a request

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Dec 14 16:32:32 UTC 2006

On Dec 14, 2006, at 6:48 AM, Amy West wrote:

> I've never seen this construction before.
> Are you sure it's not the use of the past participle? "I seen her
> yesterday"

a side issue, but i'd like to point out (once again) that the "seen"
in "I seen her yesterday" is *not* a past participle; it is a (non-
standard, but incredibly widespread) *past tense* form.  for standard
speakers, the word spelled "seen" is used only as the past participle
of the verb "see"; for many non-standard speakers it is used as both
the past tense and the past participle.

similarly for non-standard past "done" in "I done it myself".  and,
in the other direction, various non-standard past participles like
"wrote" in "I've already wrote it".

these forms are just regularizations of anomalies in the patterns of
inflectional forms of verbs.  for all regular verbs (like "jump") and
for a fair number of irregular ones (like "teach"), the past and past
participle forms are phonologically identical: "jumped", "taught".
"seen" for standard "saw" and "wrote" for standard "written", etc.
extend this large-scale generalization to more verbs.

the reason i pick on this little point is that talking the way amy
did above takes the standard forms to be in some sense basic and
talks about non-standard forms in the terms appropriate for the
standard (rather than talking about them in their own right).  this
is something i'm going to object to on this mailing list, which
concerns itself with varieties of english (and other languages, where
appropriate), each as a system on its own.


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

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