047 Dative of empathy

AKA the ethical dative and the interactional dative.

You see, she turned pale   Ona vám zbledla

I couldn’t fall asleep, you know  Já jsem ti nemohl spát

You see, he couldn’t utter a word On vám nebyl schopen slova

Hey listen, Erika got an F in chemistry Erika ti měla kouli z chemie

Y’know, just imagine, he started to kiss my hands Von mi ti, představ si, začal libat ruce

Believe it or not, I haven’t yet read this one Tohle jsem ti ještě nečetla

Some examples taken from The notion of affectedness in expressing interpersonal functions by Mirjam Fried, who distinguishes three types of dative of empathy (DE):

Contact DE (1), Subjective DE (2), and Distancing DE (3);

1. Přijdu si večer v pátek domů, povečeřím, a začal  ti  mě bolet  zub.                                                Friday evening I get myself home, have a little supper, and get this,  my tooth starts hurting

2. No  to  je  mi  ale náhoda!                                                                                                                                   My, what a coincidence!

3. Dej si mu  přes  hubu,  jak  chceš                                                                                                                     Help yourself and beat him up [if it makes you feel good] – as you  want, I don‟t care.

Some more comments from Mirjam Fried in Categories and categorial changes: The third syntactical plan and beyond (Edited by M. Martinková, M. Janebová and J. Macháček — Palacký University 2014) Chapter 1 From semantic to interactional dative – Mirjam Fried

„The interactional dative is not just an elliptical ‘I’m telling you’ but also an emergent ‘pragmatic particle’, a distinct discourse-structuring device.“

One questionable claim about these interactional datives remains, though, namely its presumed function as a device used for securing and/or maintaining the addressee’s attention., similar to the function of vocatives, i.e simply an elliptical form of the phrase ‚I’m telling you‘. But this is not the whole story…

Von začne řvát a já ti bych mu takovou dala pěstí                                                                                         He starts howling and I tell you, I’d so like to let him taste my fist.

Ňakou chvíli sme eště vo tom mluvili, vona vodešla a já vám sem vo tom přemýšlela i v noci  We kept talking about it for a while longer, she left and you know what, I kept thinking about it even at night.

Ráno sme spolu dneska stály u pokladny v diskontu, tak aby řeč nestála, říkám: „Štěpánka už má za sebou druhý spalničky a, a to? a vona říká: „ježíš, já vám ani nevím“
This morning we were standing at the cashiers in the market and so to make conversation I say: “ Štěpánka has been through two cases of measles by now and you know? and she said: Jesus, I don’t really know, believe it or not.

„None of these examples can be fully described by treating the interactional dative generically as a way of securing the addressee’s attention. In each of these and similar other cases, the speaker is also situating the propositional content in a particular evaluative frame and letting the addressee know about his or her emotional involvement in the topic. What connects them all is not merely an attempt to inform the addressee that “I am telling you something, so please listen“ (the traditional and empirically not properly grounded analysis), but drawing attention to the fact that “I am telling “ for a reason: the propositional content at hand is presented as particularly newsworthy because it contains an element of surprise and in that sense is also relatively “new“.“

Hence the interactive dative can be a focus marker / rhematic marker.


“The form carries features shared with propositional, semantic datives (in particular the dative of interest) but in meaning and function it is closer to the category of pragmatic particles, i.e. linguistic devices that help structure the flow of conversational discourse.“
„Also note the incipient syntactic changes, particularly in word order.”




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