Forwarded from Anthony (reply to Nestor)

Ed George edgeorge at
Thu Dec 12 17:15:02 MST 2002

Anthony writes:

'I have a little different take on indirect objects in English grammar
than Nestor does. He wrote,

"If conversely, I say "I will serve a cup of coffee to Louis for his
patience with these linguistic ramblings" the DIRECT object is the cup
of coffee, but the INDIRECT object (the one who benefits from the action
taken on the cup of coffee) is Louis..."

Louis is the object of the preposition "to" in that sentence, there is
no indirect object - although the sentence could be rewritten with
"Louis" as the indirect object (and with the same meaning, viz

"I will serve Louis a cup of coffee."

Unfortunately I never studied Latin or Greek, and now wish I had. I find
Nestor's comments interesting.'

The difficulty here is the way in which English has been tried to fit
within classical Latin grammar, a result of the prescriptive grammarians
of nineteenth-century England keen to demonstrate the 'classical'
superiority of English by use of an incorrect diachronic method while
riding roughshod over the language as it was actually being used.  In
order to develop a grammar on English on materialist lines, a task, as
far as I know, as yet outstanding, such a priori schemas will need to be

Incidentally, when I speak of a 'materialist' grammar (I hesitate to use
the word 'Marxist'), what I have in mind is Marx's own description of
his method in the 1873 Afterward to the second German edition of

'Of course the method of presentation must differ in form from that of
inquiry. The latter has to appropriate the material in detail, to
analyse its different forms of development, to trace out their inner
connexion. Only after this work is done, can the actual movement be
adequately described. If this is done successfully, if the life of the
subject-matter is ideally reflected as in a mirror, then it may appear
as if we had before us a mere a priori construction.'

A grammar on the lines of this prescription would trascend both the
prescriptive and descriptive approaches, being truly dialectical as well
as materialist.

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