Q: "It's" as the possessive?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Aug 11 15:52:36 UTC 2009

At 7:22 AM -0700 8/11/09, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>On Aug 11, 2009, at 5:39 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>>At 8/10/2009 03:35 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>>>A correspondent on another list asks, when did "it's" as the
>>>possessive come to be proscribed?
>>I don't think anyone has yet addressed the question asked.  Not when
>>did "it's" arise (the OED is voluble on that).  Not when "it's" began
>>to come (back) into noticeable presence.  But -- when did it come to
>>be *proscribed* (that is, by the prescriptivists)?
>MWDEU's entry for "its, it's" cites Lowth 1762 as giving "its" as the
>possessive form of "it", Baker as switching from "it's" in 1770 to
>"its" in 1779, and Lindley Murray 1795 going for "its".  summary:
>(p. 566) The possessive pronouns were a complete muddle in the 18th
>century. The grammarians were divided between apostrophized and
>unapostrophized forms, and frequently their own usage contradicted
>whatever conclusions they had reached.
>once again, let me recommend that people with questions on english
>usage and the history of prescriptions on points of usage start by
>looking at MWDEU.  it doesn't have everything you might want, but it
>has a lot.
Thanks for the reminder; I'm finally joining the club.  Just ordered
my own copy from amazon, where one can read the glowing review
provided by the first "reader", some guy named Geoffrey K. Pullum.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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