LINGUIST List 9.701

Tue May 12 1998

Disc: Recent Change in English

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


Directory

  1. Ellen F. Prince, Re: 9.691, Disc: Recent Change in English
  2. Lance Nathan, Disc: Recent changes in English
  3. [** Big5 charset **] \165\208\182\174\171\200, Disc: Recent Change in English
  4. crwhiteley, Re: Recent Changes in English

Message 1: Re: 9.691, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 00:10:39 EDT
From: Ellen F. Prince <ellencentral.cis.upenn.edu>
Subject: Re: 9.691, Disc: Recent Change in English

Re Peggy Speas note:

>I've noticed something that is either a syntactic change or else I
>happen never to have noticed its widespread use until about 5 years
>ago: where I would say (a) or (a'), I hear others say (b):
>
>(a) [What the problem is t ]is that no one can meet after 6 pm
>(a') [The problem] is that no one can meet after 6 pm.
>(b) The problem is is that no one can meet after 6 pm.
>
>Now that I've noticed this, I notice it all over the place. Don't
>know if its regional (I'm now in Massachusetts, but grew up in
>Maryland).

Charlotte Linde did some work on this in the 1970s and it wasn't of
recent vintage then. She put it in terms of George Lakoff's 'syntactic
amalgams', IIRC. (Others are _The thing is, is that..._, _The thing of
it is, is that..._, and so on. I'm using commas as they're typically
written, correlating with a noticeable pause in speech.)
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Message 2: Disc: Recent changes in English

Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 03:32:42 -0400
From: Lance Nathan <Lance_Nathanbrown.edu>
Subject: Disc: Recent changes in English

>Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 12:34:37 +0900
>From: greggandrew.ac.jp (Kevin R. Gregg)
>Subject: Re: 9.680, Disc: Recent changes in English
>
> On this same topic, I suppose: Is 'hella' used by teenagers
>anywhere in the US outside of San Francisco? From 'helluva', of
>course; as in 'She's a hella good-looking woman', or 'That was a
>hella delicious lunch.'

I think it's used here (at Brown). I know there was a rather lengthy
discussion in the Intro to Linguistics class last year, when the
professor was explaining the difference between closed-class and
open-class categories, and told us that determiners, being
closed-class, didn't gain new lexical items. One student asked, "What
about 'mad' and 'crazy'?" which launched a long debate about their
use as determiners, in sentences like "There were mad people at that
party" (to mean "There were a lot of people at that party," not "the
people there were angry/insane"). I suppose this is just slang, and
slang is an expected language change, but it seemed noteworthy,
insofar as it _is_ an addition to a closed class. At any rate,
"hella" was, I think, also mentioned in this context.

Incidentally, another change that I find myself using, to my horror,
is "like" or "go" for "say": "So I was like, 'How did you do on the
syntax exam?' and my friend goes, 'Not too bad.'" That's not recent
as in "the last five years," but it probably is within the last twenty
or thirty. I'm not sure how to test how old these things are--as
someone (manaster?) pointed out, some things are far older than we
realize. (I also can't stand the fact that I pronounce "I'm going to"
as "ongona," and no amount of conscious effort on my part seems to
prevent me. I wonder how old this is, too.) With changes like these
which are either informal usage or purely phonological, it would seem
that documentation would be hard to find.

>Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 11:49:12 -0500 (CDT)
>From: Megan Elizabeth Melancon <mmelan2tiger.lsuiss.ocs.lsu.edu>
>Subject: Recent changes in English
>
>On the
>other side of the coin, I find the usage of 'an historical event' to
>be an horrible thing.

Whereas I still wince when I see "a historical" (which if I heard
aloud, I would probably be tempted to parse as "ahistorical," 'having
no interest in history'). I'm also surprised to hear about the
disappearance of "an" in general, which I think I have yet to hear.

As a minor digression--

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

>I also cannot accept personal impressions of what one says or does
>not say anyway.

Odd; I was just this weekend struck by this fact. I had been staying
with friends who have cats, one of which took great delight in jumping
on me at 6 am and purring incessantly. On the way out, I remarked,
"The poor cat. I don't know who she'll jump on and purr after I
leave." It took a few moments after saying it before I realized that
"who she'll jump on and purr" was probably "ungrammatical," since
"purr" isn't transitive, but at the time it sounded natural, nor did
my host bat an eye at it. Now I'm not sure if this is a trend in
language, a trend in my speech that I've never noticed before, or just
a single lapse.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Lance Nathan, Brown University Class of '99 
email: Lance_Nathanbrown.edu
Major: Math & Linguistics 
web: http://www.io.com/~tahnan/ 
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
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Message 3: Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 19:20:53 +0800
From: [** Big5 charset **] \165\208\182\174\171\200 <jakobsaturn.yzu.edu.tw>
Subject: Disc: Recent Change in English


There are enough data-points on the map, including mine from
Indiana/Illinois, to conclude that the riming of 'leg' and 'vague' has
spread nearly all over the U.S.

I also add a palatal off-glide in trash' and 'cash', but not in
'cache' which I learned as an adult. Anybody else do this?

On the theory side: This 'leg'/'egg' raising, plus the historical
development of words such as 'day', make me wonder if "non-palatal" is
a good characterisation of velarity in consonants (cf. John Harris's
English Sound Structure, p.119). ---Jakob Dempsey
 Yuan-ze University
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Message 4: Re: Recent Changes in English

Date: Tue, 12 May 98 10:24:00 GMT
From: crwhiteley <crwhiteleytyco.geis.com>
Subject: Re: Recent Changes in English

I am following the discussion of recent changes in English with
interest. Some days ago somebody cautioned against being sure that
these really are recent changes, or just regional or other variants
which we suddenly become aware of. Since most of the contributors are
from the US and I speak standard(-ish) South-East English English I
keep noticing differences between US and British perceptions. Here is
just one example:

>"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.)

>(Gerald B Mathias <mathiashawaii.edu>)

In my idiolect, this usage is the traditional and only acceptable one.
The first time I heard "differences among" instead of the normal (for
me) "differences between" I thought it was a typing mistake, or maybe
hyper-correctness based on the incorrect (for me) analysis that the
use of "between" is restricted to two referents. Now I know that this
is a common US usage.

It is fairly easy for linguists to make accurate descriptive
statements about regional and dialectal differences of usage, but very
dangerous to trust our intuitions about whether innovation is
involved.

Colin Whiteley
Barcelona, Spain
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