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Direct object preposition

by nw2394, November 28, 2006

Messages: 5

Language: English

nw2394 (User's profile) November 28, 2006, 12:28:36 PM

Consider the English sentence, "John is writing a letter to Fred with a pen on the table".

The indirect object (Fred), or dative case, is introduced with a preposition (to) in English.

The instrumental case, with what the action is carried out (pen) is introduced similarly using "with".

The locative case, where the action is done (table), is also introduced with a preposition (on).

So what is so special about the direct object (letter) that it is not introduced with a preposition?

English has (has to have because of lack of an accusative), an obsession with word order.

E-o frees up word order a lot by use of the accusative, but has to remember to change word endings and has acquired what is, I think, an acknowledged difficult point about having to remember which verbs are transitive or not (a similar level of difficulty as remembering the gender of German nouns (or at least it is that sort of level of difficulty for someone not used to a language with an accusative certainly)).

If there was such a thing as a "done to", direct object preposition, then an analytic language such as English would no longer have to be obsessed with word order. And a language such as E-o would no longer have to be obsessed with transitivity and would no longer need to change word endings to indicate objects.

My thought for the day...


seraphim (User's profile) November 28, 2006, 3:27:41 PM

I don't see the difficulty in knowing which verbs are transitive and which intransitive. I don't see why that even has to be memorized. After all, just thinking for a second "Does this verb require an object?" is all that's necessary. Who can't tell that? I think too many people are creating a problem when there really isn't any.

nw2394 (User's profile) November 28, 2006, 4:50:49 PM

seraphim:I don't see the difficulty in knowing which verbs are transitive and which intransitive.
If I didn't know "boli" was intransitive I would naturally want to say such things as, "Li bolas la akvon". By which I would try to mean, "He is boiling the water". But, in E-o, it actually means literally "He is in a state of boilingness" and then there is "la akvon" which is non-sequitur.

To say "he is boiling the water" I have to say "Li boligas la akvon". Boligi is unambiguously transitive (because of the -ig- suffix), but boli is not obviously one or the other. As boli is the primary dictionary entry (and as many E-o to another language dictionaries do not declare transitivity) one is left completely in the dark.



RiotNrrd (User's profile) November 29, 2006, 3:06:49 AM

There are a few cases, such as boli (which is kind of the "classic" example of confusing transitivity), where the transitivity is not intuitively clear. However, I think that such cases are in the minority. Generally the transitivity is fairly obvious. For those cases where it's not obvious, they simply have to be memorized. In NO way is it as apparently random as the German gendered definite articles, which have to be memorized for every single noun (of which there are a lot), and which in most cases make no sense at all. Couple that with the changes made to the definite articles depending on the case (it's "der" in this case, but "das" in the other??? Gaah!), and it's just a nightmare. In the case of Esperanto, the memorization requirements are severely reduced in comparison.

But I agree that the transitivity of verbs is sometimes quite annoying. On the other hand: whatever. It is what it is.

T0dd (User's profile) November 29, 2006, 10:18:03 PM

The use of a preposition to indicate direct object, whatever its merits, would not remove the burden of having to learn whether a verb is transitive or not.

Suppose X is such a preposition. Can you say "Mi bolis X la akvo"? No, you can't, because "Mi bolis" still means "I'm boiling", i.e., I am undergoing boiling.

You may say that the very presence of X would be enough to indicate that the verb "boli" is being used transitively. But if so, the same would apply to the accusative ending -n.

In English, we often, but not always, allow verbs to have two "valences" like that. So the verb "to boil" has both a transitive and an intransitive meaning, and the presence or absence of a direct object determines which one is meant, i.e., whether it's "The cat drowned" or "I drowned the cat." In Esperanto this almost never happens (I know there are a couple of exceptions, but I can't remember what they are off the top of my head). The reason is that the precise meaning of the Esperanto verb is what it is, and its transitivity depends on that meaning.

In Esperanto, the verb "droni" means to die by aspiration of water, and that's it. If you remember what the Esperanto word actually means, rather than simply associating it with its two-way English counterpart, there's no real confusion. The same applies to "boli," "bruli," and so on.

Note that even in English, we don't always allow verbs to be used either transitively or intransitively. "To die" is strictly intransitive, for example. "To tickle" is strictly transitive.

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