Dative case in place of the possessive in Germanic languages

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Nino83

Senior Member
Italian
Hello everyone.
In Romance languages, when the object is a part of the body, something we're wearing or something we own is stolen or broken we use the dative case of the owner.

Mi fa male il piede. Me duele el pie. Me dói/dói-me o pé. Mon pied me fait mal. My foot hurts.
Mi hanno rubato il portafogli. Me robaron la cartera. Me roubaram/roubaram-me a carteira. Ils m'ont volé mon portefeuille. They stolen my wallet.

As you can see, Romance languages use the indirect object pronoun in order to indicate the owner, French uses both the indirect object and the possessive adjective while English uses only the possessive adjective.

How do you say these sentences in your language (German, Dutch, Norwegian/Danish, Swedish, Icelandic)?

How is it in German?
Das Füß mir tut weh.
Sie haben mir die Brieftasche gestohlen.

Thank you
 
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  • Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Dative possessive construction exists in Norwegian, even if there is no dative case left any longer (only in a couple fossilized phrases). The dative construction uses the preposition "til" (to).
    It has now replaced in a high grade the genitive construction with "s" at the end of a noun. People do not sa any longer "Min manns bil" (My husband's car), but "Bilen til mannen min" (The car to my husband). Another construction that is much used makes use of the preposition "på" (on), like in "Hodet på mannen" (The head on the man).
    By the way, the dative possessive construction is much used in the Slavic languages, for example Polish "Mnie jest zimno" (To me it is cold).
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thanks, Ben Jamin.
    And how do you translate these two sentences ("my foot hurts" and "they stolen my wallet") in Norwegian (and, for curiosity, in Polish)?
    Using the possessive adjective or the dative pronoun?
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Dative possessive construction exists in Norwegian, even if there is no dative case left any longer (only in a couple fossilized phrases). The dative construction uses the preposition "til" (to).
    What's the rationale behind labelling this use of Norw. til "dative construction"?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Das Füß mir tut weh.
    Der Fuß tut mir weh.

    It is a simple free dative, a dativus incommodi, as in Latin Mihi pedem laedit.
    Sie haben mir die Brieftasche gestohlen.
    :tick:

    This is semantically not the same as They stole my wallet. It means I am the person a certain wallet is stolen from. Semantically, it does not imply it was my own wallet, although it pragmatically usually is. It is a dativus incommodi as well.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Semantically, it does not imply it was my own wallet, although it pragmatically usually is. It is a dativus incommodi as well.
    Thank you Bernd. Also in Italian you can say "mi hanno rubato il tuo libro" and it means that I had the possession of your book and someone stole it, i.e I was stolen but the book is yours.
    Is it possible in German to say "Sie haben mir deine Brieftasche gestohlen"?
    Is it due to Latin influence or also in Old High German this type of construction existed? If it is not a borrowing, why English lost this construction? Is it present in the other Germanic languages?

    For example, how they say in Swedish?
    De stal mig plånboken.
    De stal min plånbok.
    De stal mig din plånbok.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Is it possible in German to say "Sie haben mir deine Brieftasche gestohlen"?
    Yes. Suppose a friend asks you to guard his wallet and you want to explain him why you don't have it any more. Then this would be a valid and idiomatic way to say it.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you.
    Let's wait for some Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch speaker to tell us if these constructions are possible in his/her language.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    You don't need to double it. On m'a volé le portefeuille. On a volé mon portefeuille. The former is more colloquial, the latter more standard. J'ai mal au pied.
    :thumbsup:
    Thank you

    It seems that in English we can translate the dativus commodi/incommodi using the preposition "for" (dativus commodi) or "from, on" (dativus incommodi) and sometimes using indirect pronouns.
    Le ho trovato qualcosa > I found her something (dativus commodi)
    Le ho trovato qualcosa > I found something for her (dativus commodi)
    Le hanno rubato il mio libro > They stole my book from her (dativus incommodi)
    Mi si è rotta la macchina > My car broke down on me (dativus incommodi)
    Mi fa male il piede > My foot hurts me (dativus incommodi)

    How can be translated these sentences in German, Dutch, Nordic Germanic languages?
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    You can say calceus mihi pedem laedit (thus Plautus), “the shoe (nom.) hurts my (dat.) foot (acc.)”. This sentence does not work without calceus.
    Mihi pedem laedit = [It (e.g the shoe)] hurts me [the] foot.

