> wrote:

>Difference in order is sufficient; accusative doesn't mean there's an >accusative case, but rather the subject of a transitive verb is >expressed in the same manner as the subject of an intransitive verb, >such as in English. (ish, other people can probably explain it better)
>Actually, if anyone told you that English has a solid >nominative--accusative distinction in pronouns, they were lying. >Examples to the contrary include 'It's me', 'John and me went to the >milkbar', 'between you and I'. I think also that normally when there's >a strong nom./acc. distinction, the pronoun-in-isolation form is the >nominative, whereas in English you'd use the so-called object-form >(-'Who would?' -'Me!').
Of course, the proper usages would be "It's I", "John and I went to the bar", "between you and me", "'Who would?' - 'I!'". :b The interesting question, though, is what causes the confusion in usage. Also interesting: there is far more spreading of the object pronouns into the subject pronouns' domain than vice-versa. Phrases like "It's me" actually sound more normal to me than "It's I", which sounds almost stiltingly formal. The most grammatically proper but wrong-sounding usage would be "'Who would?' - 'We!'" -- almost any native speaker would instead answer "Us!" I wonder if, in future English, this trend will continue, abolishing all distinctions between subject and object pronouns with the former taking over the latter. Things like that must have happened many times over in many other languages. - Rob


Tristan McLeay <conlang@...>