LINGUIST List 7.1591

Sat Nov 9 1996

Disc: Natural language

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. benji wald, Re: 7.1524, Disc: Natural language

Message 1: Re: 7.1524, Disc: Natural language

Date: Sun, 03 Nov 1996 22:24:29 PST
From: benji wald <bwaldHUMnet.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 7.1524, Disc: Natural language

Jim Fidelholtz's comment concerning the nominative case and
prepositions is well taken. He offers the Spanish examples:

 entre tu' y yo 'between you and me' (cf. 'sin ti', 'sin mi'')
 segu'n yo 'according to me'.

To this we could add the English example "between you and I"
(obviously not endorsed by Jim -- or I either). Maybe it's time to
take a new census of who accepts "between you and I" -- well, maybe
not, because we're linguists, so we accept whatever people say, so
change the census Q to who admits to *saying* "between you and I".
Will somebody else volunteer to receive responses and tabulate results
on this one? (I'm serious.)

And for such speakers is it "between thou and I" or "between thee and
I"? (cf. below)

Getting back to the issue at hand, "nominative" is just a word unless
we specify more carefully that we mean the case used for the subject
of the verb but not the object, or something like that. That still
works for the above examples. But there is more to consider.

My long-held opinion about "between you and I", and, in fact "Prep you
& I" in general is that it is not the Prep that is controlling (if
that's the right word) this case choice but the "compounding"
("coordination"?) of pronouns, and that it is an innovation (albeit
quite an old one, many centuries) which has spread to many varieties
of English. As a process the particular pronouns are relevant since
we do not get the parallel "between they/them and we" and so on for
other combinations. Everyone who I've ever asked (focusing on
"between you and I" speakers, of course) insists on "between them and
us" (or "us and them"). So does that mean the process is incomplete
as an innovation? Not necessarily, if the "Prep you and I" is not (no
longer) connected with the insight that "I" is the "nominative" in
English. I can't make a prediction about the future generalisation of
this construction, but, it does not seem to me that further
generalisation is in sight. Conclusion: the compounding strategy is
divorced from nominative "I" (synchronically and dynamically).

I am less certain about generalisability in Spanish. The compounding
using nominative forms is more general in Spanish with "entre", and
certainly "according to I", where there is no compounding, is odd in
English, except to Rastafarians (for whom it has ideological content;
"I"'s are more enlightened beings than "me"'s). But what happens to
"yo" and other pronouns in Spanish when they are foregrounded, e.g.,

 a *mi*, no me quiere "me, she doesn't like (me)"
 ???yo, no me quiere

Problem is there will always be a preposition in Spanish when a
pronoun is foregrounded, unless it refers to the subject,

 yo, (yo) no creo eso Me, I don't believe that

And Spanish does pile up subject pronouns in this way, just like
French before it switched to "moi" in reference to subjects; jo >
*moi*, j'(-)l'crois pas.

If it's an object the preposition *a* inevitably comes up (for
non-third neuters at least, and the neuter is not marked for nom/acc,
of course, since Spanish is Indo-European, not to mention the shift
from inanimate pronouns to demonstratives in positions of emphasis in
all IE, and probably most other languages, cf. English ????it, I don't
believe (it).)

The twisted point is, is Spanish like English, i.e., where Prep +
nom. is apparent it's not really a nom. any more but something else?
I don't know, but I think there are such things to consider.

Meanwhile I think I already suggested to the List (but I'm not sure)
that Derzhanki's criticism of Esperanto may be mistaken. In case I
did, I'll rephrase it like this. The case following the preposition
in Esperanto might look like a nominative but it's not -- whatever the
inventor might have though! (i.e., like "I" in "between you and I" in
English). Why not? Umm, because there's a universal that says if a
language uses case A for subject and case B for object, it can't use
case A for object of a preposition. Why not? I don't know. Is it
that prepositions are really crypto-verbs? (or, with an eye to
typological universals, that they're both heads of constructions that
govern objects)? So let D or whoever else believes that universal
explain why it's a universal, and maybe also why Spanish *seems* to
have at least one counter-example (segun) to that universal?
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