conditional subjunctives

Anne Lambert annelamb at GNV.FDT.NET
Thu Feb 17 16:19:49 UTC 2000

For the past several years, I have been noticing (primarily on TV
programs, especially the defunct Rescue 911, which is a gold mine of
American colloquial speech) the use of an unnecessary conditional
subjunctive construction with "would have": "if she wouldn't have helped
me, I would have been dead" instead of "if she hadn't..."  Have any of
you noticed this?
    There is really a need for studies of language usage on TV.  Rescue
911 is especially good because people are talking about stress
situations they have been in, like Labov's interview use of  "Tell me
about a situation when you thought you were going to die."  Another gem
from this program is "I really appreciate she saving my life."
    My husband suggests that I write for the transcripts of this program
and write  a paper about its language usage (I would have to take one
phenomenon at a time, of course).  How do you do this?  Would there be
interest in it? Would I have to use statistics?
        Thank you, Anne Lambert

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