    You are right that is not a translation of Der Fuß tut mir weh. But I insist that it is a dativus commodi. And this is what I wanted to express.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    You can say calceus mihi pedem laedit (thus Plautus), “the shoe (nom.) hurts my (dat.) foot (acc.)”. This sentence does not work without calceus.
    Wasn't possible in Latin to say "pes mihi dolet" or "pedes mihi dolent"?
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    The same function as the gentitive perhaps?
    Nowadays it has both the genitive and dative, but the genitive function is secondary. Maybe it would be more precise to say "originally a dative construction adopted to mark possession instead of the genitive".
     

    Riverplatense

    Senior Member
    German — Austria
    How can be translated these sentences in German, Dutch, Nordic Germanic languages?
    German:

    Le ho trovato qualcosa > I found her something > Ich habe ihr etwas gefunden (dativus commodi)
    Le ho trovato qualcosa > I found something for her > Ich habe für sie etwas gefunden (more common) (dativus commodi)
    Le hanno rubato il mio libro > They stole my book from her > Sie haben ihr mein Buch gestohlen (*Sie haben mein Buch von ihr gestohlen) (dativus incommodi)
    Mi si è rotta la macchina > My car broke down on me > Mir ist das Auto kaputtgegangen (dativus incommodi)
    Mi fa male il piede > My foot hurts me > Mir tut der Fuß weh (dativus incommodi)

    Isn't there also a connection between these constructions and dativus ethicus (medialis) and dativus possessivus, if you think about sentences like mi sono lavati i capelli/Ich habe mir die Haare gewaschen?
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Isn't there also a connection between these constructions and dativus ethicus (medialis) and dativus possessivus, if you think about sentences like mi sono lavato i capelli/Ich habe mir die Haare gewaschen?
    Yes, Riverplatense.
    It seems that only German, among Germanic languages, retained this structure.
    Do you know if this use of the dative case was a common feature in proto IE or among Old Germanic languages?
     

    Riverplatense

    Senior Member
    German — Austria
    Do you know if this use of the dative case was a common feature in proto IE or among Old Germanic languages?
    Unfortunately I don't. I guess, however, that constructions like these were built by synthetic, mediopassive forms, and I don't know neither, whether or not these forms could be combined with a direct object. Modern Greek does not (πλένω ›I wash‹, mediopassive πλένομαι ›I wash myself‹, πλένω τα χέρια μου ›I wash my hands‹ etc.), but it can be implicit (λούζομαι ›I wash my hair‹, cf. λούζω ›I bath [something]‹).
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you Riverplatense.
    It seems that if I want to know how these sentences are translated in other modern Germanic languages I've to ask in these language forums. :)
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Unfortunately I don't. I guess, however, that constructions like these were built by synthetic, mediopassive forms, and I don't know neither, whether or not these forms could be combined with a direct object. Modern Greek does not (πλένω ›I wash‹, mediopassive πλένομαι ›I wash myself‹, πλένω τα χέρια μου ›I wash my hands‹ etc.), but it can be implicit (λούζομαι ›I wash my hair‹, cf. λούζω ›I bath [something]‹).
    It seems you are contemplating about the dative reflexive as in Ich wasche mir die Füße.

    Please bear in mind that the dative pronouns in the OP
    Der Fuß tut mir weh.
    Sie haben mir die Brieftasche gestohlen.
    are not reflexive.
     

