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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access July 15, 2023

Attitude dative (dativus ethicus) as an interpersonal pragmatic marker in Latvian

  • Andra Kalnača EMAIL logo and Ilze Lokmane
From the journal Open Linguistics


Among varied syntactic and semantic functions of the dative case in Latvian, the attitude dative or dativus ethicus is a less studied one. As an optional pronominal clitic, it serves two broad functions: first, it expresses the speaker’s authority and affectedness of the speaker or the addressee in a speech-act situation, and second, it expresses the speaker’s stance towards the contents of the utterance. In terms of register, the attitude dative normally occurs in informal interaction. The current study examines three basic types of attitude datives in Latvian and their functions in different syntactic constructions and speech acts. The examples are extracted from corpora as well as Latvian fiction and everyday speech. It follows from the examples that the attitude dative has different meanings in certain speech acts and syntactic constructions. The attitude dative is used in giving orders, expressing prohibition and threats, as well as showing disagreement, disappointment, and regret. The study suggests that the attitude dative tends to be used in lexicalized syntactic constructions (set expressions) including specific lexemes and grammatical forms, and its functions are emphasized with particles.

1 Introduction

The dative is considered to be a case that can have very varied syntactic functions in a sentence, for instance, function as a direct and indirect object, indirect subject, adjunct, and among others, it can encode different semantic roles: possessor, destination, purpose, and beneficient (among others, Blake 1997, 144–51, Næss 2011, 572–80, Fernández and Etxepare 2013, xii–xv). One of the functions that is characteristic of the date is the attitude dative (term used by Haddad 2016, 2018, also the ethical dative or dativus ethicus, e.g., Berg-Olsen 2005, Givón 2013, De Knop and Mollica 2017, and the dative of affectedness, e.g., Niclot 2014). In this article, we prefer the term attitude dative, to highlight its semantic peculiarities and interpersonal character.

The attitude dative is an optional dative pronominal clitic that functions as an interpersonal pragmatic marker. It has an attitudinal and evaluative nature (e.g., Berg-Olsen 2005, 50, Franko and Huidobro 2008, Arsenijević 2013); i.e., first, it expresses the affectedness of the speaker or the addressee in a speech-act situation (1a), and second, it reflects the speaker’s opinion about entities and certain states of affairs (Niclot 2014), as in (1b).

(1) a. Tā ka tu man neaizmirstu
ptcl 1sg.dat not_forget.cond
vasarā atbraukt! visit.inf
‘Make sure you don’t forget to visit in the summer!’ (G. Janovskis)
b. Jā, šis [mēnesi vecs kucēns]
yes [a month-old puppy]
tev gulēs uz sedziņas!
2sg.dat lie.fut.3 on
‘Yes, dream on that this [a month-old puppy] will lie on a blanket!’ (G. Priede)

Example (1a) expresses a strong suggestion that the addressee of the utterance would visit its author, while (1b) conveys the disbelief of the author of the utterance as regards its content.

As can be seen from examples (1a) and (1b), in Latvian, the attitude dative most often is expressed by the first- or second-person pronouns which indicate the inclusion of the participants in the speech act (e.g., Endzelīns and Mīlenbahs 1939, 134). Such personal pronouns are optional. The attitude dative in Latvian functions as a pronominal dative enclitic, i.e., in the flow of speech it is unstressed and sticks to the preceding word (for a more detailed account of clitics and their features, see Anderson 2005, 12), which is usually another personal pronoun in the nominative case. Attitude datives have therefore been often likened to modal particles because they share the same syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic properties (e.g., Kalnača 2007 as regards Latvian, Jouitteau, and Rezac 2008 in a broader typological context).

In general, optional personal dative pronouns seem to have an expressive function in various languages, e.g., Serbo-Croatian (Arsenijević 2013), German (Wegener 1989, De Knop and Mollica 2017), Italian (Niclot 2014), French (Jouitteau and Rezak 2008), Spanish (Franko and Huidobro 2008), Arabic (Haddad 2016, 2018), and Latvian (e.g., Berg-Olsen 2005) in that they express some affection of the speaker toward the fact or event described by the sentence (e.g., (1a) and (1b)). However, all this is expressed solely in a use-conditional way. It means that the presence of the personal dative does not alter the descriptive content of the sentence (Gutzmann 2019, 27). While ordinary propositions can be viewed as the set of words in which the propositional content expressed by a sentence is true, a use-conditional proposition is the set of contexts in which the sentence is felicitously used (Gutzmann 2019, 34). In terms of register, the attitude dative normally occurs in informal interaction (e.g., Berg-Olsen 2005, De Knop and Mollica 2017, Haddad 2016, 2018).

