Lead (someone) a merry dance

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Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Archived Topic » Wed Oct 06, 2004 9:51 pm

I'm fairly sure that the derivation of this expression is fairly self-explanatory, but the grammatical structure has long intrigued me - is "lead" ditransitive here? Usually ditransitive constructions can be rewritten using "to" - as in "John gave Jane the book" ... "John gave the book to Jane" - but not in this case. "Leading" intuitively seems an unlikely activity to enable an indirect object - as does "taking" in "She took the children a long walk" (contrast "She took the children a present". EA
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Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Oct 06, 2004 10:05 pm

Edwin,

My opinion is that the verb 'lead' is not ditransitive in this case (i.e. it does not have both a direct and indirect object).

To explain this using an example sentence, I would be inclined to suggest that in the construction 'George led his country a merry dance', there is an implicit 'on' in the sentence which is absent in this idiom, i.e. 'George led his country [on] a merry dance'.

If this is the case, then 'his country' must be regarded as a direct object, not an indirect object. It follows that 'a merry dance' is really a prepositional phrase in which the preposition [on] is only notionally present. In fact, as you imply, it is actually nonsensical to try to force an interpretation of the verb 'to lead’ into enabling an indirect object.

I hope this clarifies things somewhat.

Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Oct 06, 2004 10:20 pm

Thank you Erik -

The 1983(!) edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English claims that there is an indirect object involved in this construction, but I feel far happier with your elided-preposition suggestion. I have been very impressed with the level of scholarship demonstrated on this web-site, and also some of the humour. Edwin Ashworth
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Jan 15, 2011 1:08 pm

Ah yes, there have been some merry dances led over the intervening years.

I'm trawling through thefreedictionary's impressive collection of idioms, looking for idiosyncratic V-N (verbo-nominal) constructions. The classification of such looks frighteningly difficult and contentious. However, I'll just mention:

He led her a dog's life

(Actually, only He led a dog's life etc are addressed in the above reference, but there are 5000+ GHits for She led him a dog's life and (only!) 300+ for He led her a dog's life.) I do seem to remember having heard the ditransitive-or-is-it version in conversation.

The interesting thing here is that there doesn't seem to be the possibility of a preposition having being dropped. In He led a dog's life, a dog's life would probably be called a cognate (or rather hyponymic) object:

He slept the sleep of the righteous (cognate object - that of the same base-form as the verb, which is usually intransitive; rarely sounds acceptable without further elaboration - *He slept a/the sleep).
He danced a tango (hyponymic object - 'tango' hyponym of 'dance' and 'dance' only takes such {and cognate} objects).

I would not like to attempt to pronounce upon the ditransitive-or-is-it construction,
but suggest that it may have arisen from mimicry of the led sb a merry dance construction.
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sun May 15, 2011 8:12 pm

A far less peripheral example cropped up today, with my daughter Elizabeth saying, "They threw us a party."

This expression sounds unusual and rather comical to me; I applied to the grammar police, and found many Google hits for 'threw him a party', 'throw us a party' etc.

Obviously it's fairly heavily idiomatic - it will transitivise, but one can't say They threw it (for us) at the Civic Hall. ... Or can one?

There are also quite a few (though nowhere near as many) GHits for "He threw them a glance", and fewer again for "He threw him a punch". I wouldn't say that these seemed any more idiomatic than the party example - the punch example, indeed, being less metaphorical. Again, I'm being forced to concede that people trying to analyse these structures rigorously and sell us their theories are flogging us a dead horse. And/or that people like parties.

There is one GHit (till now) for "threw him a game".
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun May 15, 2011 10:15 pm

The following are all standard usages:

They threw us a party at the Civic Hall.

They threw a party for us at the Civic Hall.

He threw a punch at him.


I don't much like "He threw him a punch". "He threw them a glance", on the other hand, sounds fine to me.
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Mon May 16, 2011 7:10 pm

You should'a come to the party of the first part.
They had plenty of punch there.
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:21 pm

The expression go a walk has just cropped up chez nous, and it is another of these constructions where the verb appears to be forced into taking a rare and ill-fitting object.