    Riverplatense

    Senior Member
    German — Austria
    ase bear in mind that the dative pronouns in the OP [...] are not reflexive.
    But is Ich wasche mir die Füße reflexive? I'd rather call it a dativus ethicus/dativus medialis. I'd say a reflexive construction's object is the same as the subject, but here the subject is ich, the object is die Füße.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    It seems you are contemplating about the dative reflexive as in Ich wasche mir die Füße.
    I think Riverplatense is right in this case.
    In Ich wasche mich (selbst) there is a reflexive pronoun while in Ich wasche mir die Füße there is a dative that indicates possession, a part of the body, like in Der Fuß tut mir weh.
    Also in Italian, mi lavo (I wash me, myself, accusative) vs. mi lavo le mani (I wash hands to me, dative).
    In this thread some forum members speak about the sentence "I wash my hands".
    It seems that Romance languages, German and Slavic languages use the dative case, while in English (and Hungarian) they use the possessive adjective.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    That's what I think too:

    Ich wasche mir die Füße ~ Ich wasche meine Füße
    Ich wasche ihm die Füße ~ Ich wasche seine Füße
    Only because you can rephrase a subject with the possessive this does not make the construction itself possessive. Meine Füße is a single noun phrase where meine attributes Füße, mir die Füße is not. Mir is an adverbial that attributes the verb an not Füße. The noun phrase is die Füße.
     

    Riverplatense

    Senior Member
    German — Austria
    Only because you can rephrase a subject with the possessive this does not make the construction itself possessive.
    But you can't subtract the possessive component, neither. Ich wasche ihm die Füße implies seine. That's also why I mentioned Italian mi sono lavati i capelli, where the participle does not agree with the subject (reflexive: mi sono lavato/lavata), but with the object — even though a transitive, not reflexive verb would be used with the auxiliary avere, but: li ho lavati.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    That's also why I mentioned Italian mi sono lavati i capelli, where the participle does not agree with the subject (reflexive: mi sono lavato/lavata), but with the object. You could also say ho lavati (/lavato) i (miei) capelli.
    As a side note, in Italian the past participle agrees with the object only when there is a direct object pronoun before the verb:
    Ho lavato le mani (DO).
    Mi (reflexive) sono lavato le mani (DO). Ci (reflexive) siamo lavati le mani (DO). Le mani, le (DO) ho lavate.

    If we say Gli (IO) ho lavato le mani, gli is a dative (I washed him/them the hands, litterally) while in (Lui) Si (reflexive) è lavato le mani and (Loro) Si (reflexive) sono lavati le mani, there is a reflexive, like it is in German.
    The structure is identic.
    So, Bernd is right. When the subject is the same there is a reflexive pronoun while when the agent is different there is a dative.
     
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    Riverplatense

    Senior Member
    German — Austria
    As a side note, in Italian the past participle agrees with the object only when there is a direct object pronoun before the verb
    That's why I edited my post. I thought, nobody had seen ;) But aren't there cases of concordance also with following (direct) objects in earlier stages of Italian?

    Edit: Oh, I guess that's off-topic.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    In French it is a little different. They say "ils se sont lavé les mains", and the past participle doesn't agree because the particle "se" is interpreted as indirect object, not as reflexive pronoun.
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Nowadays it has both the genitive and dative, but the genitive function is secondary. Maybe it would be more precise to say "originally a dative construction adopted to mark possession instead of the genitive".
    So the preposition til, which historically required the genitive case, should be understood to have primarily a dative function even in a prototypical genitival context (e.g. bilen til mannen min)? Do you have a reference on this?
     

    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    ... It seems that Romance languages, German and Slavic languages use the dative case, while in English (and Hungarian) they use the possessive adjective.
    In the Western Slavic languages this construction is not restricted to the parts of the body or what we are wearing or what we own (strictly speaking). E.g. phrases like *to me is died cousin (= my cousin has died), *to me dish has fallen (i.e. not necessarily my own dish, but e.g. it has fallen from my hands), *to me the water is boiling (i.e. the water I have put on the stove, not my water), etc ... are common. Is such kind of usage possible/common in German?

