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Ethical dative (was: Question about transitivity etc.)

From:John Cowan <cowan@...>
Date:Monday, June 2, 2003, 11:49
Christophe Grandsire scripsit:

> And I'm not talking about those "inclusion of the listener" forms frequent > in colloquial speech like "... et je te lui ai flanqué une sacrée raclée > !", where "te" has no function in the sentence except conviviality :)) > (strangely enough, Basque is the only other language I know which has the > same feature).
Actually, it's common in the world's languages. Latin had it, e.g.: at tibi repente venit mihi Cani:nius but you-DAT suddenly comes-3SG-PRES-IND me-DAT Cani:nius-NOM where "tibi" does not literally mean that Caninius comes to the speaker *for the listener's benefit*, but simply that the listener is thought to be concerned in the action somehow. This is the so-called "ethical dative" (Gk. _ethikos_ 'character'), and can occur with all persons: quid mihi Celsus agit what-ACC me-DAT Celsus-NOM does-3SG-PRES-IND similarly does not mean "What is Celsus doing for me?" but simply "What is Celsus doing?", with the "mihi" expressing the speaker's interest in the answer. Third-person examples exist but tend not to be as clear. The ethical dative occurs in a wide variety of other languages as well: German: Er ist *mir* ein guter Freund = he is a good friend of mine. Middle English: Thus me pileth the pore, that is of lute pris = Thus they rob the poor ("me" shows the speaker's concern about it), who are of little worth. Early Modern English: There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in *your* philosophy (Hamlet to Horatio). Spanish: Juan *me* le arruin'o la vida a esa chica. = Juan ruined the life of this girl (speaker concern again). Classical Greek: *emoi* dh ou crh oupoute tauta poihsai = *IMHO* one never ought to do that. :-) I have also found references to its use in Polish, Czech, Estonian, Romanian, Ingush, and Warlpiri. -- Henry S. Thompson said, / "Syntactic, structural, John Cowan Value constraints we / Express on the fly." Simon St. Laurent: "Your / Incomprehensible Abracadabralike / schemas must die!"


Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>
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