The attitude dative in Latvian, especially in a colloquial speech, despite it usually being mentioned in grammars and grammatical studies (e.g., Endzelīns and Mīlenbahs 1939, 134, Nītiņa and Grigorjevs 2013, 478, Kalnača and Lokmane 2021, 237), has not been analyzed neither semantically, nor syntactically. The only study that provides a brief overview of the cognitive use of the Latvian attitude dative was made by Berg-Olsen (2005, 50–1, 98–9). The present study mainly attempts to find out what meanings the attitude dative assigns to a sentence and what is the expression of this content in various syntactic constructions and utterance types.

The examples quoted are extracted from two corpora – The Balanced Corpus of the Modern Latvian LVK2018 (available at and The Latvian Web Corpus (lvTenTen) (Ten Ten Corpus Family, available at Since these corpora are not syntactically marked, it is not possible to distinguish between different dative constructions and to select the attitude dative forms of personal pronouns directly. Thus, a large number of attitude-dative examples have been excerpted from Latvian fiction, especially theatre plays, prose dialogues, as well as collected from everyday speech.

The article has the following structure: Section 2 contains a brief justification for the use of the term interpersonal pragmatic marker, Section 3 introduces three basic types of attitude datives in Latvian, Section 4 focuses on the distinction of the argument dative and the attitude dative, while in Section 5 syntactic constructions containing attitude datives are analyzed in relation to utterance types and speech acts.

2 Functional features of attitude dative

As Haddad (2018) points out, the attitude dative serves two broad functions:

  1. an attitudinal function whereby a speaker expresses a stance toward the contents of the utterance;

  2. a relational function in which case it is used to manage the relationship between the locators.

As regards relational function, the attitude dative expresses the speaker’s authority, personal interest, along with some emotional involvement in the situation (Endzelīns and Mīlenbahs 1939, 134, Berg-Olsen 2005, 99), as in (2):

(2) Tu esi pārāk viegli audzis, pārāk laimīgs tu esi bijis, vieglprāti, lai to saprastu
Cik ilgi tu man studē?
how long 2sg.nom 1sg.dat study.prs.2sg
‘You grew too easily, you have been too happy, light-headed you, to understand this. How long have you been studying?’ (A. Eglītis)

It can be considered that the attitude dative expresses interpersonal relations, which reflect inclusive social connections, power relations, intimacy, roles, rights, and obligations (Haddad 2016, 2018).

At the same time, the attitude dative may be considered a pragmatic marker. According to Aijmer (2013, 4–14), the main functional features of pragmatic markers are as follows:

  1. Pragmatic markers “mirror” the speaker’s mental processes.

  2. Pragmatic markers organize the discourse.

  3. Speakers use pragmatic markers with a rhetorical function to take up stances either agreeing or disagreeing with what is said. Thus, many of them have “an important stance-marking function,” and “they can express a large number of stances depending on the text type.”

  4. Pragmatic markers may point to the roles, relationships, and rank of the speaker; e.g., they may reveal which of the interlocutors has a privileged role. “In comparison with other deictic elements, the pragmatic markers have a rich social meaning since they are used to indexically refer to a number of speech act features such as the speaker and the hearer, social identities and the speech event (social activity) itself.” (op. cit.)

Functions (3) and (4) mentioned by Aijmer essentially coincide with the characterization of the functions of the attitude dative given by Haddad. Moreover, Aijmer (2013, 12) states that “pragmatic markers do not have a fixed meaning, but a meaning potential.” This potential is realized differently in different situations of speech. They are difficult to analyze grammatically, and their literal meanings are ‘overridden’ by pragmatic functions involving the speaker’s relationship to the hearer, to the utterance, or the whole text (Aijmer 2002, 2).

The functional analysis of attitude datives is complicated as well; besides, the interpersonal and evaluative meanings that the attitude dative attributes to the statement depend on the personal pronoun, as well as on the syntactic construction and the type of speech act; therefore, each of these factors will be looked at separately.

3 Speaker-oriented vs hearer-oriented vs agent-oriented attitude dative

In Latvian, three basic types of attitude datives are attested as follows:

  1. the speaker-oriented attitude dative expressed by the first person singular (man ‘to me’), less frequently – the first person plural (mums ‘to us’), and referring to the speaker (or the speaker and the hearer, or a group including the speaker).

  2. the hearer-oriented attitude dative expressed by the second person singular (tev ‘to you’), less frequently – second person plural (jums ‘to you’), and referring to the hearer (or a group of hearers).

  3. the agent-oriented attitude dative expressed by the third person singular (viņam ‘to him’, viņai ‘to her’), less frequently – third person plural (viņiem ‘to them (M)’, viņām ‘to them (F)’), and referring to an agent, or a group of agents.

3.1 Speaker-oriented attitude dative

As mentioned earlier, a speaker who uses the speaker-oriented attitude dative marks him- or herself as a form of authority in relation to the hearer and/or the content of the utterance (Haddad 2016, 2018, also Berg-Olsen 2005), as in (3):

(3) Tu man skaties, met
2sg.nom 1sg.dat look.imp.2sg give_up.imp.2sg
to dzeršanu pie malas! prep
‘Look, you’d better give up drinking.’ (LVK2018)

In this case, the speaker construes himself as an authority responsible for the directive and qualified to give it (Haddad 2016, 2018). The utterance would be grammatical without the personal pronoun man, but it is used by the speaker deliberately to emphasize his or her authority and to add a nuance of categoricalness to the imperative (Berg-Olsen 2005).

By using the attitude dative, the speaker states that she/he is also affected by what the hearer does; i.e., the speaker may also be characterized as an affectee, as in (4) and (5):

(4) Kur tu man visu laiku
where 2sg.nom 1sg.dat
‘Why are you disappearing from me all the time?’ (LVK2018)
(5) Tu jau mums labāk zini,
2sg.nom ptcl 1pl.dat better know.prs.2sg
kā viņu tur sauc.
‘You sure know better what he is called.’ (

Thus speaker-oriented attitude datives may function as perspectivizers that instruct the hearer to view the situation from a specific point of view (Verhagen 2010, Haddad 2018). The subject of the sentence and simultaneously the agent most frequently is the addressed person, as can be seen from examples (3)–(5), but in particular speech-act situations, it can also be someone who is absent (more on this in Sections 5.2 and 5.4).

3.2 Hearer-oriented attitude dative

It is mainly used to mark the hearer’s involvement or engagement with the content of the utterance and/or with the speaker as an in-group member (Haddad 2018), as in examples (6) and (7):

(6) Tāds tev nekrāpsies vakaros 2sg.dat cheat.fut.3
no mājām,
nesmaidīs simpātiskām svešiniecēm.
‘Such a type will not cheat on you in the evenings, he will not smile at cute passers-by.’ (LVTenTen)
(7) Es jums gan uzņemšu [bēgļus]!
1sg.nom 2pl.dat ptcl take_in.fut.1sg [refugees]
Just try to take in [refugees]! (

Again, the utterance (6) would be grammatical without the personal pronoun tev ‘to you’, which is used to emphasize the responsibility of the addressee for the negatively evaluated outcome, thus seeking to tarnish the addressee’s reputation or suggest an imminent failure. The subject of the sentence most often is some third person that has been mentioned before, for instance, by a personal pronoun (6). Interestingly, in example (7), the subject is the speaker, and although the predicate grammatically agrees with the subject, semantically it expresses an action performed by the addressee (i.e., welcoming or sheltering of refugees). This very action has triggered a negative reaction on the part of the speaker.

3.3 Agent-oriented attitude dative

Although less frequently, it is also possible to use third-person pronouns as agent-oriented attitude datives in Latvian, as shown by dialogue from everyday speech (personal knowledge), as in (8):

(8) A: Kaķis ir uz galda! be.prs.3 on
B: Dzen prom! Es viņam gan te
drive.imp.2sg away 1sg.nom 3sg.dat.m ptcl here
‘The cat is on the table! Drive him away! I will not have it mess around here!’

In this case, the referent of the third-person pronoun, namely, the cat, is the agent of the action, the speaker states his or her authority over it and, simultaneously, voices disappointment with the situation.

Another example from everyday speech is (9) – a situation at the seaside. A boy does not obey his mother and does not wish to stop bathing. The mother repeatedly asks him to get out of the water, finally gets angry, and says (personal knowledge):

(9) Es viņam gan nenākšu
1sg.nom 3sg.dat.m ptcl not_come.fut.1sg
no ūdens ārā!
of out
‘He will see what happens when he doesn’t come out of water!’

The utterance is used as a threat and implies that the boy is likely to be punished. In addition, the boy perceives this utterance of his mother as a threat and therefore is likely to come out of the water at once.

4 Attitude dative vs argument dative

As mentioned earlier, the dative is the richest case in the Latvian language, as regards its functions and meanings. Syntactically, it can be both a verb argument naming an object, as in examples (10) and (11), and a dative-marked adjunct (12):

(10) Tēt, nopērc man suni.
dad.VOC.SG.M buy.imp.2sg 1sg.dat dog.ACC.SG.M
‘Dad, buy me a dog!’ (T. Zeltiņš)
(11) Tev nepatīk baritons?
2sg.dat not_like.prs.3 baritone.NOM.SG.M
‘Don’t you like the baritone?’ (I. Šķipsna)
(12) Viņam tas viss ir.
3sg.dat.m it.NOM.SG.M all.NOM.SG,M be.PRS.3
‘He has it all.’ (

The dative can perform various semantic roles: the role of beneficient (dativus commodi) (10), maleficient (dativus incommodi), experiencer (11), and possessor (dativus possessivus) (12), to name the most important ones. However, these roles of the dative often overlap, for example, the roles of experiencer and possessor, as in (13):

(13) Lielākoties man izrādījās taisnība.
mostly 1sg.dat turn_out.pst.3 truth.NOM.SG.F
‘Most of the time I turned out to be right.’ (V. Freimane)

A distinctive feature of the attitude dative is its use in structures where the verb valency requires no dative object (Givón 2013, De Knop and Mollica 2017). Thus, they are free (or loose) datives (or dative adjuncts), which are not part of the argument structure of the verb.

However, a phrase in the dative that does not belong to the valency frame of the verb can have the same syntactic pattern as structures with a valency-based dative object, which is an argument of the verb (De Knop and Mollica 2017, 2). Therefore, it is not always easy to distinguish between argument and adjunct constructions with datives.

It is also possible to trace the transition from argument dative to attitude dative in examples (14a) and (14b):

(14) a. Ko tu man te piesien
what.acc 2sg.nom 1sg.dat ptcl attach.prs.2sg
personiskus motīvus?
‘How come you constantly imply I have personal motives here?’ (LVK2018)
b. Izslējies visā augumā, viņš [zīmēšanas skolotājs] turpināja skaļā balsī, ielikdams visu bardzību, uz kādu vien bija spējīgs:
“Un tagad jūs man zīmēsit
and now 2pl.nom 1sg.dat draw.fut.2pl
‘He [the teacher of visual arts] stood up and continued in a loud voice, with all the severity he was capable of, “And now you will draw a crane!”’ (A. Eglītis)

Here, the predicates piesiet ‘(here) to suggest, to imply, (lit.) to tie’ and zīmēt ‘to draw’ may be used with a dative object; thus, it would be expected that the datives are the arguments of the verb. However, the datives as unstressed clitics are placed between the subject and the predicate. Aijmer (2013, 16) argues that “pragmatic markers do not occur anywhere in the utterance or the turn, but there are rules for their placement which also have to do with their function.” In example (14a), there is also the evaluative particle te ‘now, here’, which suggests the function of the attitude dative. We may conclude that the attitudinal and evaluative functions of the dative are often emphasized by word order and particles, as in (15), where the attitude dative is placed between the subject and the predicate, and even two particles are used (gan ‘really’ and vēl ‘yet’):

(15) Gan tu man vēl pasvilposi!
ptcl 2sg.nom 1sg.dat ptcl whistle.fut.2sg
‘You will whistle for me big time!’ (LVK2018)

Both the hearer- and agent-oriented attitude datives are often used to express threats in constructions involving the finite verb rādīt ‘to show’ and might therefore be interpreted as argument datives. However, when the transitive verb rādīt in these constructions is used alone, without the direct object, in a metaphorical meaning, these datives should be interpreted as the attitude datives, as in (16):

(16) a. Es tev gan rādīšu izrunāties!
1sg.nom 2sg.dat ptcl show.fut.2sg swear.inf
‘I will teach you a lesson for swearing!’ (LVTenTen)
b. Gan es viņam rādīšu!
ptcl 1sg.nom 3sg.dat.m show.fut.1sg
‘I will teach him a lesson alright!’ (

It should be noted that syntactically the constructions with rādīt are different from those analyzed earlier. In sentences with the hearer-oriented attitude dative (16a), the subject is the speaker, the predicate agrees with it, but the undesired (for the addresser) action, expressed in the infinitive, is performed by the addressee. In the case of the hearer-oriented attitude dative (16b), the undesired action is performed by a third person. The action itself is not always named and may be inferred from the context. These constructions are at least partly lexicalized formulae for expressing threats and will be described further in Section 5.2.

As the presence of the attitude dative does not alter the propositional content of the sentence, it should be assigned no semantic role. However, just as syntactically there can be degrees of transition between the argument dative and the attitude dative (namely, an adjunct), so the attitude dative may retain semantic role nuances, especially since there can be an overlap of the semantic roles of experiencer, possessor, and beneficient/maleficient, as in (17):

(17) Tā ka tu, puika,
ptcl 2sg.nom
man šodien līdz vakaram salāpi
1sg.dat today till mend.imp.2sg
‘Make sure you, boy, that you mend the pastalas (leather footwear) by the evening!’ (Latviešu tautas teikas)

Interestingly, example (17) can be interpreted in two ways, dependent on the possessor of the footwear: if the speaker’s footwear is meant, the attitude dative man simultaneously expresses the roles of possessor and beneficient, if it belongs to the addressee, these semantic roles are not expressed (Wegener 1989, 71).

Nuances of the semantic roles of possessor and experiencer (18a) and those of maleficient and experiencer (18b) can be seen in the following utterances with the hearer-oriented dative:

(18) a. Šie tev vēl tikai ziediņi! 2sg.dat ptcl just
‘These are just trifles (the worst is yet to come)!’ (LVTenTen)
b. Tāds tev zobus 2sg.dat
naudu vienmēr nesīs mājās.
‘Such [a person] will not bare teeth with you but always bring home money.’ (LVTenTen)

Since the meanings expressed by the attitude dative are closely related to both certain syntactic constructions and speech acts, they will be described in more detail in the following section.

5 Speech acts and constructions

There are varied meanings of attitude datives in certain speech acts associated with specific syntactic constructions and utterance types. In addition, the attitude dative also has certain verb forms; the meanings and usage of which are discussed closer in this chapter.

5.1 Orders

The speaker-oriented attitude dative is mostly used in directive speech acts to assert the speaker’s authority over the addressee. Such orders are very categorical, as in example (19):

(19) Man nepatīk [iet uz skolu].
Tu man te neizrunājies,
2sg.nom 1sg.dat ptcl not_talk_back.imp.2sg
bet taisies.
but get_ready.imp.2sg
Ka nenokavē autobusu.
‘– I don’t like [going to school].
– Just cut it out and get ready. Or you miss the bus.’ (P. Bankovskis)

In example (19), the speech act uses the second-person singular form of the imperative mood (Berg-Olsen 2005, 98), but sentences with the attitude dative very often use the future tense which further enhances the categorical nature of the order (see Kalnača and Lokmane 2021, 237 for more detail), as in (20):

(20) Mājas priekša kāda izskatās
Trotuāru jūs man ar ziepēm 2pl.nom 1sg.dat with
‘What a mess has been made of the façade… [There is paint spilt on the street.] You will wash the side-walk with soap!’ (G. Priede)

Thus, the orders only use the speaker-oriented dative in the singular, the subject of the sentence is the second person pronoun, either in the singular (19) or in the plural (20); the predicate is either in the imperative or the future indicative.

5.2 Prohibitions, refusals, and threats

Speech acts of prohibiting, refusing, and threatening involve syntactic constructions with both the speaker-oriented and hearer-oriented attitude dative, less frequently with the agent-oriented attitude dative.

Prohibitions (21a) and threats (21b) are expressed by constructions including the speaker-oriented attitude dative in the singular, the second-person pronoun as the subject, and a negated imperative form (marked by prefix ne-) as the predicate:

(21) a. Tu man gar matiem ne-grābsties.
2sg.nom 1sg.dat prep not_touch.imp.2sg
Suni tu vari glaudīt, ne mani.
‘Don’t touch my hair here. You can pat the dog, not me.’ (LVK2018)
b. Tu man te ne-ļerkšķi!
2sg.nom 1sg.dat ptcl not_talk_rubbish.imp.2sg
‘Just stop talking rubbish, will you?’ (H. Gulbis)

Just like in orders, the future indicative is also possible to express implicature that the possible action of the addressee of the utterance will most likely entail unpleasant consequences, as in example (22):

(22) Tu man to Ernest[u]
2sg.nom 1sg.dat
Vecaistēvs bļāvis uz Līzi, tā ka rūtis šķindējušas un lampa līgojusies.
‘You will not marry Ernests, no way! Grandfather had reportedly yelled at Līze so that the panes clinked, and the lamp shook.’ (LVK2018)

If the predicate in the imperative is in an assertion, certain lexemes with the meaning of threat are used, e.g., pielūkot ‘to look’, (pie)sargāties ‘to beware’, as in examples (23a) and (23b):

(23) a. Pielūko tu man,
look.imp.2sg 2sg.nom 1sg.dat
ka netraucē ciemiņam strādāt!
‘Make sure you don’t disturb the visitor while he is working!’ (G. Priede)
b. Sargies tu man!
beware.imp.2sg 2sg.nom 1sg.dat
‘Make sure you don’t do this again!’ (LVK2018)

The predicate in the future tense explicitly names the possible unpleasant consequences, as in (24):

(24) To tu, puika, 2sg.nom
man pieminēsi!
1sg.dat regret.fut.2sg
‘You’ll regret this, kid.’ (A. Eglītis)

The imperative is found not only in the second-person form as in examples (23) and (24), but also in the third-person form with the particle lai ‘let’, as in (25):

(25) Sibilla. Šoferi atstājiet mierā! Šoferis nav vainīgs!
Jurgens. Lai viņš man parādās!
Let 3sg.nom.m 1sg.dat turn_up.prs.3
‘Sibilla: Leave the driver alone! The driver is not to blame!
Jurgens: Let him just turn up here!’ (G. Priede)

Threats can also be expressed in the third person form in the future tense, as in (26):

(26) Kaķa stāsts: Visu [kaķa konservu] apēdu un vēl demonstratīvi šķīvi nolaizīju!
Guļu skapī, tusnīju. Pārēdos. Nekad vairs neēdīšu.
Viņš [saimnieks] man šito
3sg.nom.m [the owner] 1sg.dat
vēl pieminēs!
ptcl regret.fut.3
Kad atlabšu.
‘The cat’s story: I ate the whole can [of cat food] and licked the plate demonstratively! I now sleep in the cupboard, I moan. I overate. I will never eat again. He [the owner] will regret this! Wait until I recover.’ (

It should be pointed out that the subject in attitude dative constructions is usually a pronoun. This is significant, because in a construction with a third person predicate, as in (25) and (26), the addressee of the threat could also be named with a full lexical noun, but the pronoun is preferred.

The second type of constructions of refusal to do something (27a) or to express threats (27b) include the hearer-oriented attitude dative where the subject is the first person pronoun in the singular and the predicate is a verb in the first person in the future tense, as in examples (27):

(27) a. Es tev, putniņ,
1sg.nom 2sg.dat
tādā meldiņā vis nedziedāšu! ptcl not_sing.fut.1sg
‘I will not have you, birdie, sing this tune again!’ (LVK2018)
b. Aizver muti, mazā draņķe,
vai arī es tev vienreiz
or also 1sg.nom 2sg.dat once
sadauzīšu to purnu!
‘Shut up, you little bitch, or I will smash you ugly face!’ (LVK2018)

The speaker may refuse to do something by using a negated verb (as in (27a)), as well as a construction including a verb or verbs in an affirmative form with the particle gan ‘really’, as in (28):

(28) Es tev gan gaidīšu!
1sg.nom 2sg.dat ptcl wait.fut.1sg
Kur tas ir redzēts!
‘I am not going to wait [for you]! That is unheard of! (E. Vulfs)

Example (28) carries strong overtones of dissatisfaction with the situation and possibly the previous speech act of the addressee.

As mentioned above, specific constructions with the lexeme rādīt ‘to show’ are often used to express threats with both the hearer-oriented (29) and agent-oriented (30) attitude datives:

(29) Ko sadomājis? Kur līdīsi!
Es tev rādīšu!
1sg.nom 2sg.dat show.fut.1sg
– izpļaukājusi māte aizgrūž mani pie pumpja.
‘What did you think? Where will you go! I’ll show you! – mother spanked me and pushes me toward the pump.’ (LVK2018)
(30) Muļķības! Kāpēc jums jāpūlas [tīrīt kanalizācijas vadu]?
Es viņai [mājas saimniecei] rādīšu!
1sg.nom 3sg.dat.f [the landlady] show.fut.1sg
– Klūge [īrniece] kareivīgi nošūpoja garo, puķaino rītasvārku.
‘Nonsense! Why should you bother [to clean the sewer tube]? I’ll show her! Klūge [the tenant] belligerently swung her long, flowered dressing gown.’ (LVK2018)

The trend for such constructions to become lexicalized is demonstrated by the fact that there is also an elliptical construction without the verb rādīt ‘to show’, namely, es tev gan., that has turned into a set expression, used to express threats, as in (31):

(31) .. es tev gan,
1sg.nom 2sg.dat ptcl
kā likšu, tā necelsies, vai tu negribi pa aci?
‘I will beat the living daylights out of you, you want your face to be messed up?’ (LVTenTen)

Therefore, threats can be expressed both by speaker-oriented, hearer-oriented, and also agent-oriented attitude dative constructions, and by the predicate in the imperative mood or in the future indicative. Constructions with specific lexemes tend to turn into set expressions.

In general, in directive speech acts expressing orders, prohibitions, refusals, and threats, the attitude dative may bring the utterance down to the semantic domain of impoliteness. According to Culpeper (2011, 19), impoliteness comes about when: 1) the speaker carries out a face-attack intentionally, or 2) the hearer perceives and/or constructs behavior as an intentional face-attacking. Thus, impoliteness depends not only on what is said but also on how it is perceived and how it relates to the situation. Besides impoliteness often involves seeks to damage and/or is damaging a person’s identity or identities (Culpeper op. cit., 1) and likewise triggers a negative emotional reaction. However, the attitude dative should be considered as a marker of impoliteness only in such communicative situations where its use might be considered inappropriate and where it involves a clash with expectations (see Culpeper op. cit., 14). Such is the sentence in example (22), where the use of the attitude dative reveals a deliberately negative attitude against the addressee of the utterance who perceives such mode of expression are vulgar and very impolite.

5.3 Disagreement, disappointment, and regret

The speaker-oriented attitude dative is found in exclamative utterances expressing empathy towards someone and simultaneously showing regret about the situation, as in (32):

(32) Dievs par to ļoti noskaities un sacījis:
Tad tādi jūs man,
ptcl 2pl.nom 1sg.dat
cilvēki, esat! be.cop.prs.2pl
Jūs meklējat vienīgi savu paša labumu, aizmirsdami citus cilvēkus.
‘God got so angry about this that he said: Humans, you are such rascals! You seek only your own good, forgetting the good of the others.’ (Latviešu tautas teikas)

Thus, exclamative utterances with the attitude dative may express mirativity (more on the typology of mirativity see, e.g., Aikhenvald 2012, DeLancey 2012, on mirativity in Latvian see Kalnača and Lokmane 2022), most often these are rhetorical questions:

(33) Kur tu man tāda
where 2sg.nom 1sg.dat
esi gadījusies…
be.aux.prs.2sg happen.ptcp.pst.act.f
‘How come you are like this?’ (LVK2018)

Utterances with the hearer-oriented attitude dative are mostly used to express not only mirativity, but also disagreement with the opinion of the addressee (34a) or dissatisfaction with his or her behavior (34b):

(34) a. Lai [ķirši kokā] paliek Ilmāram [dēlam].
Kur tev Ilmāram!
where 2sg.dat Ilmā
Ja ne strazdi, tad vācieši noēdīs. Nocirtīs ķirsi ar visām ogām.
‘– Let [the cherries in the tree] remain for Ilmārs [the son].
– What Ilmārs? If not the starlings, then the Germans will eat them. They will cut down the cherry tree with all the berries.’ (H. Gulbis)
b. Kas es tev par onkuli?
what.nom 1sg.nom 2sg.dat prep
Mēs, vai zin’, kopā cūkas neesam ganījuši.
‘What uncle am I to you? We haven’t drunk out of the same bottle.’ (LVK2018)

Utterances with the hearer-oriented dative may express a speaker’s opinion that something is unlikely to happen (35a), often combined with regret (35b). Such sentences usually contain the verb in the future tense:

(35) a. Kur tev tik vēlā rudenī
where 2sg.dat so
pērkons rasies! appear.fut.3
‘How on Earth should there be thunderstorm so late in the autumn!’ (J. Janševskis)
b. Arī cits tirgotājs lieto plastmasas iepakojumu:
“Kurš tad tev avīzē ptcl 2sg.dat
tīs [ogas un augļus]?
wrap.fut.3 [berries and fruit]
Tak netīs iekšā. Tie papīra maisiņi baigā nauda sanāk, un cilvēki jau nav gatavi maksāt.”
‘Other merchants, too, use plastic packaging: “Who is going to wrap [berries and fruit] in a newspaper? No way! The paper bags are quite costly, and people are not ready to cash out for them.”’ (

