Dative delights

The world of English “datives” (using “dative” to refer to English NPs, especially personal pronouns, that are not direct objects but also are not marked with a preposition; English has no distinctive dative case, so “dative” here is a syntactic and not a morphological term) is rich and complex, taking in a number of phenomena beyond indirect objects with verbs of transfer, as in “Kim gave me a present”. (For some discussion, see Larry Horn’s 2008 paper ” ‘I love me some him’: The landscape of non-argument datives”, in Bonami & Hofherr (eds.), Empirical issues in syntax and semantics 7, here.  For an example that’s easier for most standard English speakers to parse, consider “I want to see me some polar bears”.)

Now here’s today’s Zippy with a somewhat different sort of example:

In the last panel, we have “hunt and gather me a dozen Ho Hos”, with the accusative form me, where a reflexive myself is possible in standard English (though a bit awkward) with a benefactive ‘for myself’ interpretation, ‘hunt and gather a dozen Ho Hos for myself’.

[Added 3/26/10: This analysis is seriously messed up. See my comment.]

2 Responses to “Dative delights”

  1. Sean Says:

    Wouldn’t “myself” only be possible if the (implied) subject of the sentence were the speaker, not Carlotta?

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    Sean is quite right. The simplest analysis of “hunt and gather me a dozen Ho Hos” (addressed to Carolla) is as a benefactive dative (‘hunt and gather a dozen Ho Hos for me / on my behalf’).

    In my defense, let me point out that when I wrote this posting I wasn’t feeling particularly well — a feeling that developed into a daylong malaise, and then a second day of recovery. I’ll spare you the details, except that cognitive confusion was one of the symptoms. As I was preparing to write this comment yesterday, I fell into an even worse version of the malaise; today was recovery day, and I’m still slowly coming back. (Apparently, my problems are a side-effect of the iron tablets I’m taking for my anemia. I’m cutting way back on the tablets.)

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