LINGUIST List 9.680

Sat May 9 1998

Disc: Recent changes in English

Editor for this issue: Elaine Halleck <>


  1. DZIEGELE, Disc.: Recent change in English
  2. MARC PICARD, Re: 9.676, Disc: Recent Change in English
  3. manaster, Re: 9.675, Disc: Recent Change in English

Message 1: Disc.: Recent change in English

Date: Sat, 09 May 1998 20:10:18 +1000
Subject: Disc.: Recent change in English

One of the most noticeable changes that I have observed in recent
years, and one which seems to have become quite globalized (from my
own observations) is the use of 'Enjoy!' in the imperative without an
object. I have seen this form on bill-boards, heard in it restaurants
when food is served, and in many other service-oriented situations,
but I have never come across the 'intransitive' use of ENJOY in any
other expression (e.g. 'We enjoyed'; 'I am enjoying').

It would be interesting to find out if any such uses did exist, or if
other formerly transitive verbs are being used in the same way.

Debra Ziegeler

Dept. of Linguistics
Monash University
VIC 3168
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Message 2: Re: 9.676, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Sat, 09 May 1998 11:47:58 -0400
Subject: Re: 9.676, Disc: Recent Change in English

Marc Hamann wrote:

> If I understand correctly, you mean pronouncing "egg" and "beg" as
> though they were "agg" and "bag". 

I don't think this is the proper representation of this
pronunciation. It's more like "ague" and "bague". When I have my
students transcribe words like these, I always get a few that write
/e:g/ for /Eg/, and so on. I've never heard Americans do this, and
I've never been able to figure out exactly where in Canada this
pronunciation is common.

Marc Picard
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Message 3: Re: 9.675, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Sat, 9 May 1998 13:54:00 -0400 (EDT)
From: manaster <>
Subject: Re: 9.675, Disc: Recent Change in English

I have been reading with interest the changes various people mention
as having noticed, but it is important to make sure that we do not
rely on mere personal impressions. I have over and over caught myself
thinking that something which I don't say must be a recent innovation
only to discover that it is attested well before 1967, the year I
began learning English. Moreover, there is another complication: it
may be that certain changes occurred a long time ago in some area or
some social group but has only recently spread to the observer's own
neighborhood. In those cases, the impression that a given change is
recent may be BOTH right AND wrong, right because it would be true
that only recently did a certain area or class adopt it, but wrong
because it was widespread elsewhere a long time ago.

I also cannot accept personal impressions of what one says or does not
say anyway. This I realized about twenty years ago in my own case. I
was a student at U of Chicago and we were reading the Comrie/Keenan
claims about accessibility to relativization and being the only native
speaker of Polish in the class (taught I think by Jerry Sadock) I was
required to decide if various relativization "strategies" exist in
Polish. I recall being absolutely convinced that there was no
strategy with an invariant relative marker but only one with a
relative pronoun ifnlected for case, number, and gender. But later
that day and over the next few days I began feeling more and more
unease until I finally realized that there is a perfectly common
strategy of this sort (with the invariable rel marker co), but I
continued to feel for another few days that it was substandard and
that I would never use it (and at least one of my brothers, not a
linguist, agreed with this judgement). It was only a few more days
that I realized that, linguistic snobs that my whole family and I
were, we had somehow hypercorrected and tried to suppress the fact
that this is a perfectly natural construction, though one that
apparently is largely (though not wholly, for there are many details
we need not go into here) restricted to colloquial as opposed to, say,
formal written usage--although it happens to occur in the opening
lines of the far and away best known poem by Poland's far and away
best known poet.

And having by this time been away from Poland for a number of years, I
then realized that I could not even be sure that the source of the
suppression in our own familial linguistic snobbery as opposed to my
parents or older siblings or even maybe me being taught to suppress in
school, and to this day I am left to wonder.

And I think that we simply cannot rely on our memories and
"grammaticality judgements" in any of the cases people having been
mentioning as recent changes in English either. We nee to make sure
that they are really recent first. Just feeling that "I would never
say THAT, it is only the younger generation that says it" is simply
not enough.

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