The hearer-oriented attitude dative is found also in set expressions of disagreement and disappointment, e.g., kas tev daļas ‘what’s for you in it’ or kur tev prāts ‘where was your mind’, as in (36):

(36) a. Kas tev daļas par Aiju?
what.nom 2sg.dat for
‘What do YOU care for Aija?’ (LVK2018)
b. Kur tev prāts ?
where 2sg.dat
‘Where was your mind?’ (LVK2018)

Thus, disagreement, disappointment and regret can be expressed both by exclamative utterances and by the speaker-oriented and hearer-oriented attitude datives. Some of them are formally interrogative sentences, so they also convey surprise and should be considered indirect speech acts. Here, as in the previous speech act groups, we find lexicalized expressions, including the attitude dative.

5.4 Irony

Some of the utterances with the speaker-oriented dative in first person plural in certain types of constructions express irony. These constructions always contain the particle jau ‘already’ and have a nominal predicate describing the subject of the sentence. The subject of the sentence, as in many of the examples above, can be a second person pronoun, if the addressee is being referred to, as in example (37):

(37) Jā, jā, tu jau mums te
yes yes 2sg.nom already 1pl.dat ptcl
gudrākā un skaistākā, and
tā tik pārējie muļķi.
‘Yes, yes, you’re the smartest and prettiest one here, it’s the other who are fools.’(

The subject can also be ironically referred to by a 3rd person pronoun, as in example (38):

(38) Viņš jau mums budists,
3sg.nom.m already 1pl.dat
redz, mantas mazāk!
you see less
‘He’s a Buddhist, you see, less stuff.’ (

The use of the plural first person pronoun mums indicates that the opinion expressed is not only one by the speaker, but it also includes the opinion of a broader social group, thus providing, as it were, additional legitimation or social validation of the statement. Here, too, we find a partially lexicalized syntactic construction: 2SG/3SG pronoun + particle jau ‘already’ + the attitude dative 1PL + a nominal predicate.

6 Conclusions

The attitude dative is a dative pronominal clitic that functions as an interpersonal pragmatic marker. It serves two functions: (1) a stance-marking function, as it reflects the speaker’s opinion about states of affairs, and (2) a relational function as it points to the roles of interlocutors.

The attitude dative is an optional syntactic element, it is unstressed and has a fixed place in the sentence, namely between the subject and the predicate. Often its pragmatic functions are strengthened by a particle.

There are three types of attitude datives in Latvian as follows:

  1. the speaker-oriented dative (1SG/PL pronoun);

  2. the hearer-oriented dative (2SG/PL pronoun);

  3. the agent-oriented dative (3SG/PL pronoun), which is the least frequent type in Latvian.

It is not always easy to distinguish between the attitude dative and the argument dative, as they can be used in similar syntactic constructions. The function of the attitude dative is indicated by the position in the sentence, the use of particles, the use of the predicate figuratively and without naming the direct object, as well as by the utterance type (most often directives). The attitude dative tends to be used in lexicalized syntactic constructions (set expressions) and may co-occur with specific lexemes and grammatical forms which perform certain pragmatic functions.

The attitude dative assumes particular functions are certain types of speech acts. In giving orders and, even more often, expressing prohibition and threats, the speaker makes the utterance categorical, thus attacking the addressee in a direct way (face-attacks him or her) and triggering a negative emotional reaction, at the same time bringing the attitude dative down to the domain of impoliteness. Exclamative utterances with the attitude dative may express disagreement, disappointment, and regret and are related to the domain of mirativity.

There are also other minor types of utterances with the attitude dative which lie outside the scope of this study.


1, 2, 3

first, second, third person
















































This study was carried out in the framework of the University of Latvia research project “Latvian Studies, Diaspora and Intercultural Connections”, Faculty of Humanities sub-project “Ideas in Humanities – Language, Text, Culture”.

  1. Conflict of interest: Authors state no conflict of interest.


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Received: 2023-01-08
Revised: 2023-04-28
Accepted: 2023-06-02
Published Online: 2023-07-15

© 2023 the author(s), published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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