Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sat Jan 17 18:04:07 UTC 2009

On Jan 15, 2009, at 11:16 AM, Barbara Need wrote:

> Some years ago I was teaching an Intro to Linguistics using the OSU
> Language Files. one of the exercises listed alternative pronunciations
> and asked students to say which they used and which was "correct". One
> of the pairs was just this pair of variants. The student who got this
> as we went around the class confessed to using the t-less
> pronunciation, "but I know it's wrong".

lovely.  over the years i've come across a number of other reversals
in usage judgments.  there are actually two types of such reversals,
the difference being in how much confidence judges have in their own

both types depend on the judges knowing that there is some
prescription as to the choice of variant.  if judges are unsure of the
correctness of their grammar -- many people are -- then even if they
use the prescribed form, they will be inclined to apologize for their
usage (as above).

but if judges are more confident that what they say is right (though
in fact they use the proscribed variant), then they will be inclined
to "correct" people who use the prescribed variant.  somewhere i have
an account of a non-linguist friend who expressed astonishment that i,
a linguist, wrote something like "They were lying on the bed" -- when,
according to him, it should be "laying".  he knew that there was a
usage issue here, and assumed that his version was correct.

i should try to find these reports and assemble them into a file.


The American Dialect Society -

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