LINGUIST List 4.96

Fri 12 Feb 1993

Disc: That's history

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. RichardHudson, That's history

Message 1: That's history

Date: Tue, 09 Feb 93 09:11:07 +0That's history
From: RichardHudson <>
Subject: That's history

Many thanks to our moderators for the nice name for this topic, and to
Elise Morse-Gagne for wonderfully clear and helpful account of the known
history of possessive "that's" as in "the pencil that's lead is broken".
Her conclusion is that although there was a similar form with similar use
in OE it seems to have died out and the modern form is a re-invention.

If this is right, then wouldn't it support the general point that some of
us see behind the debate, namely that relative THAT is a pronoun, and not
a mere subordinator (Complementiser), pace the received wisdom? Otherwise
why should we use it as the basis for a new form? Especially in view of the
phonological difference between it and the demonstrative THAT. Notice that
possessive "that's" is pronounced with a schwa, unlike the demonstrative.

Dick Hudson
Dept of Phonetics and Linguistics,
University College London,
Gower Street,
London WC1E 6BT
(071) 387 7050 ext 3152
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