    Ciao Nino! In Italian, I think the usage of this kind of dative is a bit more restricted or less "broad" comparing with the Slavic. What do you say about my above examples (or similar) in case of Italian?

    As to Hungarian, you are right (with the difference that in Hungarian the possession is expressed by a suffix, not by a possessive adjective). However in some cases it is possible to emphasize the phrase adding the corresponding personal pronoun in dative. The result is a construction like this: *to me they have stolen my wallet/mi hanno rubato il mio portafoglio. But constructions like *to me they have stolen your wallet/mi hanno rubato il tuo portafoglio are impossible.

    P.S. Is the dativo di possesso (or dativo possessivo) an adequate denomination/term for the dative we are speaking about? I am asking this question because I've encountered this denomination quite often, especially in case of the Romance languages.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Is such kind of usage possible/common in German?
    Yes. In German there are both dativus commodi (benefactive) and incommodi (a disvantage).
    In English, dativus incommodi can be only prepositional, i.e you can say they destroyed his car on him = sie haben ihm das Auto zerstört = (loro) gli hanno distrutto la macchina but one can't say they destroyed him his car.
    In English the non-prepositional dative can be only dativus commodi, for example they found him a good job = the found a good job for him.
    If you say Mary burned John a steak, it can be interpreted only as a dativus commodi, i.e John likes burnt steaks and Mary is cooking him a burnt steak.
    The source is Benefactives and Malefactives: Typological perspectives and case studies.

    In Dutch double object benefactive constructions are not allowed with verbs like throw or carry and in the other Mainland Scandinavian Nordic Germanic languages only few verbs allow double object.
    In this respect, German language is very similar to Romance and Slavic languages. This makes me think that this construction was common in Indo-European languages but some (most) Germanic languages lost this feature.

    Ciao Nino! In Italian, I think the usage of this kind of dative is a bit more restricted or less "broad" comparing with the Slavic. What do you say about my above examples (or similar) in case of Italian?
    The first two are allowed, gli è morto il cugino, gli è caduto il piatto, the third isn't possible but probably for semantic reasons.
    These examples are allowed in German.

    But constructions like *to me they have stolen your wallet/mi hanno rubato il tuo portafoglio are impossible.
    These are possible in English, but only with a prepositional object. They stolen your wallet from me, his car broken down on him.

    P.S. Is the dativo di possesso (or dativo possessivo) an adequate denomination/term for the dative we are speaking about? I am asking this question because I've encountered this denomination quite often, especially in case of the Romance languages.
    Dativus possessivus is different, it indicates possession. The construction is S-dat O-nom V-to be.
    Liber mihi est > un libro è a me > io ho un libro.
    To me is a book > I have a book.
     

    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    In German there are both dativus commodi (benefactive) and incommodi (a disvantage) ...
    Thanks, your answer helps me to get more familiar with the adequate terminology.
    These are possible in English, but only with a prepositional object. They stolen your wallet from me, his car broken down on him.
    Of course, finally they have stolen your wallet from me is possible also in Italian (il tuo portafoglio lo hanno rubato da me) and in Hungarian (using the ablative suffix), but it is no more dative (even if in case of English it's sometimes hard to determine what is what :))
    Dativus possessivus is different, it indicates possession ... Liber mihi est ...
    Yes, in Latin it's clear to me, but I have the impression that this denomination is often used inadequately for the dativus commodi/incommodi in case of Italian, that's why my question. Ok, when I find some example I'll tell you.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    they have stolen your wallet from me is possible also in Italian (il tuo portafoglio lo hanno rubato da me) and in Hungarian (using the ablative suffix), but it is no more dative
    In Italian it would be hanno rubato il tuo portafoglio a me (but we always use the clitic form mi), and the right terminology for dativus commodi/incommodi è dativo d'interesse (di vantaggio/svantaggio).
    It's true that in the site of Treccani they call it dativo possessivo, which is the translation for dativus possessivus, making some confusion.
    My Latin grammar book calls it dativo d'interesse (complemento di vantaggio o di svantaggio).
    You're welcome!
     
