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Me and myself
Posted: 06 October 2013 06:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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A significant weakness of traditional grammars of English is that they incorporate a number of categories that in fact have no place in the grammar of Present-day English, although they are perfectly valid for Latin (and in some cases older stages of English). A simple example is provided by the dative case inflection. A traditional dictionary or schoolbook definition is given in i, while our proposed revision is given in ii:

i Dative: the case of nouns, etc., expressing the indirect object or recipient
ii Dative: a grammatically distinct case characteristically used to mark the indirect object

Definition i suggests that in He gave Caesar a sword, for example, Caesar is in the dative case, as it is in indirect object function and expresses the semantic role of recipient. And that indeed is the analysis found in many traditional grammars and school textbooks (especially older ones). But Present-Day English has no dative case. In the Latin counterpart of the above sentence Caesar has a different form (Caesari) from the one it has when functioning as subject (Caesar) or direct object (Caesarem), so the distinctiveness condition of definition ii is satisfied for Latin. In English it is not satisfied: the form is simply Caesar whether the function is subject, direct object, or indirect object. There is no noun, not even a pronoun, with a distinct inflectional form for the indirect object, and hence no basis at all for including dative among the inflectional categories of the English noun.

—Huddleston and Pullum, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 33.

There is another error in what it means to say a verb “takes” a case.

I give him the book. In this sentence ‘him’ is the dative of he. The verb to give takes on the dative case.

When one says that a verb “takes” a particular case, it means the direct object of that verb is expressed in that case. (Most verbs take the accusative case.) So in a language with a dative case, say Latin, if one says, Do ei librum (I give him the book), the direct object is librum (book), which has an accusative inflection. The indirect object is ei (him), which has a dative inflection. The verb dare (to give) is a normal verb that takes the accusative case.

(The Latin verb credere (to believe) is one that takes the dative case. If one says, Credo ei (I believe him), ei is the direct object, but it is in the dative case.)

English has no dative case. English nouns don’t even have an accusative (a.k.a. objective) case. Only English personal pronouns have an accusative (a.k.a. objective) case, and that case covers all object functions, direct, indirect, object of preposition, etc.

[ Edited: 06 October 2013 06:48 PM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 06 October 2013 11:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Just musing: word order sometimes doesn’t clarify everything in English, eg
The priest gave him her and
The priest gave her him
are confusing, though in the first sentence you assume she was given to him.  The alternative would be to use the passive voice.

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Posted: 07 October 2013 02:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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ElizaD - 06 October 2013 11:30 PM

Just musing: word order sometimes doesn’t clarify everything in English, eg
The priest gave him her and
The priest gave her him
are confusing, though in the first sentence you assume she was given to him.  The alternative would be to use the passive voice.

In most dialects of English the word order for sentences like these is S V IO DO if no prepositions are used.  The alternative would be to use a preposition and say, e.g.,
The priest gave her to him and
The priest gave him to her.

There was a time way back when it was S V DO IO without prepositions but that is no longer the case in most dialects.  I couldn’t speak to the dialects of northern England.

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Posted: 07 October 2013 06:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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’Between you and I’ and other similar grammatical mistakes presumably come about because, as someone mentioned earlier, younger people hear sentences like ‘my husband and I’ and mistakenly believe that all phrases which include the first person singular plus another person must use the nominative ‘I’. Either they weren’t taught (at home or at school) that I becomes me when it’s not nominative or their teachers weren’t informed enough themselves to correct them.

This is not true, as you would know if you had been paying attention.

The dative case still exists in English but because, in the example of pronouns, that form is identical to the accusative case, we don’t think it is in use any more.

Not only is this not true, as Dave has been patiently explaining, but it doesn’t even make any sense.  You might as well claim English has dozens of cases, but since they all look alike, we don’t realize it.

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Posted: 07 October 2013 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Yes, I must have had that ‘ethical dative in English’ stuff rattling around in my head since schooldays. It’s amazing how widespread it is, or was, in academic literature. The Arden editor of Hamlet for instance glosses the ‘your philosophy’ line as a use of the ethical dative. English was forced into the straitjacket of Latin grammar for so long that it’s taking a long while to shake it off. Thanks, Dave.

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Posted: 07 October 2013 06:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Well, even accepting that only English personal pronouns take the accusative case, then the phrase ‘between you and I’ must be wrong, as ‘I’ is nominative (subjective).

