So, when you have a specific noun in the dative like that, does it always have to be doubled with a dative pronoun, or does the pronoun just add emphasis?
My theories below may still be valid, but I finally found a direct answer in that other comment
https://www.duolingo.com/comment/24304566 (Luchtmens/Adrian P. would know)
The short pronouns are required for accusative persons (îl văd pe tatăl), and they are used optionally but customarily in order to sound less formal with dative persons ([îi] dau tatălui).
"îi" is mandatory, if that's the pronoun you're referring to.
Then I am even more confused. I just had a "choose all the valid sentences" question at the end of this lesson that counted me off for only choosing a translation of the sentence "The boys read to the men" that included the "le" that doubled "bărbaților" and not also choosing a sentence that omitted the "le."
I haven't got anwers on the same question elsewhere but I suspect now, that the short form pronouns are mandatory with accusative only and can be omitted with dative ... (??)
That sounds like what we have seen here. Thanks for pointing it out.
No, verbs are transitive and require accusative, but apparently nouns that represent persons are not accepted as accusative objects, hence the workaround with "pe" and the need for the accusative pronoun.
But this is only my quirky reasoning, I'm no grammar scholar. It just occured to me, that direct objects of transitive verbs wouldn't accept prepositions like "pe" (Latin "per"?). So, if "văd Maria" won't do for some reason, "văd pe Maria" leaves the transitive verb incomplete, requiring "o văd pe Maria". Spanish has a similar issue, but I forgot if they need a pronoun in addition to "a Maria"...
My personal theory is that for transitive verbs "pe ..." is not a proper direct (accusative) object, just a prepositional complement, like when I say "I see in all your glory" - the direct object "you" is missing, and "see" would become intransitive, as in "yeah, I see."
Dative, on the other hand is not even necessary to make the verb complete: "I give a puppy" doesn't need the dative boy as a receiver to make the transitive verb (I give sth.) grammarwise complete - but we need the accusative puppy!
Maybe Romanians use the short dative pronouns only because they are used to them from accusative sentences, even when they are not really necessary?
So, then, no Romanian verbs would be truly transitive (save a few, like to have)?
Can "You give a puppy to this boy." work with this structure or would it change things?
Those are precisely the same in English. You should definitely report that and they should definitely accept it.