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    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    In Italian it would be hanno rubato il tuo portafoglio a me ...
    Hai ragione (ovviamente :)) ... Ma questo mi pare un'altra cosa: alcuni verbi in italiano richiedono la preposizione "a", mentre in altre lingue (che conosco) si usa la preposizone/suffisso corrispondente a "da" (p.e. chiedere a qualcuno, invece di *chiedere da qualcuno). Insomma, indipendentemente da quello che stiamo discutendo, ci sono anche altri "fenomeni" da prendere in considerazione. Qui mi fermo per non essere OT ...
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    alcuni verbi in italiano richiedono la preposizione "a", mentre in altre lingue (che conosco) si usa la preposizone/suffisso corrispondente a "da"
    Yes you're right (in Romance languages rubare, voler, roubar, robar take the preposition to while in (some? most?) Germanic ones it takes the preposition from).
    Anyway, the (general, usual) preposition for dativus commodi is for and that for dativus incommodi is on, in English, so we could compare these constructions.
     

    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    ... It's true that in the site of Treccani they call it dativus possessivus, which is the translation for dativo possessivo, making some confusion. My Latin grammar book calls it dativo d'interesse (complemento di vantaggio o di svantaggio) ...
    Yes, this is the case I've been speaking about, i.e. on the Italian forum (now I don't remember in which threads) I encountered this kind of usage of dativo possessivo and, intuitively, I didn't find it adequate in all cases.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Yes, I reported the definition of Treccani but I understand now that this translation can be misleading.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Dativus possessivus is different, it indicates possession. ...

    Liber mihi est
    Correct. This is also the possessive dative in German: Das Buch ist mir. This form is seldom discussed because for some reason this form it deprecated in standard language and therefore doesn't occur is written texts but it is very frequent in several dialects, mainly Middle German.
     

    Encolpius

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Der Fuß tut mir weh.

    It is a simple free dative, a dativus incommodi, as in Latin Mihi pedem laedit.

    :tick:

    This is semantically not the same as They stole my wallet. It means I am the person a certain wallet is stolen from. Semantically, it does not imply it was my own wallet, although it pragmatically usually is. It is a dativus incommodi as well.
    So you cannot say Stiehl mir zwei Äpfel! nur Stiehl zwei Äpfel für mich! :confused:
    So there is no difference between Sie haben mir die Brieftasche gestohlen and Sie haben mir meine Brieftasche gestohlen. :confused:
     

    Swatters

    Senior Member
    French - Belgium, some Wallo-Picard
    Yes you're right (in Romance languages rubare, voler, roubar, robar take the preposition to while in (some? most?) Germanic ones it takes the preposition from).
    Anyway, the (general, usual) preposition for dativus commodi is for and that for dativus incommodi is on, in English, so we could compare these constructions.
    Dutch use two different prepositions depending on the nature of the victim: possessive van with an human being (Je wil van mij stelen - You want to steal from me) ; but uit (out in English) when referring to a shop or a place (Ik heb deze broek uit een H&M gestolen - I've stolen these trousers from an H&M).

    French has a case alternation here: When the stolen object is not mentioned, the victim is a direct object; when it is, the victim switches to the dative:

    J'ai volé mes parents - Je les ai volé: I stole from my parents. *Je lui ai volé isn't a complete sentence (except colloquially, if "je lui ai" stands for "je le lui ai", but you'd need the stolen object to be the sentence topic anyway)

    J'ai dérobé à Sergio ce qu'il avait de plus cher - Je lui ai dérobé ce qu'il avait... - I stole from him what he held dearest.
     
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