'Give it him and then I'll give you money for it.' The dative alternation in Contemporary British English

  • Juan Lorente Sánchez University of Málaga


‘Dative alternation’ refers to a linguistic phenomenon related to ditransitive verbs, that is, verbs which take a subject and two objects referring to a theme and a recipient. In English, the phenomenon offers the possibility of alternation between a prepositional object construction (PREP), where the recipient is encoded as a prepositional phrase (give it to him), a double object construction (DOC), where the recipient precedes the theme (give him it) and an alternative double object construction (altDOC), where the theme takes precedence over the recipient (give it him), the latter constrained to dialectal usage. Even though this alternation has been extensively addressed in the literature, few studies have considered language-external factors in determining the choice of encoding. This paper analyses the distribution of ditransitive forms in competition in contemporary British English from a twofold perspective, shedding some light on the distribution of these variants across time, along with the study of PREP, DOC and altDOC in relation to their sociolinguistic dimension. The corpus used as source of evidence is the British National Corpus, a 100-million-word collection of both written and spoken language from a wide range of sources.