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23 June 2003

I happened to catch a bit of a programme about linguistics on TV yesterday. The description claimed that it would answer burning questions about the Tower of Babel and whether all languages came from one or not, and unfortunately it did no such thing (as is often the case with television programmes). But there was an interesting bit about grammars and how linguists compile them and how difficult that is. As an example, one of several linguists being interviewed for the show went into the subject of subject dropping and object dropping. An example of subject dropping is like in Spanish, where it is acceptable to say "Hablo Espanol" instead of "Yo hablo Espanol." The object dropping occurred in the language family this linguist was studying (Iranian languages, I think) and he made the statement that there were no examples of object dropping in English. Smart-aleck that I am, I immediately thought of two of them.

The first is in a dialect spoken in Minnesota and I am sure other places (in fact I think it may have come from rural Canada.) It's sort of a cheat, because it involves dropping a prepositional object rather than a verb object, but nevertheless . . . It is the "go with / come with" construction and it goes something like : "I am going downtown to shop; do you want to come with?" (dropped object "me".) The other example is in the peculiarly attenuated language often used in recipes, a dialect too, in a way. This is true verb object dropping. Example: "Whip six egg whites in a bowl and fold into the batter." (dropped object "them"). So there.

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