Here’s the start of Mark Liberman’s latest post at the Log:
Yesterday, Daniel Mahaffey wrote to ask about his friend’s “unusual indirect object sentences”. Thus after backing into a dog in a crowded kitchen, she said “I nearly stepped on me a dog”.
Daniel reasons that this is analogous to the benefactive pronouns in standard written English phrases like “I wrote him a song”, or in widespread vernacular examples like “I wrote me a song” (where the standard version would be “wrote myself a song”).
But, as Daniel observes, a couple of things are different in this case. First, analogous examples in (what we might call) the standard vernacular would put the pronoun before rather than after an intransitive preposition: “I stacked me up some firewood”, not “I stacked up me some firewood”. Second, in “… stepped on me a dog”, the pronoun me has a looser semantic connection to the verb than typical benefactives — it doesn’t refer to a beneficiary, recipient, or purpose of the action, instead apparently adding just a vague sense of interest or involvement. This may be why “…stepped me on a dog” seems (if anything) even odder to me than “…stepped on me a dog”.
But wait, there’s more. Daniel notes that his friend (who is from SE Georgia) also says things like “I need to go look for me a dress” or “I’m going to the mall to shop for me a dress”.. In these examples, the placement of the pronoun seems even more surprising, since for is a transitive preposition expressing an argument of look or shop — here “a dress” — and me is thus inside a prepositional phrase, not just on the wrong side of a particle.
The post continues with further analysis and parallels from Latin, and the comment thread adds Greek, Romance, and Slavic; I urge you to go there and investigate further. What I want to stress here is the value of the descriptive as opposed to the prescriptive approach in terms of enrichment of one’s mental life; the prescriptivist looks at sentences like that and simply says “That’s wrong, here’s how you should say it,” whereas the descriptivist says “That’s very interesting, I wonder what it can tell me about language and how people use it?” An open mind is a good thing.
Update. See now the guest post by Larry Horn (author of “‘I love me some him’: The landscape of non-argument datives”) at the Log.