a request

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Dec 19 17:05:52 UTC 2006

At 6:24 AM -0800 12/19/06, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>Amy, both things are happening. The dropping of the orthographic "d"
>results in a nonstandard written form.
>   I too was in college before I was completely sure that there was a
>"d" in "used to." Not only is it almost impossible to hear - and not
>often articulated, at that; but in my English, there's
>   / s / in "used to" (as there is in the noun "use") but / z / in
>other kinds of "used."
>   The confusion you ask about seems like a long established phenomenon to me.

There's a worse problem with negation:  Neither
"I didn't use to worry about how I wrote"
"I didn't used to worry about how I wrote"
look right, but unlike similar cases--e.g. "Either he or I __ going",
"one of my friends' mother(s)", "mongooses"/"mongeese"--there's no
problem actually uttering the "didn't useta" sentence out loud.


>Amy West <medievalist at W-STS.COM> wrote:
>   ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender: American Dialect Society
>Poster: Amy West
>Subject: Re: a request
>Thanks, Arnold. I read this list to learn stuff, and this is one way I learn.
>Given this discussion, I need to ask a follow up question:
>How would you describe what's going on in this construction that I've
>noticed a couple of my students using in their writing:
>"I use to write very poorly, but now I write better."
>"I do things differently than I use to."
>Is it just dropping the -d from a standard form, or is it use of a
>non-standard form?
>---Amy "I ain't no linguist though sometimes I think I'd like to be one" West
>>Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2006 08:32:32 -0800
>>From: "Arnold M. Zwicky"
>>Subject: Re: a request
>>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.
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