Past tense of pet

Geoffrey S. Nathan an6993 at WAYNE.EDU
Mon Sep 15 00:07:19 UTC 2003

At 12:41 PM 9/14/03 -0400, you wrote:
> >Yet pet follows the standard short vowel, monosyllabic rule like put-put-put
> >and set-set-set.
>What rule is that?
>A few verbs have this paradigm: "put", "set", "let". Some have it as a
>'standard' alternative: "fit", "wet" (also "shit", "spit" maybe).
>But: "I have net several fish, and I have gut them"? "I have vet his
>report, and he has dot all his 'i's"?

Following the analyses of similar examples in Bybee's recent book
'Phonology and Language Use' I would check to see the frequency with which
each verb occurs.  Her theory is that frequent irregular verbs are likely
to remain irregular, and, if frequent enough, attract additional members to
the 'irregular club', but infrequent ones are likely to be
regularized.  The fact that 'put, set, let, bet' have zero past/pptl.
inflections probably gives enough strength to the paradigm to make it very
slightly productive, thus permitting 'pet' to join in.  I think she
actually discusses monosyllabic verbs with -t endings.

On a personal level, however, I must admit I don't like 'This morning I pet
the dog'.

Geoffrey S. Nathan <geoffnathan at>
Linguistics Program and Faculty Liaison, Computing and Information Technology

Wayne State University
Department of English,
Wayne State University,
Detroit, MI, 48202
862 University Place
Grosse Pointe, MI, 48230, USA.

Home telephone:  (313) 417-8406
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