LINGUIST List 9.690

Mon May 11 1998

Disc: Recent Change in English

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <martylinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Carl.Mills, Re: 9.686, Disc: Recent Change in English
  2. Gerald B Mathias, Re: 9.686, Disc: Recent Change in English
  3. ShariEllen, Re: 9.686, Disc: Recent Change in English

Message 1: Re: 9.686, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 12:07:25 -0500 (EST)
From: Carl.Mills <Carl.MillsUC.Edu>
Subject: Re: 9.686, Disc: Recent Change in English

Regarding Lynn Santelmann's (10 May) constructions:

>The use of "who" for "whoever" in the construction: "Can I help who's
>next?" vs. "Can I help whoever's next?" To my ears, "can I help
>who's next?" is simply ungrammatical, but I've heard it often.

This use of "who" is found in a number of dialects, including southern
Ohio. In fact, I think it is ok in my (native Oregonian) dialect.

>The use of "disappear" in passive constructions. "The dissidents were
>disappeared in 1983". Interestingly, I haven't noticed an actual
>transitive use of "disappear" yet, though I suspect it's only a
>matter of time.

Transitive use of "disappear" has been around for quite a while. It
appears in Joseph Heller's Catch 22.

Carl Mills
University of Cincinnati
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Message 2: Re: 9.686, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 07:26:45 -1000
From: Gerald B Mathias <mathiashawaii.edu>
Subject: Re: 9.686, Disc: Recent Change in English

Several years ago I started to collect and try to date some "recent
changes" in English, thinking I would post to sci.lang and see if I
could get a thread going. I gave the idea up immediately, suspecting
all that I would learn is that no one agreed or cared--I'd probably be
sent to alt.eng.usage. But I didn't discard the short file, and maybe
someone will be interested. With only absolutely necessary editing.

VOCAB "convince [make think is true]" = "persuade [make think should
do]" c1960 I first spotted this in the Oakland (Calif) Tribune in
about 1958, but it caught on rather fast. English seems to have been
slower than French in this regard, though; we were taught "convaincre"
and "persuader" as synonyms in French class.

"obviously [as you can see] + [as you might imagine]" c1980?

"may (have) [possibly (did)]" = "might (have) [would/could (have)]"
c1985? I know at least one person my own age who claims not be be
able to distinguish "may" and "might," so the date may be questionable
(but she admits to growing up with a "substandard" variety of
English). "less [smaller mass]" = "fewer [smaller number]" 1950+.
See GRAMMAR: number.

GRAMMAR number: Number is undoubtedly a category with a long history
of trouble, going back at least to the loss of dual. But I suspect
that the change is accelerating.
		
A peculiarity in American English that has been around longer than I
have is represented in "Sears sellS shoes, DO'nt THEY?" But it is
only in recent years that countable things have started coming in
"amounts"; several examples I have seen in recent weeks include Brian
Covert in The Japan Times: "cards of ... women ... with numbers
indicating the amount of men they have slept with." At a race I was
helping administer, a fellow helper asked me, "How much runners in
this race?" [1996+] Announcer on TV: "... the most number of
opportunities ..."

In the forties and fifties there were often contests to finish a
statement in "25 words or less," but I think we were inclined to take
that as "less verbosity" rather than ?"less words."

Also becoming very common, especially in advertisements, is the abrupt
switch from plural to singular, as in "Acerbis ATB Fenders. "...
they protect the rider ... Does not work on bikes with ..." or "Aero
2's easily bolt onto all dropped handlebars ... Also mounts in the
inverted position," to quote my Bike Nashbar catalog.

"between A and B" --> "between A to B" c1975

"between" for "among" Not as new as I would have thought: "... with a
small party of miners on board who carried about a million and a half
dollars in gold between them..." (_Scientific American_, August 1897
on Klondike gold rush.)

"(for) ... me" --> "(for) ... I" c1983. A colleague has given me
venerable British examples of more striking examples of this sort, but
I think it's new in mainstream American English. It is the more
remarkable in that it seems to buck the natural trend of substituting
the unmarked pronoun for the marked: "It's me," "Me Tonto, him Lone
Ranger," "How art thee?" etc. [I have learned since writing this,
that Shakespeare did this a few times.]

___________________________________________________________ 

"Life is unpredicatable. Thankfully, the Accord is not."
(_Scientific American ad, 1991/11 p91) [Another common instance of the
maligned "hopefully" phenomenon]

"I'm surprised by the amount of people who don't realize better quality bikes
	come in different sizes," Shinkawa said... (Honolulu
Star-Bulletin,
	1991/08/11)

"Winston tastes good like..." (early 20th cent?) [Arguably an improvement
over "good as," which is ambiguous]

- -------------------------------------------------------------------

As to the vowel in "leg" and "vague," I am another northern
Californian (father New York rural, mother born of Oregonians) for
whom they have always rhymed (with the vowel of "lake").

I assume some kind of relationship with the fact that there is also
only one choice before "ng," and that is rather rare--words like
"length" and a few others it always takes me awhile to recall.

I have also assumed it might be related to the fact that there is only
one high-front vowel before "ng" (for me, the one in "seek" but most
people I have asked consider it the one in "sick"; probably something
in between), although both vowels do occur before "g."

Bart Mathias
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Message 3: Re: 9.686, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 20:05:26 EDT
From: ShariEllen <ShariEllenaol.com>
Subject: Re: 9.686, Disc: Recent Change in English

In a message dated 5/11/98 11:18:33 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
linguistlinguistlist.org writes:

<< The use of "disappear" in passive constructions. "The dissidents
were disappeared in 1983". Interestingly, I haven't noticed an actual
transitive use of "disappear" yet, though I suspect it's only a matter
of time.
 >>

I believe this is a back formation of "the disappeared," a direct
translation of the Spanish, first used to describe political
dissidents who "disappeared" in great quantity in (oh, gee, was it
Chile or some other South American country?) in the '80's.

Shari Berkowitz
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