Another transitive depend

In the last posting: depends + WH-clause. Now another transitive use of depend (discussed in this posting). This one I first noticed in a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode, “Ending Happy”, first aired 4/26/07:

They depended me on that ‘They depended on/upon me for that’

The historical chain seems to start from depend on/upon PERSON developing to depend PERSON (simple transitivizing P-drop), as in:

I hope Angie slows down and gets the help she needs. Even with all her money she wants to be mommy and not depend other people and if any of you are mothers you can understand that (link)

Not every song a band makes is a hit, so you really have to put a certain amount of effort in when it comes to finding good music unfortunately (especially WN music). You can’t always depend other people to do so. (link)

This SPED dept has to be brought down for what they have done to the families who depended them to give them answers. (link)

This sort of transitivization would take depend on/upon PERSON for SITUATION to depend PERSON for SITUATION, as in:

Countless plant species depend them for propagation, including many agricultural species that feed humanity. Yet in many areas, natural bees are absent. … (link)

Russia has grown rich and regained power because Europeans depend them for their energy. The Democratic party has been instrumental in crippling our sources … (link)

More than 165 species of animals and insects depend them for survival, including black-footed ferrets, coyotes, bald eagles, swift fox, golden eagles, … (link)

And then, if you have transitive depend you might still remember that depend takes an oblique object marked by on and so use on for the second object of depend. That gives a further development from depend PERSON for SITUATION to depend PERSON on SITUATION, as in the CSI example and these:

I NEVER DEPENDED HIM ON ANYTHING but being there for me. I was always doing things on my own and never wanted or asked him for a dime. (link)

Hertz doesn’t have this policy, and I had to rent an SUV from them as a last moment thing, because they didn’t have any minivans to rent. Enterprise has cost me more money because I depended them on a reservation that wasn’t fulfilled. (link)


Something of a long strange trip, but it gets us to yet another transitive argument structure for depend, in addition to depend SOMEONE (for SITUATION) (and, of course, in addition to depends + WH-clause).


9 Responses to “Another transitive depend

  1. Rick Wojcik Says:

    It seems that “depend” is now becoming something of a synonym for “trust” with some speakers, as in “I trusted/depended him on that”.

    • Rick Sprague Says:

      I wish that were it. But while there is some structural and semantic overlap between “trust” and transitive “depend” as given in these examples, I don’t think it’s anything close to synonymy. In “I NEVER DEPENDED HIM ON ANYTHING but being there for me”, for example, it would seem illogical to trust somebody for emotional support and yet not trust them to help you out with some cash. The speaker was surely focusing on his/her (in)dependence in the traditional meaning, rather than on the other person’s trustworthiness.

      I have to admit, this new non-WH-clause-complement transitive depend is harder for me to accept than most language changes I’ve come across. Like you, I keep looking for a word I can substitute to make it easier, but so far I haven’t found one I can depend. (Did I use that right?)

      • arnold zwicky Says:

        Following up on Rick Sprague: yes, the two types of innovative transitive depend I just posted about are quite different, not only structurally but sociolinguistically. It depends + WH-clause seems to have become a standard variant (co-existing with the older on-marked variant), but depend PERSON is still pretty clearly non-standard.

        Now, the complexity. “so far I haven’t found one I can depend” could just be an instance of depend PERSON with the PERSON argument extracted. Or it could be an instance of what I’ve called “P-absorption”, in which a verbal construction with a selected P can appear without the P *in extraction constructions* (which usually means in clause-final position), as in

        someone we’re never able to stay away [absorbed from]

        … we began running out of surfaces for affixing American flags [absorbed to]

        You won’t have anything to protect yourself [absorbed with]

        (There are quite a few other ways of “losing a P”, alas.)

  2. Rick Wojcik Says:

    I confess that this is the first time I’ve seen this construction, and Arnold’s P-absorption does sound like a plausible method by which the new usage might have arisen. I didn’t mean to say that “depend” is an exact synonym of “trust”, but the meaning is very close. So I just wonder if there is some kind of analogical shift going on here, as well. How is the verb “rely on” doing with these speakers? Does anyone say “I can’t rely him on anything”?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I don’t get any ghits for {“can’t rely him/her/them/me/us/you on anything”}. It would be nice if there were some, but we can’t conclude anything from their absence.

  3. Rick Wojcik Says:

    When I first read this topic, it reminded me of my early struggles with the Russian verb научить “to teach”, which favors constructions like научить кого-то к чему-то (lit. “teach someone to something”), where my English mind wanted to say “teach something to someone”. The construction only seemed to work mentally for me when it was pointed out that the historical root for научить was the same as that for the Russian equivalent of “introduce”. The analogy made it work for me. It is in the same sense that this new English construction makes sense to me when I relate it to the verb “trust”.

  4. Chris Waigl Says:

    I just thought of this post of yours when I came across this transitive _spend_ in a quote on Crooked Timber of a senior person at a movie studio:

    “A tentpole film is one where you can seed the desire to see the film to everyone in every distribution channel. It’s the only kind of film you can spend $100 million marketing,” he said.

    Now _spend_, unlike _depend_, is what I’ve been taught to call bitransitive, with one direct object being the zero relative pronoun here, a construction I would guess makes the P-dropping more likely (but this is just a guess). [I also had to re-read the first sentence in the quote several times with _one_ referring back to _film_ and being restricted by a clause starting in _where_ and the unfamiliar turn of the phrase _seed a desire to someone_.]

  5. arnold zwicky Says:

    “It’s the only kind of film you can spend $100 million marketing,” he said.”

    Complexity here. To start with, “It’s the only kind of film you can spend $100 million marketing” has an extracted object of marketing, which is (I think) irrelevant here. The crucial bit is “spend $100 million marketing ___”; spend here has two complements, the direct object (of amount) “100 million” and the second complement “marketing ___”. This gets us back to the syntax of spend:

    spend has the alternatives spend AMOUNT on OBJECT and spend AMOUNT OBJECT (where OBJECT is of the form VP-ing): spend $100 million (on) marketing films. Yet another P~zero alternation.

  6. Chris Waigl Says:

    Right, I neglected to consider that OBJECT[VP-ing] is possible for the “spend AMOUNT” case.

    Somehow I’ve been tending towards “spend TIME V-ing” (or something referring to effort) vs. “spend AMOUNT on OBJECT”, but I see that “spend $100 million marketing a movie” isn’t ungrammatical at all. Thanks. (I still think, though, that “spend TIME on V-ing” is much rarer than the prepositionless alternative.)

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