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"write him" was Re: More questions

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Wednesday, November 26, 2003, 21:04
Costentin Cornomorus wrote at 2003-11-26 11:32:07 (-0800)
 > --- Stephen Mulraney <ataltanie@...>
 > wrote:
 > > Tristan McLeay wrote:
 > >
 > > > (Of course, in American English, the jarring 'write me' is
 > > > grammatically correct... Silly little Americans ... :)
 > >
 > > Indeed, it's very jarring. It usually causes some little boggling
 > > of the mind when I read it.
 > Is it not a part of your dialect then? It's totally transparent to
 > me. As with any verb of that sort (sing, tell, read, etr.)

Wait, I know about "write", but do you mean "I sang him" is acceptable
to you as a complete sentence synonymous with "I sang to him"?

Here's how it works in my speech (which I imagine to be essentially
representative of British English, at least, in this respect).

                        Write           Sing          Tell

Ditransitive clause     I wrote her     I sang her    I told her
                        a letter        a song        a story

Theme expressed,        I wrote a       I sang a      I told a
recipient oblique[1]    letter to her   song to her   story to her

Theme absent,
recipient unmarked      *I wrote her    *I sang her   I told her

Theme absent,           I wrote to      I sang to     *I told to
recipient oblique       her             her           her

Theme present,          I wrote a       I sang a      I told a
recipient absent        letter          song          story

(I'm using "oblique" here to mean "marked by a preposition"
(specifically, "to"), in case there's any confusion with other senses
of the term.  I'm not making any particular theoretical claim about
the status of these NPs)

[1] These are possible, but inelegant in most contexts.  The example
for "write" emphasizes the act of composing the letter rather than the
communicative act suggested by the ditransitive.


Costentin Cornomorus <elemtilas@...>
John Cowan <cowan@...>