The expression go home uses home adverbially - as an adverbial objective. It is inaccurate to analyse go a walk similarly - the noun phrase is bound more intimately to the verb here.

I think I've sorted out how the confusion arises over is the thing a direct or indirect object, or not - it depends on whether the analyst is in the School of Syntax or the School of Semantics. It would be helpful if the authorities would declare their interests whenever the problem is addressed - it doesn't happen all that often. (The problem or the coming clean!)

Yesterday, as it was so sunny, Jenny and John decided to leave their car at the camp-site and go a walk.

a walk - syntactic object (same structure as in have / take a walk; catch a bus).

a walk - semantically not an object (one can't go anything, within the normal requirements of transitivity) (for the central meaning of go = aller in French).
Again, the construction almost certainly arises from the elision of the preposition for (on connotes more organisation, and wouldn't be dropped). It's interesting that go a drive and, less often, go a journey and go a hike also crop up; go a swim and go a trip have Google backing but I'd not come across them; go a sail and go a cruise are getting rarer, and go a climb, go a jog, and go an abseil are distinctly unpopular.
Last edited by Edwin F Ashworth on Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by dante » Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:32 pm

Hello Edwin,
I think I've sorted out how the confusion arises over is the thing a direct or indirect object, or not - it depends on whether the analyst is in the School of Syntax or the School of Semantics.


I'd put that more simply and say that it depends if you want to analyze the sentence semantically or syntactically. In parsing a sentence you will use grammatical concepts, like direct or indirect object, adjunct, subject etc.

Because of the uses of "home" as in "I went home", H&P classify "home" as preposition, which view is obviously still not accepted widely in grammar literature. I'm not sure I've ever heard "go a walk" but whatever interpretation you give to "a walk" there it would be as much disputed by some grammarians.

Anyway, in my opinion, despite a few murky constructions it is safe to say that a noun following verbs in transitive sentences is an object, direct or indirect. I think that ESL learners can use it as a useful rule, to help themselves in recognizing and remembering this crucial grammatical patterns automatically. An important point to notice here that transitive sentences are not to be mixed up with intransitive sentences where the verb is complemented with that-clauses (not with an object !) with"that" left out, where the following noun functions as the subject in the embedded clause:

The ticket agent admitted the mistake might not have been caught.
The professor read the newspaper had been destroyed.

"mistake" and "newspaper" are subjects in the embedded clauses, not objects of the matrix verb. I've found a few documents on the net dealing with this in scope of "verb bias effects" as they name it http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2756706/

In certain catenative constructions like:

Captain Smith Believed Titanic To Be Unsinkable.

He expected the consumer environment to be "somewhat more challenging" this year than last year.

the noun following the verb in the matrix clause is a grammatical object- Titanic and consumer environment respectively, although they do not semantically match the role of the object in this kind of sentences.

Also important to notice here is that, except for heavy objects and parenthetical expressions, nouns/objects will always follow the verb immediately. Nothing can come in between the verb and the object in transitive patterns except for a particle of phrasal verb, like "He took out a gun".
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Thu Jul 14, 2011 10:34 pm

If H & P classify home in its adverbial role as a preposition, I know how I classify H & P!

As for your statement

Anyway, in my opinion, despite a few murky constructions it is safe to say that a noun following verbs in transitive sentences is an object, direct or indirect. , Dante, here at http://www.englishforums.com/English/Ad ... v/post.htm one finds:

Many English nouns and noun phrases can be used as adverbs. They are called "adverbial objectives". From the standpoint of word order, an adverbial objective is put as if it were an objective of a verb, but actually it works as an adverbial modifier of the verb. This sort of construct comes from an Old English grammar rule that allowed the use of accusative cases of nouns as adverbs. For example, let's take an Old English sentence "He eode ham"[=He went home]. From the view of current English the word "ham" [home] would be treated as an adverb but it was the accusative of the noun "ham" in Old English. In current English this sort of noun phrase usage is prominent especially in the cases where the noun phrases indicate "time/duration", "space/direction/distance", "measure/degree", and "manner" (there are others):

