[MUD-Dev] English grammar thoughts

Jasper McChesney jasperm at student.umass.edu
Sat Oct 20 09:56:39 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Par Winzell wrote:
> So, first, what I think I know: in English, the direct object is
> the answer to the question 'What did you put? wave? fill? nod?' 
> and thus invariant under word-order juggling -- in
>   'wave my sword at the sky'
> and
>   'wave at the sky with my sword'
> the direct object is the sword in both cases.

No, not really.  In the second case, "with my sword" is a
prepositional phrase.  As I far as I understand (and I think I'm
right on this), they don't actually count as direct objects --
they're merely additional modifiers on the verb.  "At the sky" is
another prerp. phrase.

> If this were true, it'd mean that direct objects can have
> prepositions in front of them, which I had previously thought they
> could not.

AFAIK, DOs can't have prepositions, but prepositional phrases do.
I'm wondering how you'll parse this out, since the phrase replaces
the D.O. as far as we're concerned but technically isn't one.  I
guess just look for certain prepositions?

> The other object is easier -- I'm going to call it 'indirect' even
> in those cases where apparantly it might more correctly be
> referred to as 'object of the preposition'.

That's pretty well all right.

I'll skip the technical stuff since, based on what I've said, I
think it would need some changes, and I'm not much of a programmer

> Finally, does anybody know what the relationship is between the
> notions of on one hand direct and indirect objects and the object
> of the preposition, and on the other hand noun cases like
> nominative, accusative, dative, etc?

Well, most of my grammar comes from Latin, which has such things
(noun cases) but English doesn't, if I'm not mistaken.  For example,
the Dative case roughly translates as "to blakity-blank."  But
English uses the actual preposition "to" instead.  We don't include
it in the noun.  Similarly, accusative is for direct objects, and
Nominative is for words acting as subjects, but English doesn't make
a distinction in the word form.  "The Cat eat a squirrel" and "the
Squirrel eats the cat" uses the same nouns in both cases, even
though their meanings are reversed.

I hope that helps.  I'm not exactly an expert either, so I may very
well have forgotten something, but I'm hoping that my Latin serves
me well here.

Oh, BTW, first post!

Jasper "Asmaul" McChesney
jasperm at student.umass.edu / jasp at javanet.com
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