Because prepositions (between) usually describe a relationship or show possession, they don’t act alone. They answer questions like ‘where’ and ‘when’. For example, if I said, “Keep that information between you and me,” the preposition ‘between’ describes where the information is to be kept. So, rather than acting alone, prepositions are part of prepositional phrases. In my example sentence, ‘between you and me’ is a prepositional phrase. It’s just a rule that pronouns following prepositions in phrases like that are always in the objective case (accusative). When you’re using the objective case, the correct pronoun is ‘me’.

I’d say that at best ‘between you and I’ could be considered a hyper-correction, these days by default.

“The dative case still exists in English but because, in the example of pronouns, that form is identical to the accusative case, we don’t think it is in use any more.”

“Not only is this not true, as Dave has been patiently explaining, but it doesn’t even make any sense.  You might as well claim English has dozens of cases, but since they all look alike, we don’t realize it.”

These days, more and more, you hear ‘if I was a rich man’, and ‘was a rich man’ in this case is subjunctive, even though the verb form is identical to the simple past. We can’t see the difference here but we know the subjunctive exists. You could say that ‘if I were a rich man’ is actually correct, however, as in ‘between you and me’, maybe it’s going through a metamorphosis.

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Posted: 08 October 2013 03:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Yes, between you and I is nonstandard. However, this may be changing. There are a number of constructions where I/me can be alternated, with I representing a more formal style. The classic example is, It’s me; It is I is considered almost hopelessly formal. It is possible that between you and I/me is moving in this same direction, with between you and I representing a more formal style. But if so, we’re not quite there yet.

‘was a rich man’ in this case is subjunctive, even though the verb form is identical to the simple past.

No, it’s not subjunctive. The subjunctive mood, like the dative case, requires a distinct inflection. If I were a rich man is subjunctive, if I was a rich man is not, even though both phrases express a contra-factual condition.

Grammar describes inflections, not functions. If the function doesn’t have a distinct inflection, it’s not part of grammar.

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Posted: 08 October 2013 04:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Grammar describes inflections, not functions. If the function doesn’t have a distinct inflection, it’s not part of grammar.

Good to know.

Yes, between you and I is nonstandard. However, this may be changing

I wonder if this is a form of hypercorrection. Perhaps people are responding to being told that “You and me” is not correct in the nominative case by replacing _all_ instances of “you and me” with “you and I”.

Perhaps not.

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Posted: 08 October 2013 04:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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No perhaps about it.  The emperor’s clothes always have to look good and we are unanimous in that.

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Posted: 08 October 2013 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I don’t think that between you and I can be blamed solely on hypercorrection. It’s been used since at least 1596 (in The Merchant of Venice), which predates English being taught in school, I think.

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Posted: 08 October 2013 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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I’m sure many of us were taught as I was that you simply leave out the other person to determine if it’s me or I. It’s such a simple and easy thing to do that it makes me wonder if the change is partly due to this “rule” not being taught and people just going with whatever sounds good to them at the moment.

[ Edited: 08 October 2013 05:43 AM by happydog ]
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Posted: 08 October 2013 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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happydog - 08 October 2013 05:34 AM

I’m sure many of us were taught as I was that you simply leave out the other person to determine if it’s me or I.

Except that doesn’t work with between. If you remove one of the pronouns from between youand I you get between you or between I, which make no sense. Which makes me think that the teachers who taught students to simply leave out the other person weren’t thinking it through.

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Posted: 08 October 2013 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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gooofy - 08 October 2013 05:42 AM

happydog - 08 October 2013 05:34 AM
I’m sure many of us were taught as I was that you simply leave out the other person to determine if it’s me or I.

Except that doesn’t work with between. If you remove one of the pronouns from between youand I you get between you or between I, which make no sense. Which makes me think that the teachers who taught students to simply leave out the other person weren’t thinking it through.

If you bend that rule only slightly by using the first person plural pronoun it also becomes obvious.

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Posted: 08 October 2013 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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For that matter, between you is fine if you is plural.

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Posted: 08 October 2013 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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“No, it’s not subjunctive. The subjunctive mood, like the dative case, requires a distinct inflection. If I were a rich man is subjunctive, if I was a rich man is not, even though both phrases express a contra-factual condition.”

I was just making the point that these days more and more people say, ‘If I was a rich man’, and their meaning is in the subjunctive mood, even though they haven’t used the correct form for the subjunctive ‘If I were a rich man’. Everybody knows and understands what they mean.

My point was that this is another case where incorrect usage is becoming more common, and in this case the use of ‘was’ not ‘were’ means that the subjunctive is no longer ‘visible’ from a grammar point of view. Similarly, this applies to the dative case these days. It is no longer ‘visible’, but it still exists. Because it is no longer visible and the inflection has gone (as it is in ‘if I was a rich man’), then we believe it doesn’t exist anymore.

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