LINGUIST List 8.117

Tue Jan 28 1997

Sum: Dative shift

Editor for this issue: Susan Robinson <>


  1. centro multimediale linguistico, Sum: dative shift

Message 1: Sum: dative shift

Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 17:09:23 +0100
From: centro multimediale linguistico <>
Subject: Sum: dative shift

Dear linguists,

Last months I posted a query on dative shift in languages other than
English. I'd appreciate further comments on my queries.
First, my questions:

A. Are all diatransitive verbs dativizable? If not, are there any criteria
to distinguish dativizable and dativizable verbs?

B. Is the order of the two internal arguments in a DOC (Double Object
Construction) fixed?

C. Does your language have a symmetric passive (=(1) and (2) are both OK)?

1. John was given a watch.
2. (*)A watch was given John.

D. Symmetric wh-movement?

3. What did you give John?
4. *Who did you give the watch?

E. Symmetric Heavy NP Shift?

5. Mary gave to John the most expensive watch she had.
6. *Mary gave the book the best pupil in her class.

F. Symmetric binding?

7. ?John showed each other's friends to Bill and Mary.
8. *John showed each other's friends Bill and Mary.
9. John showed Mary to herself.
10. *John showed herself to Mary.

I would like to thank the following people:

Tom Cravens
Paul Kiparsky
John Lee
Helge Lodrup

Though my primary concern was not English, those who responded also
commented on my examples. Tom Cravens pointed out that (2) and (4) are
acceptable to some speakers. John Lee gave the same judgement for (2)
and argued that (4) is completely grammatical for him, the preposition
"to" being entirely optinal.
Putting English aside, the only other language I got examples from was
Norwegian, which interestingly patterns like in (F) (but see
below). Helge Lodrup wrote (I've slightly altered her terminology):

"A. Norwegian three-place verbs usually allow the DOC. Norwegian also
has the verb "donere", donate, which, like its English relative,
requires that its benefactive is realized as an oblique (i.e. a
PP). However, this pattern seems to be exceptional (at least if we
make the necessary distinctions between benefactives and locatives and
between arguments and adjuncts). But not all three-place verbs allow
their benefactive to be realized as a PP. Whether a Norwegian verb
alternates or not is an idiosyncratic property of the verb. It is
necessary to mark the verbs that require that their benefactive is
realized as an NP. There are regularities, many compound verbs with a
preposition or an adverb as their first part belongs to this
group. However, there is no productive compounding envolved. There is
an important difference between verbs with and without the dative
alternation. The verbs that require their benefactive to be realized
as an NP most often have to realize it, while the verbs that allow
their benefactive to be realized as an oblique most often do not have
to realize their benefactive.

B. Yes, first the benefactive and then the theme.

C. Yes:

John ble overrakt en klokke.
En klokke ble overrakt John.

D. Yes:

Hva overrakte du John?
Hvem overrakte du en klokke?

E. No:

Mary overrakte till John den mest verdifulle klokken hun hadde.
*Mary overrakte boken den beste eleven i klassen sin."

F. I think it might be of some interest to note what Helge Lodrup's
examples suggest here. Norwegian seems to pattern like English:
backward binding is allowed with an alternating verb used in the PDC
(Prepositional Dative Construction), but not in the DOC:

Jeg viste John barna sine
"I showed John the-children his (REFL)"
*Jeg viste barna sine John.
?Jeg viste barna sine till John.

I'd like to know if anyone has any counterexamples to the above
generalization regarding backward binding.
Another question concerns English. If (2) is acceptable to some
speakers and (4) tends to be judged OK as well (but see below), why is
(11) completely bad?

(11) *Who was the book given?

Note that (11) cannot be ruled out because of derivational economy
reasons (if one adopts the minimalist framework). Therefore, there
might be some other reason(s) for the ungrammaticality of (11)...
The problem is complicated by the fact that the acceptabilty of (4)
depends (at least for some speakers) on the verb one makes use of; in
fact, not all speakers accept sentences like:

(12) Who did you give a cold?
(13) Who did you give a black eye?
(14) Who did you give a kick?
(15) Who did the exam give a headache?

Tom Cravens wrote that one of his students (native of Milwaukee)
doesn't accept the above sentences without "to". What's more, this
poses the follwing problem: why is the insertion of "to" allowed,
given the well-known semantic constraint on DOCs (the beneficiary must
be intended as a possible possessor of the theme)? The affirmative
version of sentences (12)-(15) is in fact (Heavy NP Shift cases
aside)ungrammatical. Either the semantic constraint doesn't work with
some verbs used in an interrogative sentence, or the speakers who
accept (12)-(15) tend to accept their affirmative equivalents as
well. I wonder, in particular, whether wh-movement of the first object
in a DOC is more acceptable if in the corresponding affirmative
sentence you can use only the DOC (I gave the watch to Peter / I gave
Peter the watch vs. I gave Peter a black eye / *I gave a black eye to

Thank you.

Cristiano Broccias
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