Wednesday Word: (Gonna Write Me One)

There’s isn’t a Wednesday WORD this week. It’s actually a whole grammar feature which shows up in Appalachian English (okay, some of us use it, too). Linguists call it the Personal Dative.

When we hear the form, it immediately gives a sense of backwoods mountain dialect. How do these sound? (the highlighted pronouns are the personal datives):

  • I’m gonna get me an ice cream cone.
  • She’s got her a new boyfriend.
  • I sure would love me a big juicy steak.

Doesn’t sound like the evening news, does it? For Standard English, if we express a sense like this, we uses us one of them reflexive pronouns. Oops. I lost my Standard English there for a minute. Sorry. But yes, we use the reflexive (note the difference in position and meaning in the last one):

  • I’m gonna get myself an ice cream cone.
  • She’s got herself a new boyfriend.
  • I sure would love, a big juicy steak, myself.

The Palawano language does something like this, too, but it’s not a nonstandard, backwoods dialect. It’s standard grammar. The meaning is not exactly the same as the mountain English above, so I never associated the two in my mind. But reading a short piece about personal datives got me thinking about it. Here are some rather literal translations of the Palawano possibilities…

  • My heads hurts to-me.
  • I will buy a cow to-me.

Neither of these has a reflexive meaning. The speaker isn’t hurting his own head or buying himself a cow. The meaning is more “as for me” (i.e. something true of the speaker in contrast to others.) My head hurts, yours doesn’t.

Here’s another one…

  • I’m going home to-me.

This isn’t saying that the speaker is their own destination. Again, it’s contrastive: “as for me here, I’m going home.”

None of these have a reflexive meaning. But just imagine how it was trying to figure out the meaning of these sentences with an extra pronoun thrown in, back when I was trying to learn this language and no native speaker could explain it!

Well, the Wednesday Word isn’t usually quite so technical. I hope it was interesting, anyway.

It’s late now here in this time zone. So I think I’m gonna get me to bed.

.

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Thanks to the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project for reminding me of this grammar feature.

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About Bill Davis

Writer, speaker and translation and language learning consultant. I write technical articles, poetry and humor, and I am working on my first novel which is set on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.
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5 Responses to Wednesday Word: (Gonna Write Me One)

  1. jimwood8 says:

    In Icelandic, people can say:

    Ég fór heim til mín.
    I went home to me/myself
    ‘I went home’ (perhaps ‘to my home’)

    Hann fór heim til sín.
    he went home to himself
    ‘He went home’ (perhaps ‘to his home’)

  2. I recently saw a commercial depicting a cowboy using the “love me” phrasing like the example above, and it didn’t ring true to my ear. “Love to have me” would have worked, but “love me” is a more passive voice — almost a different meaning of “love” — and I don’t feel it would actually be used. Maybe it’s a mix of dialects that wouldn’t normally be used together. I wonder whether I’m mistaken on that.

    — Ken

  3. Bill Davis says:

    Hmmmm. Ken, I think both “I would love me some ___” and “I would love to have me some ___” are fine. They are very colloquial, for sure, and dialect specific. Not everyone would use both forms; some speakers would not use either. They both sound very “cowboy” to my ear.

    • Maybe you’re right and I’m just being picky. Assuming that’s true, I tried to use Google to find examples of original “native” usage, but all I found were a few recent social media postings by rock musicians. No surprise if new usages show up there.
      Any idea where/how a person might find older examples?
      — Ken

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