[MUD-Dev] English grammar thoughts

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 21 19:39:55 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


On Saturday 20 October 2001 12:49, Kylotan wrote:
> From: Par Winzell <zell at skotos.net>

>> 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. 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.

> No; not really. In the 2nd case, the sky is the direct object and
> the sword is indirect. You see, in the second sentence, you're
> using a different verb "to wave at" which is different to "to
> wave".

Hmm.  This isn't English as I've been taught it.  My understanding
is that the direct object is the object directly affected by the
action represented by an active verb, while the indirect object is
the object indirectly affected by the action represented by an
active verb.

Thus, in both cases, the sword is the direct object, because it is
the thing that the actor is directly affecting.

(One could also say that the sky is not an indirect object, because
it is not being affected at all, even indirectly.)

> For some intents and purposes, you can consider 'wave' to be a
> single verb that is simply used in different grammatical contexts,
> but not really this case.

Why not?  The action of "waving" is the same either way.  If "to
wave at" is a different verb, than are "to wave in the direction of"
and "to wave towards" also different verbs?  These are simply
modifying phrases indicating the direction in which one is waving.

> Compare "to look" with "to look at" for a clearer example: "to
> look" = "to appear" whereas "to look at" = "to watch".

Not necessarily.  "He looks north" does not mean that someone
appears to be north, whatever that would mean -- it means that he is
watching in the direction north.

> Different verbs, they just happen to share a word when you use
> certain synonyms.

Yes... but that's not the case with "wave".  It indicates the same
fundamental action -- that of moving an object back-and-forth a few
times -- whether or not it has "at X", "towards X", "to X", etc.

>>     [ I think there's always a preposition before the direct
>>     object ]

> I think you meant indirect object here...

There's not necessarily a preposition before either.  In

  "I gave Joe the book."

there's no prepositions at all, but "Joe" is the indirect object,
and "the book" is the direct object.

>> 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?

See:

  http://latin.gal.ohio-state.edu/grammar/english_cases.htm

for some on that.

--
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 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
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