LINGUIST List 2.865

Sun 15 Dec 1991

Disc: We Do

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Directory

  1. BROADWELL GEORGE AARON, till death do us part
  2. , till death do us part
  3. , Re: 2.850 Queries: Discourse, Elamite, Kimmo, Black English, Us
  4. Dennis Baron, do we part?
  5. "sharon l. shelly", Re: 2.850 Queries: Discourse, Elamite, Kimmo, Black English, Us

Message 1: till death do us part

Date: Mon, 9 Dec 91 17:26:45 -0500
From: BROADWELL GEORGE AARON <gb661csc.albany.edu>
Subject: till death do us part
A previous post asked why a modern song changed `till death do us part'
to `till death we do part'.
I find the phrase doubly puzzling -- first there is the verb *do*, rather
than *does*, and second there is the object pronoun before the verb.
The odd use of *do* looks to me like it is probably a subjunctive, and
we all know that these are confusing to most people.
The object before the verb I have no idea about. Any other ideas?
Aaron Broadwell
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Message 2: till death do us part

Date: 10 Dec 1991 22:39:05 CST
From: <GLADNEYvmd.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: till death do us part
What makes this difficult and subject to restructuring is not only the word ord
er but also the subjuncitve do in place of _till death does part us_. The subj
unctive 3sg. do is construed as indicative 1pl and this seems to have demoted _
death_ to an adverbial role, roughtly _till (in) death we do part_. Persons try
ing to unravel this may wish to try their hand at something my minister regular
ly says when baptizing infants: Remember the words of our Lord Jessus Christ,
who said, "Let the children come unto me and forbit them not, for to such belo
ng [sic] the kingdom of God." It seems that the word order has won out over the
preposition marking of _such_ and it has been promoted to subject, being aided
 by the same sort of valence shift, as in the playful usage, _Hey, who belongs
to this bike?_, in place of _Who does this bike beling to?_ The reverend doctor
's meaning is clear however: children belong (have a place in) the k. of G.
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Message 3: Re: 2.850 Queries: Discourse, Elamite, Kimmo, Black English, Us

Date: Tue, 10 Dec 91 14:01:23 GMT
From: <amcstr.edinburgh.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 2.850 Queries: Discourse, Elamite, Kimmo, Black English, Us
re. "till death do we part": could just be that singers/writers of such
material simply don't care what it says: other deathless lines such as
"me on my pony on my boat" would seem to support this hypothesis.
								alex.
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Message 4: do we part?

Date: Mon, 9 Dec 91 11:56:39 CST
From: Dennis Baron <baronux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: do we part?
Ellen Prince's c/w line "till death do we part" seems to me a
predictable development, that is to say, an "error" motivated
by the position of the pronoun before the verb _part_, and
reinforced by the pronoun coming between _do_ and _part_, which
of course resembles the question form, _Do we part?_
It is unusual that the fossilized expression "death do us part"
(originally, I think, _us do part_) has given way in such a
public context, but I would add that such fossils are often
reetymologized to make sense in the modern lingo, hence it is
common to hear (and see) people saying _wreck havoc_ instead of
_wreak havoc_. The prevalence also of such statements as
_bewteen you and I_ shows that pronoun case is often up for
grabs in Modern English.
--
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Message 5: Re: 2.850 Queries: Discourse, Elamite, Kimmo, Black English, Us

Date: Tue, 10 Dec 91 12:40:51 EST
From: "sharon l. shelly" <SHELLYUKCC.uky.edu>
Subject: Re: 2.850 Queries: Discourse, Elamite, Kimmo, Black English, Us
I don't know why Randy Travis came up with "til death do WE part,"
but I wouldn't be surprised if it were another case of
hypercorrection. I'm encountering more and more people, of
various ages, dialects and levels of education, who seem to believe
that the nominative case is somehow more legitimate -- or at least
more prestigious -- in ANY syntactic context. Thus: "They sent
it to Steve and I," etc. There are some cases that don't occur,
though: I've never heard "Give it to I," for example.
Apparently the internalized rule is something like: when in
doubt (because of a compound noun, or absence of any obvious
and local case marker), it's always safest to use the nominative.
The non-canonical word order of "till death do us part" is such
a "doubtful" context for many speakers. In other words, Randy
may have thought he was improving the traditional phrase, and
protecting himself against any possible accusations of
ungrammaticality.
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