murky days on the WHO/WHOM front

sagehen sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM
Mon Apr 1 16:47:36 UTC 2002

>> Agreed. Maybe because it's hard to hear, being not nearly so distinct in
>> sound between the two forms as  he/him, she/her, they/them, we/us; & thus
>> doesn't get well imprinted on the language faculty during the early years?
>> AM
>A possibility worth considering, I suppose, although I'd like to
>see evidence that child learners don't hear the distinction--something I
>guess I  rather doubt, given how adept they are at picking up
>extraordinarily subtle acoustic cues for everything else (not that they
>are always analyzed the "correct" way, from the point of view of their
>parents' grammars, of course...) I've personally never found "whom"
>particularly hard to hear, myself. I suspect the loss of "whom" is
>probably the result of various morphosyntactic reanalyses rather than
>phonological ones.
Again, I agree, for the most part. I wouldn't defend my idea too far, but
having been deaf a lot as a child, I think I missed the distinction myself
until we began parsing & diagramming sentences in school. This in spite of
the fact that both my parents were English teachers, so the speech I grew
up hearing wasn't the problem, and I read a great deal.

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