On the diachrony of the ‘Ethical Dative’

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In this paper I will discuss the diachronic rise of the so-called ‘Ethical Dative’ (henceforth ED). In examining first data from Spanish or Hebrew, a multi-step diachronic progression seems to lead to the ED construction:ALLATIVE > DATIVE > BENEFACTIVE >REFLEXIVE-BENEFACTIVE > EDSome people may be tempted to call such development a ‘grammaticalization chain’. A closer examination of data from a third language, Tamil, shows that the only necessary step in the seeming ‘chain’ is the final local step REFLEXIVE-BENEFACTIVE > ED. The whole ‘chain’ seems to be highly universal only because each of its individual local steps is by itself highly universal. But the only step relevant to the rise of ED is the final local step. In addition to elucidating the development of the ED construction itself, the data discussed here call into question the theoretical validity of the concept ‘grammaticalization chains’.


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