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