Order of the partitive and the locative pronouns in Romance languages

Dymn

Senior Member
Hi,

I've just realized that the order used in French and Italian is opposed to the one we use in Catalan:

"there are three (of them)"

Catalan: n'hi ha tres
French: il y en a trois
Italian: ce ne sono tre

Does anyone know anything about this? Which order do other languages follow? Is there any specific rationale behind choosing one or the other?

Thanks
 
  • Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There is no rationale behind the word order simply because "rationale" is not a term applicable to language!

    Catalan speakers on the one hand and French and Italian on the other equally have no problem getting the meaning. Spanish and English get on fine without an equivalent to en/ne.

    It is all arbitrary. In Standard English you can say "Give me it" or "Give it to me", but not "Give it me" or "Give to me it". However, some non-standard varieties allow "Give it me."
     

    gburtonio

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    It is all arbitrary. In Standard English you can say "Give me it" or "Give it to me", but not "Give it me" or "Give to me it". However, some non-standard varieties allow "Give it me."

    It's not always arbitrary. Speakers tend to place new information at the end of a clause in English, so there may a difference in meaning between 'I gave the book to John' (new information: who I gave the book to) and 'I gave John the book' (new information: what I gave to John). This is sometimes called 'information packaging' or 'information structure'.

    However, I would agree that the differences identified by the OP appear to be arbitrary.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Which order do other languages follow?

    In Aragonese you may find both bi n'ha tres and en/ne b'ha tres used by the same speaker. I don't really see any logical reason there.

     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    Thanks for the answers, I was not very sure either whether my question makes sense at all, sometimes language traits deserve no other explanation than "just because" but of course there may be some further causes. For example all Romance languages that I know put the dative pronoun before the accusative one so maybe the priority order has some internal sense.

    My (possible ethnocentric?) view is that the Catalan order makes more sense because the verb is haver-hi and then on top of that you add en. But probably the fact that French and Italian retain the possessive meaning of avoir/avere (which Catalan like other Iberian languages has replaced with tenir) makes it more likely. In Catalan "n'ha" is never possible as a full verb (only for compounds), however in French and Italian "en a", "ne ha" do exist. So from "il en a trois" the step to "il y en a trois" is quite understandable.

    In Aragonese you may find both bi n'ha tres and en/ne b'ha tres used by the same speaker. I don't really see any logical reason there.
    I've just asked a speaker who says only the cheso variety of North-Western Aragon uses the French-Italian order.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It's not always arbitrary. Speakers tend to place new information at the end of a clause in English, so there may a difference in meaning between 'I gave the book to John' (new information: who I gave the book to) and 'I gave John the book' (new information: what I gave to John). This is sometimes called 'information packaging' or 'information structure'.

    However, I would agree that the differences identified by the OP appear to be arbitrary.

    What I meant was that it is arbitrary that (in standard English) you can say "Give it to me" but not "Give to me it" and "Give me it" but not "Give it me", rather than implying that there is never any difference in meaning between "Give it to me" and "Give me it". "There is no rationale behind the fact that.." would perhaps be better than "It is arbitrary that..."

    In Romance object pronouns generally (at least in the languages I am familiar with) there is no rationale behind them having to come before the verb. An exception is a positive imperative but not a negative imperative:

    Lo haces
    Hazlo
    No lo hagas


    They must also come after an infinitive in Spanish, but not in French:

    Tienes que hacerlo
    Tu dois le faire


    None of that can be explained rationally.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Thanks for the answers, I was not very sure either whether my question makes sense at all, sometimes language traits deserve no other explanation than "just because" but of course there may be some further causes. For example all Romance languages that I know put the dative pronoun before the accusative one so maybe the priority order has some internal sense.
    French puts dative before accusative in the first and second person forms. Tu me le donnes. Tu nous le diras.
    but not in third person where it is the opposite. Tu le lui/leur donnes. Tu le lui/leur diras.
    I don't see any logical reason for this change in word order, but it's wrong not to do it.

    Another arbitrary use of en/ ne is the requirement of agreement. In French no, in Italian yes.
    Tu m'as donné deux chemises. Tu m'en as donné.
    Tu m'hai dato due camicie. Me ne hai date.

    French tends to love past participle agreement whenever possible, Italian less so, but here it is the opposite. Why?

    The y en word order is so fixed in French, they combine in colloquial language to form one word yen.

    Tienes que hacerlo
    Tu dois le faire

    Je le dois faire was possible in old French.

    Given the remnants of y in Spanish, it had to follow the verb
    Hay, doy, soy, estoy... haberlas, haylas
    I don't know if there are remnants of ende. Was it used together with y?

    Edit: from 1494 (El orden de Santiago)
    No hay ende caualleros de quantía porque en los tiempos pasados nunca fueron apremiados por los maestres pasados a quantiar a los dichos vecinos de Montánchez para tener armas y cauallos por premia. Más antes dis que sienpre fueron esentos e libres de pagar nin contribuyr, salvo en aquellas cosas que los fijosdalgo pagan e contribuyen.
     
    Last edited:

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    French puts dative before accusative in the first and second person forms. Tu me le donnes. Tu nous le diras.
    but not in third person where it is the opposite. Tu le lui/leur donnes. Tu le lui/leur diras.
    Oops, you're right! That was a surprise when it was taught to me. Also from what I read in Hulalessar's link the accusative pronoun is placed before the dative in postverbal position (donne-le-moi), so that's another one. I must admit my French has rusted up a bit...

    Given the remnants of y in Spanish, it had to follow the verb
    Hay, doy, soy, estoy... haberlas, haylas
    Like any other pronoun in Old Spanish, really. If it had kept until the modern age it would most likely be preverbal now.

    Position of pronouns was all over the place in old Romance languages iirc. Somehow it stabilized around being preverbal for indicative and subjunctive and postverbal for the imperative and non-finite forms in Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Romanian (only gerund and imperative). In Catalan from French Northern Catalonia preverbal position is only for the imperative like French or Occitan.
     

    Swatters

    Senior Member
    French - Belgium, some Wallo-Picard
    Keep in mind that the order in standardised French might not be very natural or what speakers normally use. Both "donne-le-moi" and "donne-moi-le" are present in casual speech (as well as other Oil varieties) and combinations of a 3rd person dative and a 3rd person accusative pronouns are rare in informal registers, with the accusative pronoun being usually clipped (i.e. "Tu lui donnes" instead of "tu le lui donnes".

    In the very rare instances I've noticed myself spontaneously using both 3acc and 3dat together, it was always dat-acc: "Faudrait lui les donner" rather the standard "Il faudrait les lui donner". Or split across two verbs: "Je lui ai fait le lire" instead of standard "je le lui ai fait lire".

    The "y en" order is rock solid and not subject to variation as far as I'm aware though.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    Both "donne-le-moi" and "donne-moi-le" are present in casual speech (as well as other Oil varieties) and combinations of a 3rd person dative and a 3rd person accusative pronouns are rare in informal registers, with the accusative pronoun being usually clipped (i.e. "Tu lui donnes" instead of "tu le lui donnes".
    That was my gut feeling too. I guess cacophony is a great push towards not using 3rd person dative and accusative pronouns together. Colloquial Central Catalan doesn't use them either, really. Spanish is stricter probably because se instead of le/les (dárselo, se lo doy) avoids cacophony.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I've just asked a speaker who says only the cheso variety of North-Western Aragon uses the French-Italian order.

    That's only true if we count the varieties that are more 'vigorous', if any can still be called so. Attested use shows that western and central varieties tend to the French-Italian order. One would even be tempted to think that the "Catalan" order is rather due to the stronger influence of Catalan in Eastern Aragonese.

    However, for Cheso itself, or for central varieties such as Pandicuto, both "ibi/bi/be/i n'ha" and "no'n i ha" seem to have been attested.
     
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