Accusative subject

Wilson Gray on ADS-L 1/21/12, quoting from “an anti-SOPA rant”:

(1) The US government is deciding that THEY can decide what me (as a Canadian not subject to American law) can do.

Wilson found this me as subject bizarre, but I noted that subject me is moderately common, under certain circumstances.

First: coordinate subject me is very common indeed, as are other coordinate accusatives in subjects (Me and him are going downtown). AccConjSubj (accusative conjoined subject) is a classic non-standardism, though several writers have argued that this is in a sense the expected state of affairs, with subject nominatives reserved for cases where the pronoun is the complete subject; on this view, NomConjSubj is an artificial, school-taught, alternative. But in any case, examples like (1) don’t involve coordination (though the coordination case might turn out to be relevant to their analysis).

Back in 2006, Thomas Grano did a search for me and found substantial numbers of examples like (1), starting with the lyrics to the song “Spill the Wine” by Eric Burdon (of the Animals):

(2) This really blew my mind, the fact that me, an overfed, long-haired, leaping gnome, should be the star of a Hollywood movie.

Grano searched only for me cases, though I imagine that examples could be found, perhaps in smaller numbers, for the other personal pronouns with a visible nominative-accusative distinction (him, her, us, them). He searched for two types of examples:

(a) me + an appositive (as in (1) and (2))

(b) me + one of the loose modifiers for one, however, too

Examples of the (b) type I collected this morning:

[for one] I know that me for one will not take the small chance with a performance built transmission. (link)

[however] Me however.. will probably end up turning mine into a bagger atleast saddle bags and a luggage rack for ther super long runs. (link)

[too] I made up my mind that me too will start cherishing the pleasures of school life (link)

In these examples, the verb doesn’t show visible agreement with its subject, but the sample of 42 cases that Grano provided for me in 2006 (19 of type (a) and 23 of type (b)) included a fair number in which the verb provides person-number clues about the subject. And these show split behavior, some having verbs consistent with 1sg but not 3sg subjects (which looks like notional agreement with the subject), others having verbs consistent with 3sg but not 1sg subjects (which looks like defaulting to 3sg).

The clearest examples are for type (b), in the choice between 1sg am and 3sg is:

[1sg, for one] Heya party people, the holiday season is upon us and me for one am excited.

[3sg, for one] me, for one, is the first to admit I have got a long long way to go

[1sg, however] Me, however, am just a lowly servant girl

[3sg, however] my mum had purple and silver theme last year, but me however is a different story (link) [AMZ find today]

[1sg, too] Yeah, me too am very disappointed.

[3sg, too] Me too is having this issue and haven’t found a fix until now. (link) [AMZ find today]

There are also type (a) examples:

[1sg have rather than 3sg has]  I just wanted someone to know that me, a person in recovery, always, always have options.

[3sg has rather than 1sg have]  You can see that me, a die-hard advocate for inexpensive consumer-grade gear and third party cheap lenses, has also changed my mind and start upgrading to higher equipment.

Here, the 1sg agreement cases look straightforward, but 3sg agreement could be analyzed, not as defaulting, but as agreement with the nearest, since the appositive phrases are 3sg.

To return to the case of the subject: what unites the type (a) and the three (b) subtypes is that the pronoun is in construction with following material. When the pronoun stands alone in subject position, nominative case is not only standard, but close to invariable; accusative me as the entire subject of a finite clause occurs in the speech of children, non-native speakers, and semi-speakers (as well as in English-based pidgins and creoles), but otherwise it’s I all the way.

Things are different when the pronoun is only part of the subject; here, there is considerable variability — in the (a) and (b) types above, in coordinate subjects, and in some other constructions, for instance in poor me (rather than poor I) as subject and in us Ns (rather than we Ns) as subject. The facts are different for each construction, but there is a general tendency towards accusative case.

Some of the (a) and (b) examples don’t strike me as half bad, though they are strikingly informal. Sometimes, in fact, the nominative alternatives sound stilted to me. But then I’ve been thinking about these phenomena for years, so my judgments have probably been softened by experience.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: