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I found the following sentence on the internet. "I need money, and money, I need." It is what a young girl was saying. (She was talking to herself.) Her parent put it down in writing.

Since the verb "need" is a transitive verb essentially, the second "need" is supposed to have an object, but it does not. I would like to know why.

Question: Assuming the second "money" is not pronounced strongly, which option is appropriate?

(a) The reason the object is missing is similar to the reason the following lyrics lack objects . (Purpose: To reduce redundancy.)

"I need you I need you I need I need you baby I need I need I need I need I need I need you baby"

Link to the song: https://showlyrics.net/call-me-song-lyrics-2.html

(b) The object moved before the subject < I > for topicalization or something.

(c) Both (a) and (b) are likely.

(d) None of the above.

Thank you.

===postscript=== I asked this question in order to know whether or not the given sentence can be a poetic expression. The answers here enlightened me much!

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    The second "need" does have an object. It's the noun phrase "money" which happens to be preposed to a position before the verb.
    – BillJ
    Mar 23, 2022 at 14:24
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    Yes, << (b) The object moved before the subject < I > for topicalization >> is the correct answer, which makes 'The reason why a transitive verb does not have an object' unacceptable. Mar 23, 2022 at 15:32
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    Does this answer your question? Which are the word orders that can be found in English? But this question is a repeat of a recent one, now deleted. Not good practice. I remember quoting Bruce Forsyth's catchphrase: 'Nice to see you; to see you, nice.' which is related and shows the quirky / literary register. Mar 23, 2022 at 15:34
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    Preposing the complement like this typically serves to emphasise the truth of what is being asserted.
    – BillJ
    Mar 23, 2022 at 15:40
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    The proposed duplicate does not satisfactorily answer the question. We already know that this type of sentence is possible from the example in this question, but not what it's called or why.
    – Laurel
    Mar 23, 2022 at 17:12

2 Answers 2

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It's b: The object is the "money" before "I", making an object-subject-verb (OSV) sentence. It's correct, even if it is rare. The proper terms for it seem to be object fronting, preposing, topicalization, or Y-Movement (Y for Yiddish). According to Cambridge:

We can create a focus on objects, complements and adjuncts by moving them to front position in the clause, where the subject normally is. This is then an untypical order and we call it fronting.

Object fronting

That car we bought at least five years ago. The other one we only bought last year. (By fronting the objects (that car and the other one) we focus on them and the contrast between them.)

It reminds me of a specific type of left dislocation (LD):

The Saturns, you can get air bags in them.

The only real difference is that the object of the sentence is referred to twice in LD, with different words.


Bonus: A quote from In a thestri stude Y stod (a1350):

Him Y telle a louerd that thus con bete bales.
"I call him a lord who then can escape misery."

Old English, which had a freer word order thanks to its case system, also sometimes used OSV:

& his broþur Horsan man ofslog (A455.3)
"and his brother Horsa someone slew"

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    There is also a kind of poetic thing with the repetition: "I need money, and money, I need. And it ain't pretty either. :) +1 for left dislocation. :) It ain't pretty either. Makes me uncomfortable.
    – Lambie
    Mar 23, 2022 at 15:02
  • 'Complement preposing' is another term for it. Objects are a subtype of complement.
    – BillJ
    Mar 23, 2022 at 15:43
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    There's a traditional name for it in the generative literature. It's called simply Topicalization (horrible name, I agree), or occasionally Y-Movement (Y for Yiddish). It's the same thing as left dislocation, but it's a movement rule rather than a copy or dummy rule, so there's no object left the way there is with dislocation. Makes a difference, because movement rules obey Ross constraints, while copy rules don't. Mar 23, 2022 at 17:13
  • @BillJ Is it just called "preposing"? I also saw the term "NP preposing" thrown around.
    – Laurel
    Mar 23, 2022 at 17:15
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    Yes, it's a subtype of preposing where a complement (as opposed to an adjunct) of a verb is preposed. In the OP's example, "money" is the object, i.e. complement of "need". A prototypical preposed complement serves as a link to the preceding discourse, i.e. it is closely related to information previously introduced into the discourse.
    – BillJ
    Mar 23, 2022 at 17:29
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There are a lot of things going on here but in short

money, I need

is an uncommon but somewhat acceptable way of saying "I need money", where the object to the transitive verb money is moved to the front.

Which is to say that the 'need' does have an object, it is just not in the place you expect it.

It is usually not natural in English to do this. English has a usually strict word order but sometimes changing the word order can sound OK. "Money, I need" is sort of OK but "I money need" and other permutations sound really bad and it may be hard to extract what meaning is intended.

Some notes:

  • Lyrics in music or poetry in general can tolerate a lot of what would be considered ungrammatical in regular spoken or written language. That's exactly what 'poetic license' is for.
  • Grammar 'rules' are really more like suggestions or guidelines. Some languages are stricter than others, but even in a stricter language like English, there can be some leeway for emphasis.
  • "I need" all by itself, without an object, sounds 'wrong' (very unnatural) to me but maybe some people are starting to use it intransitively just a general 'I am in the state of needing things in general'. But I highly suspect that that is not the case here.
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  • Mitch, the parents put in the punctuation. Maybe she was saying: I need money and money. I need. In which case, there is no grammar to explain it. It's just poor verbal expression by a kid.
    – Lambie
    Sep 15, 2022 at 20:44

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