Time/Duration
[1.] Did you see him this morning?
[2.] What time shall we go?
[3.] She is thirty years old.
[4.] I'd like to start Wednesday, the first jury day. ["the first jury day" is appositive to "Wednesday"]
[5.] Please tell me what day you are free.
[6.] The parcel arrived last week.
[7.] They prayed all night in the cathedral.
[8.] They walked two hours.
Some other examples of noun phrases of this use:
every day, next week, next Monday, the day after tomorrow, one of these days, one day, any day in this week, etc.

Space/Direction/Distance
[1.] Today I came a different way. ["Today" is a TIME ad. ob.]
[2.] Elms stood either side of the street.
[3.] Let's go some place.
[4.] He lives next door.
[5.] She'll come home soon.
[6.] Come this way, please!
[7.] We wandered north and north.
[8.] We walked ten miles.

Measure
[1.] She was thirty years old.
[2.] The bottles was about three quarters full.
[3.] They stood up together *** high in the sea.
[4.] He stands head and shoulders above his fellow.
[5.] Her skin was snow white.
[6.] It was pitch dark inside the room.
[7.] Stars are diamond bright and there is no dew.
[8.] The sea went mountains high.

Degree
[1.] I should not mind a bit.
[2.] She blamed herself no end.
[3.] She used to laugh a good/great deal.

Manner
[1.] Don't look at me that way.
[2.] He speaks good English
[3.] He came full speed.
[4.] He stood there sailor-fashon.
[5.] She run upstairs two steps at a time.
[6.] They walked barefoot.
[7.] Our ship sailed first thing in the morning.

Noun Couplets
[1.] Bind him hand and foot.
[2.] He smote them hip and thigh.
[3.] We all got to go sometime reason or no reason.
[4.] Let's fight tooth and nail.
[5.] They discussed the matter heart to heart.
Some other examples of couplets: day after day, year after year, face to face.

The Superlative and the Comparative
[1.] My father liked this hat the best.
[2.] He runs the faster.
[3.] She couldn't know which she liked the better.
[4.] I don't know whose eyes would be the widest open.

Distribution
[1.] She visited the States twice a year.
[2.] He paid $ 20 a pair for my shoes.

To my guess, these collocations are so common that most of native speakers could acquire them even without knowing the concept of "adverbial objectives". And (therefore?) many of grammar books currently available don't mention this, and dictionaries give a definition to a noun used as an adverbial adverb, as an adverb separately from the definition as a noun. As for the complex adverbial objectives, they are explained as simple idiomatic phrases without giving any grammatical explanation. Accordingly, in teaching English as a second language too, the concept of "adverbial objectives" is rarely taught at the beginner's stages in school, at least in Japan. So, many of the English learners in Japan (including me) learned these expressions one by one, without knowing the underlying reason why native speakers use so many nouns as adverbs. I sometimes feel it might be better to let students know the concept of "adverbial objectives" at an earlier stage of English learning, and it could be helpful for them to learn this kind of noun usage more efficiently. But I'm not sure. I would like to hear opinions from English teachers (especially those who teach English to ESL students) about this. paco

(tidied slightly) (blue highlighting mine, EA) (and EFL students would also benefit from paco's teaching suggestion)
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by dante » Fri Jul 15, 2011 11:42 am

