Mark Liberman's post, "On beyond personal datives?", has generated quite a bit of discussion in the comments section, much of it related to Larry Horn's paper, "'I love me some him': The landscape of non-argument datives", in Bonami & Hofherr (eds.), Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 7, 2008. Larry has sent along a response to the commenters, which is reproduced here as a guest post.
[Guest post by Larry Horn]
I'd like to note first that despite the critiques by some commenters about "the Bonami & Hofherr definition" of personal datives, they should be absolved of any blame; they're the editors of the volume in which my paper appeared (online). The definition, flaws and all, is mine, and the paper is particularly concerned to explain why these subject-indexing pronouns don't show up as reflexives (in fact you can get both a PD and an ordinary indirect object: "I bought me a pickup truck for my son".) But in fact as Mark notes, the definition he quotes — requiring "a quantified (patient/theme) direct object" following the PD and noting the impossibility of separating the PD from its verb — does occur at the beginning of the paper Mark links to. In fact, these conditions are later relaxed in the light of some of the attested examples mentioned in the paper. One comes from a variety of extended PD uses reflected in such google retrievals as "I love me chocolate syrup" and "I want me the notional MacBook nano". Many PD speakers are uncomfortable with these and in fact it is the very restriction to a quantified direct object that's responsible for Toni Braxton's "I love me some him" and Terrell Owens's "I love me some me". Crucially, these are fake partitive constructions: Ms. Braxton is not declaring her ardor for some unspecified subpart of her beloved, she's just saying "I love him". As for the second condition, one counterexample I mention comes from the title of a 1995 paper by Mary Sue Sroda and Margaret Mishoe on PDs, "I jus like to look at me some goats". My speculation is that Daniel's friend's "I nearly stepped on me a dog" is like "I jus like to look at me some goats": "step on", or "look for" in the later discussion, behaves here pretty much as a complex transitive verb the way "look at" does. Again, I suspect that many card-carrying PD speakers will find these sentences weird; indeed, some accept these non-object datives (with roughly benefactive meaning) only with a limited set of verbs like "get" and "buy".
Thanks to the commenters for all the cross-linguistic data; I've been looking lately at a family of constructions in various languages — the ethical dative, the affected dative, the free dative, the dative of interest, the dativus commodi/incommodi, and so on (these are not alternate labels for the same construction, but there are family resemblances among them, and they're all quite distinct grammatically from the usual recipient dative of "Give me a break". If you click on the link in Mark's posting, you'll find a few examples in my paper (in the "Around the world with non-argument datives" section) of such pronouns from French, German, Latin, Hebrew, Warlpiri (an Australian language), and — my favorite — Old English (with a sentence that translates literally as "They fear them the danger that they do not see").
Typically, the datives that co-index the subject (like the English PD) are benefactive ("I found me some friends" but not "I lost me some friends"), while those that don't (as in Sid Smith's Italian example or parallel ones in German and French) may be malefactive (the event happened to the detriment of someone referred to by the dative, usually the speaker or hearer). When (as some of you will recall) Davy Crockett "kilt him a b'ar when he was only three", this is something that he tried to do and that reflected positively on him, and I remark in the paper that "She caught her a catfish" or "He shot him two squirrels" sound better to many PD speakers than "She caught her a cold" or "He shot him two coonhounds by mistake". That's what makes Daniel's example especially interesting to me, since I'm assuming his friend didn't really intend to nearly step on that dog.