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CONLANG  September 2003, Week 5

CONLANG September 2003, Week 5

Subject:

Re: Ethical Dative, was Re: Polysynthetic Languages

From:

Christophe Grandsire <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 29 Sep 2003 13:51:18 +0200

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En réponse à Doug Dee :


>http://www.linguistlist.org/~ask-ling/archive-1998.4/msg00149.html
>
>where Larry Trask makes a tentative suggestion.

Larry Trask's description of the phenomenon as "dative of interest" is 
probably the best one you can get in English. Indeed, when I say something 
like:

Je te lui ai flanqué une sacrée raclée.

I make the sentence interesting for the listener by adding him/her into it, 
when considerations of syntax and meaning say s/he has no business being in 
there ;))) . The idea is that a simple recount of events where the listener 
was absent is not especially interesting for him/her, so to make it more 
interesting, more lively for the listener, just add him/her to the 
sentence. You make this way the listener metaphorically part of what you're 
recounting, and it becomes thus more interesting for that person to listen 
to you.

In the same way, in the Spanish example:

Él no me le comió la comida.

The addition of the first person pronoun when it's not supposed to be there 
(for both syntax and meaning) indicates that the speaker was somehow 
interested in the event, although s/he had no part in the action itself. In 
this case, tone of voice probably indicates also that the speaker would 
have wanted the action to be otherwise than it has been. But the main 
meaning is here again indicating an interest.

The closest I can find in English of this phenomenon is the expression "on 
me" in "don't die on me" that I've heard a few times. It it as close to the 
ethical dative of Spanish as you can find. Of course, it doesn't help 
explaining the French and Basque ethical dative, but I hope my explanation 
above has helped people understand something which seems very foreign to 
English.

Christophe Grandsire.

http://rainbow.conlang.free.fr

You need a straight mind to invent a twisted conlang. 

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