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On Wed, 13 Oct 2004 07:19:43 +0100, Ray Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>On Tuesday, October 12, 2004, at 12:44 , Henrik Theiling wrote:
>[snip]
>> Icelandic has a lot more of the 'Mir ist kalt.' style dative subjects
>> and even some accusative ones.  Sometimes those sentences are archaic
>> in German, sometimes they are totally ungrammatical when translated
>> literally.
>>
>> IS: Mig thyrsta.
>>     ACC
>>
>> DE: Mich dürstet. (archaic)
>>     ACC
>>     Ich habe Durst.
>
>No, no. Why construe them as subjects, when all the grammatical signs
>point against it? Just because modern German has "Ich habe Durst", French
>has "j'ai soif" and English has "I am thirsty"? Because the person
>suffering thirst in those three languages is subject surely does not mean
>the person has to be subject in every language?
>
>The grammatical subject has a tendency to be the same a the semantic
>agent.
>  The person who is thirsty is hardly the semantic agent, so it should not
>be at all surprising if many languages do not make the person the
>grammatical subject. Indeed, the Icelandic construction seems more logical
>in that the direct object has a tendency to be the semantic 'patient'. The
>person who is thirsty is surely either the patient or recipient?
>
>The Welsh equivalent is:
>Mae syched arna i.
>Is  thirst on  me.
>
>There is no way anyone is going to persuade me that _arna i_ (on me) is
>the grammatical subject! Indeed, the noun _syched_ is clearly the subject
>of the verb 'mae'. So why must I accept the Icelandic 'mig' as subject? I
>don't.
>
>The same consideration applies to "mir ist kalt" - I am hardly the
>semantic agent. The dative indeed implies that I am the recipient of
>coldness - and on cold days that exactly how I feel.

That's a possible way to explain this function of the dative. I think the
traditional term for it is 'experiencer'. But experiencer and recipient
are semantically related.

I get the feeling that in the older stages of Indoeuropean, many verbs
that expressed feelings and sensations didn't have an animate nominative
(agent), but an animate dative (experiencer). These experiencer
constructions evoke that thoughts/feelings/impressions happen to the
people rather than that the people actively cause them.

>Unless I have been
>completely misinformed, I believe "Ich bin kalt" is also possible German,
>tho with the meaning: 'I am [sexually] frigid'.

It could be used in that sense, but to me, this seems rather a unusual
use. You may have messed it up with "heiss sein" (to be hot). Someone
(Swiss or German) told that a German girl had asked him how to say "mir
ist heiss" in English. He said she should say "I am hot", and got a slap
in his face because she believed he wanted to make her say "I am sexy".

However, you can also say "ich habe kalt/heiss" (I have cold/hot), and to
me, this seems even a little bit more usual than "mir ist heiss/kalt" (to-
me is hot/cold), which might be but a regional preference, I don't know.


>> unless it is the
>> null-pronoun 'es' used for valence-0 sentences like 'Es ist kalt.', so
>> you could say 'Es ist mir kalt.'/'Mir ist es kalt.'  But that's no
>> subject, it cannot be gapped:
>>
>>     *Mir ist es kalt und regnet.
>>      Mir ist es kalt, und es regnet.
>>
>> This type of 'es' is purely syntactic.
>
>Yes, like _il_ [masc.] in French _il pleut_, _hi_ [fem.] in Welsh _mae hi'
>n glawio_ or the _it_ [neut.] in English _it is raining_. yes, they aare
>'dummy subjects_ required by the syntax of the languages.

The German dummy subject has another funny use. Count the number of
subjects of the following sentence:

"Es liegt ein Schatz im grünen Rhein." (It lies a treasure NOM in-the
green Rhine.) 'A treasure lies in the green Rhine.

This sentence has appearently two subject! But the "es" can easily be
dropped:

"Ein Schatz liegt im grünen Rhein."

The "es" can even pre-repeat a plural subject:

"Es sprachen zwei Männer miteinander." (It spoke two men NOM with each
other.) 'Two men spoke with each other.

I suspect this use of the "es" is best explained with speech rhythm.

gry@s:
j. 'mach' wust