LINGUIST List 3.936

Sat 28 Nov 1992

Disc: Ain't/Aren't

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Directory

  1. (lex Monaghan, ain't/aren't
  2. John Hughes, Re: 3.930 Negatives: Too Many; Ain't
  3. Alex Monaghan, Re: 3.920 Queries: German, History of English, Am not I

Message 1: ain't/aren't

Date: Tue, 24 Nov 92 10:56:30 CSain't/aren't
From: (lex Monaghan <baronux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: ain't/aren't

I don't think the postbellum explanation is plausible. *Aren't I?*
begins to draw attention in the early 20th c., when usage critics
label it pretentious, ungrammatical, and in at least one case, "feminine."
They all opt for *ain't I?* instead, if a contraction is required,
though they would all preferred the uncontracted *Am I not?* The usage
critics all condemn *ain't* when used with 2nd and 3rd pers., and plu.,
and they reject *amn't I?*, attributing it to black or Irish speakers.

According to Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, which has a nice
entry for this item, *aren't I?* is still occasionally questioned by
today's usagists and usageasters. The present spelling apparently
replaces the older spelling *an't*, once common in British drama.
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Message 2: Re: 3.930 Negatives: Too Many; Ain't

Date: Tue, 24 Nov 92 11:37:48 -0Re: 3.930 Negatives: Too Many; Ain't
From: John Hughes <hughesudel.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.930 Negatives: Too Many; Ain't

Alan Harris writes, Re am not I vs. aren't I:

>there was a supposition that i read once that this construction was a
>postbellum, reconstruction period, white teacher (read elementary school)
>response to the use of "ain't" In other words, anything in that period,
>roughly 1865-85, that smacked of "black" should be expunged from the language
>of learned individuals--at least that was the feeling. . .

I seem to remember seeing somewhere (perhaps in the OED) that "ain't" is some
sort of corruption of a contraction "an't" which is no longer in use. I believe
it was never widely used in this country, even back to colonial times, when
"ain't" and "an't" were both in existence in England, with "ain't" being (gasp)
low class.

What I don't remember is where "an't" came from; it seems equally likely that
it's the contraction of "am not" with the m assimilated into the n, or (given
current British pronunciation) "are not" with the r elided. But now I am
nowhere near an OED (if that's even where I saw this in the first place...).
The first alternative would answer the original post's question, however.

John
hughescis.udel.edu
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Message 3: Re: 3.920 Queries: German, History of English, Am not I

Date: Wed, 25 Nov 92 11:56:43 GMRe: 3.920 Queries: German, History of English, Am not I
From: Alex Monaghan <amcstr.edinburgh.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 3.920 Queries: German, History of English, Am not I

i personally find "am not i" better than "are not i": i have never heard
the latter, and the former is in common use in edinburgh.
i would not say either, preferring "am i not" or "aren't i",
but my scottish wife finds this last odd and uses "amn't i" instead.
 alex.
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