I must disagree with you Edwin on Paco's grammar competence:) In my opinion, reading this kind of explanations are best to be avoided. Introducing very misleading, self-made terminology in explaining grammatical structures can only do harm to learners of English, EFL or ESL. Those examples are a mixed bag of all kind of grammatical constructions which don't have much in common, and grouping them together is a major mistake. Misunderstanding of basic grammar concepts and the confusion this subject caused in Paco's head is evident.
Many English nouns and noun phrases can be used as adverbs.
No English noun or a noun in any language can be used as an adverb. That doesn't make sense. Those examples show that many English nouns can be used as expressions (adjuncts) of time, place, degree etc. What confuses Paco is that adverbs are often used to indicate time, place, degree and similar, and finding a noun in that slot in a sentence obviously led him think of nouns as adverbs.
They are called "adverbial objectives". From the standpoint of word order, an adverbial objective is put as if it were an objective of a verb, but actually it works as an adverbial modifier of the verb.
To my guess, these collocations are so common that most of native speakers could acquire them even without knowing the concept of "adverbial objectives".
(This one is funny, although I can't but agree that native speakers will manage to speak English without knowing this concept)

To my guess, those collocations are a mixed bag of various grammatical constructions:) For example, Paco's "adverbial objectives" that follow the copula "is" or "was", are predicative (subject) complements. Even very basic grammars give the distinction between objects and predicative complements. Whatever follows the forms of the verb "to be" or any other linking verb, it sure is not an object and there's a solid amount of evidence on differences between objects and predicative complements to be found in any grammar at Paco's choice. I couldn't think of a better way for students to not understand either what predicative complement, object or adjunct than to mix them together, and imply with "adverbial objective" that they're all the same sort, as Paco did.
And (therefore?) many of grammar books currently available don't mention this
I don't blame the authors :)

Now my sentence:
Anyway, in my opinion, despite a few murky constructions it is safe to say that a noun following verbs in transitive sentences is an object, direct or indirect.
The noun that immediatelly follow verbs in transitive sentence is an object - direct or indirect. You can't find nouns used adverbially (let's use that traditional term) in transitive sentences immediately following the verb. No way Paco:) Or I'd be allowed to say:

"We've discussed heart to heart the matter."

Let's analyze now some of the intransitive examples that Paco gave:


I arrived last week.
We walked two hours.
He lives next door.
....

Because of the fact that those verbs are either used only intransitively, or their intransitive meaning is by far more dominant to the transitive one, on hearing those verbs you wouldn't associate them with a noun intuitively, and if a noun appears after them, you wouldn't be inclined to mentally attach it to the verb. Further, the time, place or degree expressions which are most frequently found in the intransitive pattern in the form of a noun, as in these examples, are much more loosely attached to the verb, rather modifying the proposition of the whole sentence than giving more details of how the action/event described by the verb actually occurred.
Lastly, even the expressions of time and place in intransitive patterns are by default given with an intervening preposition, separating the verb and the noun, and the verb-noun combination is rather restricted to a limited number of patterns. So, if "his" apartment wasn't "next door" it could be that:

He lived in the building opposite. NOT "He lived the building opposite"

He lived on the second floor. NOT "He lived the second floor"


To conclude, the fact that nouns appear immediately after the verb in intransitive patterns doesn't provide a basis for connecting that noun with objects and introducing misleading terminology like "adverbial objective". It's obviously true though that it provides a terrific basis for messing with people's brains.
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:36 pm

Asleep can't be an adjective. Otherwise, I'd be allowed to say the asleep dog twitched constantly. Oh, hang on a minute, some adjectives can't be used pre-nominally - but they're still adjectives, describing nouns. I'd better watch that I don't use over-simplistic rules in trying to simplify a language that Professors of Linguistics are still often in disagreement over.

Football is a noun (it's probably accepted as a verb also nowadays). It's adjectives that describe nouns, so we mustn't allow football managers to exist. Unless we concede that accepted English usage permits many nouns to be used as / as if they were adjectives (I prefer the analysis which says they still retain enough 'noun-ness' not to be considered as true adjectives - though they are certainly noun modifiers, and are often called by that name).

