Monday, November 5, 2012

Dative-Shift and Principle of End-Focus

In  my previous post I explained the Principle of End-Focus . In this present post I propose to examine Dative- Shift or Dative - Alternation in the light of the Principle of End-Focus .

What is dative- shift? You know that there are a few verbs which are capable of taking two objects . Such verbs are called ditransitive verbs . The object which is answer to the question what? is the direct object and the object which is answer to the question to whom / for whom is the indirect object . Look at this example

I gave her a ring .

In this sentence a ring is the direct object and her is the indirect object or the personal object . The indirect  object always precedes the direct object in this type of construction :

subject +verb+indirect object+direct object .

When we view the sentence as an information structure , a ring  is the new information and it gets end-focus .  Ring is pronounced with tonic accent . Thus ring gets prominence or emphasis by virtue of its final position .

It follows from this that in a normal English sentence with ditransitive verbs the direct object gets end-focus .

However, it is possible to re-phrase the sentence in such a way that the indirect object moves to the end of the sentence . As the indirect object  is still playing the recipient role , it is in the dative case . It is preceded by the preposition to or for , depending on the verb used .

1 I bought her a gift.

I bought a gift for her .

2  She made him tea .

She made tea for him . 

3  I gave her a gift .

I gave a gift to her 

When indirect object is shifted to the end of sentences (as in the examples given above), the focus is on the indirect object as it carries new information . 

For whom did you buy a gift? 

I bought a gift for her .

Look at the following examples 

The whole sentence as new information 

What happened at the party/ 

John gave Jane a gift . 

(Here focus is on gift  by virtue of its final position)

To whom did John give  the gift? 

John gave the gift to Jane. 

(jane  gets focus through dative-shifting )

Thus it is possible to emphasize the indirect object by placing it at the end of sentences . 

Thank you for visiting!

Prof .V.P.Rajappan



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