LINGUIST List 9.626

Tue Apr 28 1998

Sum: Dialectal "bound" pronouns

Editor for this issue: Anita Huang <>


  1. Lukasz Pielasa, dialectal "bound" pronouns

Message 1: dialectal "bound" pronouns

Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 21:59:45 +0200
From: Lukasz Pielasa <>
Subject: dialectal "bound" pronouns

A while ago I posted a query on the list concerning the use of what I
called "bound pronouns" (a misnomer if I've ever seen one). I meant the
odd pronouns in object-like positions as in "I bought me some bread."
i would like to thank the following people for their kind replies and/or
helping me otherwise (in chronological order):

Mike Maxwell
Rebecca Larche Moreton
Tim Beasley
Larry Horn
Charles T. Scott
George Huttar
John Davis
Rick Mc Callister
Suzette Haden Elgin
David Houghton
Tim Stowell
Clare Dannenberg
Heidi Fleischhacker

The phenomenon in question is further illustrated below:

1. "I seen me a mermaid once." ("Hunt For Red October")
2. I found me a good bike in the dump.
3. I want me a new car.
4. I need me a Coke.
5. I'm gonna cry me a river over you.
6. He's gonna build him a house for his family. (all pronouns corefer)

It appears that those personal datives, ethical datives or personal
emphatics (as they are called) are:
- more often used with the first person singular than anything else,
though that may be due to preference factors
- quite clearly not arguments of any sort (as seen in the examples above
- they can be used as an "indirect object" with one-object predicates
and as a third "object" with double transitives.)
- not quite paraphraseable by "-self" forms. "I caught myself some fish"
apparently carries contrastive meaning of "...for nobody else than me."
In contrast, "I caught me some fish" is a statement of a fact, though
less dry and more "personal" than pure "I caught some fish". There seems
to be a tinge of the subject of the sentence being a benefactive of the
activity, but not necessarily the sole benefactive, as in (6).

There is MUCH more to the phenomenon in question than my brief summary
attempts to hint at. The personal datives should prove interesting both
for the semanticist and the syntactician. There exists the following
literature on the subject:

Donna Christian. "The personal dative in Appalachian speech." In: 
Dialects of English: Studies in grammatical variation, eds. Peter 
Trudgill and J.K. Chambers. London: Longman, 1991.

Walt Wolfram and Donna Christian. Appalachian Speech. Arlington, VA: 
Center for Applied Linguistics, 1976.

Mary Sue Sroda and Margaret Mishoe. "I jus like to look at me some 
goats: dialectal pronominals in southern English." NWAVE 24 
presentation abstract, 1995.

(the above address is an approximate - my navigator spat back on me, but
three minutes later I found the abstract in a different catalogue; I'm
sorry to say I forgot to note it down :(

Right now there's work going on on this subject at UNC-Chapel Hill, of
which Clare Dannenberg informs me. She is teamed with Gert Webelhuth at
this very moment, trying to tackle personal datives. So the topic seems
rather hot.

And the answer to my last question (the "theory" having been by now
wrecked pretty thoroughly by a simple confrontation with data ;) is: the
datives look well-settled in the language, and neither are they
disappearing nor gaining ground, it seems.

`Once again, thanks to all who have taken the trouble to reply.


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