He went home according to Paco is a modern corruption of he went to-home (we no longer have the accusative case for nouns) - ie he went to his house. The prepositional phrase to his house is obviously adverbial. Home in he went home is similarly adverbial, as in he went northwards / north. Home is being used as if it were an adverb. It adds information about 'his' going. It is not a second entity in the sentence, created, affected, or sensed by, or invoked as being in some relationship with, the subject in a way the verb indicates. Contrast He built / enlarged / saw / owned a house. He went home is parallel in meaning to he went to hospital - where I think you claim there is no object, Dante. There has been an ellipsis over the centuries (of the accusative case, and the logical insertion of a preposition never happened).

I just pasted the quote from Paco - I didn't fully tidy and prune it. I agree some instances are of link verbs + complements.

However, most of his examples are fine, and in very common use.

I'll just finish with pointing out the sloppiness of trying to force the same analyses on:

They fought the Amalekites or They fought battle after battle.
They fought tooth and nail.

They prayed heart-felt prayers.
They prayed day after day.

Can you start the car?
Can you start Thursday?

She lived a good life.
She lived a long time.

I've just done a killer Su-doku.
I've just done ten minutes on the exercise bike.

He can talk the talk, but can he walk the walk?
He walked three miles.

She built a home.
She went home. (note the French, rentrer chez soi, requires a preposition)
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by dante » Sat Jul 16, 2011 7:39 am

The word "home" used as a complement with verbs of motion is a tricky one and much debated point in grammar obviously. In an interesting article here http://www.abc.net.au/rn/linguafranca/s ... 693377.htm, Pullum, speaking about redefining the traditional word class of prepositions, touches upon the construction "head/go home/bush" :
....Do you see it? Do you see the new preposition? The clue lies in that verb, 'head'. You see, there are verbs that absolutely have to be used with a preposition. The verb 'put', for example, can only be used with a locative preposition. You can say 'Put the milk in the fridge', but you can't say, 'Put the milk', because without a preposition after 'put' you've got nothing but nonsense.

Well the verb 'head' can only be used with a directional preposition. You can say, 'He headed into town', but you can't say, 'He headed'. Without a phrase like 'into town' or 'towards the wall' or 'away from the house', you can't use that verb sensibly at all. So what follows 'head' simply has to be a preposition.

And there it is! 'They head bush on their own.' 'Bush' is a preposition. Sure, it used to be a noun, just like 'home'. But a long time ago 'home' took on a second job as a directional preposition. That's why you can say 'He headed home'. And in Australian English, it seems, you can say, 'He headed bush', and it means 'He headed for rural Australia.'
In a Language log article http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=275 he discusses the same :
Well, the thing about the verb head is that it takes an obligatory complement, and demands that the complement should be a preposition phrase. You can't say *Let's just get into the car and head. You have to head into town, or head out of town, or head in some direction or other. It's a syntactic requirement to have a directional preposition phrase complement. In fact, the fact that you can say Let's head south is part of the evidence adduced in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL; chapter 7) that words like south should be regarded as prepositions that don't take noun phrase complements.

There are lots of other prepositions that don't take noun phrase complements: out, up, in, through, back, away, home, etc. Some of them (like up and in and through) can optionally be followed by noun phrases. Others (like away and home and back) never are. There are also plenty of other tests for prepositionhood that they pass; again, see CGEL.

CGEL also treats a class of words ending in -ward(s) as prepositions, for similar reasons. You can head homeward, or northward, or downward. If -ward(s) is fully productive, it should therefore be possible to say Let's head Dagenhamwards. But not *Let's head Dagenham, because Dagenham is definitely not any kind of a preposition, it's a proper noun.

So, Adrian and I both think, to say *heading distinctly dagenham is heading distinctly away from being grammatical in Standard English

The author rejects "head Dagenham" as ungrammatical and the idea of "Dagenham" as preposition (..definitely not any kind of preposition, it's a proper noun). But, it remains unclear to me if the idea of "bush" as a preposition in "They head bush on their own" could be discarded the same way, by simply saying : "bush" is definitely not any kind of preposition, it's a noun? I mean, both "bush" and "Dagenham" refer to a specific geographic place or region, they're not deictic expressions of location or direction like: away, back, southwards etc., so it seems a logical question to ask.

