he and who

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Fri Sep 2 03:58:06 UTC 2011

On Sep 1, 2011, at 11:26 AM, victor steinbok wrote:

> No new ground here, but I thought this is something people may want to add
> to their files. This was just posted through TPM (TPM Facebook post):
> Does former Bush administration official David Welch's work with the now
>> deposed Qaddafi regime raise legal questions for he and his employer? It
>> depends on who you ask.
> I could write off the lone "he" as a mere typo. But it does look as if the
> "he" and the "who" are not merely coincidental.

there's absolutely no reason to think that these two phenomena -- (a) the erosion of _whom_ as a marked form of the lexeme WHO (leaving _whom_ only when it's in a constituent with its governing V or P), and (b) the spread of NomConjObjs (nominative conjoined objects) -- have anything whatsoever to do with one another, beyond the extremely superficial fact that both have a nominative pronoun where old prescriptions would insist on an accusative (basically, what they share is proscriptivist sanctions).  they are structurally, historically, and sociolinguistically different.  (forms of the lexeme WHO and forms of the definite personal pronouns are, in any case, deeply non-parallel.)  the _who_ variant in (a) has for decades, at least, clearly been standard, with _whom_ persisting (except in the special case just described) as a hyper-formal variant.  the nominative variants in (b) have quite a different profile, though they have been gaining ground as an informal standard, espe!
 cially in speech.

these are not arcane facts, or remotely new observations.


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