Da (muckefuck) wrote in linguaphiles,

Objects of metonomy

There's a common metonymic construction in English whereby the name of an author or artist can stand for their body of work. So you can say "I read Twain" or (god forbid!) "I collect Kinkade". Many other languages allow this, too, but I've never been quite sure how many do or what exactly the usage is.

For instance, Spanish has a syntactic peculiarity called the "personal a" whereby animate and personified direct objects are marked with the preposition a. For instance, "Vi la papa" ("I saw the potato") but "Vi al Papa" ("I saw the Pope"). Because a person's works are inanimate, I would naturally expect the personal a to be dropped in these constructions.

But this seems not to be the case. Spanish-speakers aren't ones to leer Cervantes ("read Cervantes"), what they do is leer a Cervantes. Moreover, certain verbs which allow this construction in English don't in Spanish. You can buy, sell, and collect Picasso in English, but it doesn't appear that you can comprar, vender, or coleccionar him in Spanish.

So how does this work in the languages you know? Is this construction possible and, if so, with which verbs? If personal objects are treated differently in your language, are these metonymic objects treated the same or differently? Or is there a choice?

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