Anyway, to the extent I understand this, it still sounds satisfactory to me to put "home" in the class of prepositions. To me, the bolded words below belong together, whatever the name of the word class one might opt for:

He went aboard/ashore/southwards/backwards/in/out/away/up/home....

Or it only sounds so to my non-native ears :)

Here's another article where this subject is discussed http://www.whiterose.org/dr.elmo/blog/a ... 11554.html
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:38 pm

dante:

I've not been able to track down a dictionary definition of prepositon that says that they can be used in any other way than with a complement ('transitively', if that is not too ambiguous). I've gone through about 10 of those provided in the Club Resources.

This is one of the more detailed at Your Dictionary.com:

prepo·si·tion (prep′ə zis̸h′ən)
noun
(1) in some languages, a relation or function word, as English in, by, for, with, to, etc., that connects a lexical word [or phrase], usually a noun or pronoun, or a syntactic construction, to another [preceding] element of the sentence - as to a verb (Ex.: he went to the store), to a noun (Ex.: the sound of loud music), or to an adjective (Ex.: good for her)

(2) any [multi-word] construction of similar function (Ex.: in back of, equivalent to behind) (amendments mine, EA)

This does not mention now-accepted constructions such as the bag I keep my spanners in (in, of course, connecting spanners and bag).

I have found, at http://www.bookrags.com/tandf/intransit ... sition-tf/, the following:

A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics

intransitive preposition


n. 1. A preposition-like adverbial which has no overt object NP, when this is regarded as belonging to the lexical category Preposition. An example is before in What did you do before?; comparison with What did you do before the war? suggests that before in the first example is an intransitive preposition.

The analysis of such adverbials as prepositions is widely but not universally accepted; a difficulty is that very few prepositions show such behaviour.


I think this makes a lot of sense. However, the isolated before in the example the authors give - which almost certainly, as they say, arises from the elision of the War (or you got your new job, etc) - relates the omitted event (understood from context - the question could not be used sensibly without the event having being stated) to the questionee's doing (ie activities).

In are you going home, home is meant to relate - WHAT!? - to going. Remember before connected the War (etc), not before, to doing.

Perhaps we could accuse Pullum & Huddleston of

Introducing very misleading, self-made terminology in explaining grammatical structures [which] can only do harm to learners of English...
Last edited by Edwin F Ashworth on Sat Jul 16, 2011 5:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lead (someone) a merry dance

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Jul 16, 2011 4:40 pm

Ah, I've now found the source you quote, dante, for 'the prepositioning of home':

'They head bush on their own.' 'Bush' is a preposition. Sure, it used to be a noun, just like 'home'. But a long time ago 'home' took on a second job as a directional preposition. That's why you can say 'He headed home'. And in Australian English, it seems, you can say, 'He headed bush', and it means 'He headed for rural Australia.'

(also at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/arts/ling/stories/lf981003.htm)

This (in bold) would seem to be a mistake; if Paco is to be believed, it is the accusative form, which we ought to render to-home, say, of Old English that lost its distinguishableness from home, so home is not a preposition but a disguised prepositional phrase when not used as a noun. to-home (however the word was written in OE) would have corresponded to home (again, however the word was written in OE) much as lui (to him) does to le (him) in modern French - lui is one word doing the job of a prepositional phrase.

I doubt that Strine ever went through the loss of its accusative case; to head bush is a modelling. And I could just as well assert "You can't model on singular cases," as Pullum (op cit) asserts:

People think that the prepositions are built into the grammar and don't change much; they're just a small set of built-in special words that everyone knows and no-one ever changes: 'at', 'by', 'of', 'in', 'out', 'up', 'down', 'off', 'over', 'under', 'to', 'from', 'through', 'with', 'without', 'among', 'between', maybe one or two more, and that's it.

Well that's wrong.


and

Well the verb 'head' can only be used with a directional preposition.

Why should heroes H & P be the arbiters of which established 'rules' can be changed and which can't?
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