nomconjobjs: wider comments

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Tue Feb 23 01:43:16 UTC 2010

discussions of nomconjobjs, here and elsewhere, tend to assume that
there's a fixed "social meaning" for this variant (versus
accconjobjs), most often something like 'reaching above one's station'
-- reaching for what's perceived to be a prestige form, and so

[a complexity i'll pass  over here is that there are two sides to
social meanings: the production side (which people use the variant, in
what contexts, for what purposes) -- a matter that can be studied by
looking at usage data -- and the perception side (how people -- again,
which people, in what contexts -- judge those productions).]

but the variants are (as i said a little earlier today) are "just
stuff" and can serve all sorts of purposes, social as well as
grammatical.  this is a familiar lesson from phonological variables --
rlessness, for example -- but it applies to other variables as well.

some modern english speakers have nomconjobj as their ordinary variant
in informal contexts (especially in speech); its social value has to
do with style.  others treat nomconjobj as a *formal* annd emphatic
variant (especially in writing).  and so on.

all these people have picked up nomconjobjs from what they hear and
read, from the models available to them.  different people have then
induced different social meanings from the data available to them.

what seems to be vanishingly rare these days, and for some time, i
think, is "active hypercorrection" in this case, unconsciously
striving to "correct" one's first instincts for accconjobjs on the
basis of advice (inadequately understood) about the correctness of
case forms.  insofar as active hypercorrection is involved in
nomconjobjs, that happened some time back in history.  and there are
reasons for thinking that other factors might have been just as
important as hypercorrection in the historical development of
nomconjobs.  and older occurrences of nomconjobjs (they've been around
for hundreds of years) surely didn't involve hypercorrection at all.

so it's seriously misleading to say that, these days, someone who says
"between you and i" is hypercorrecting.


with this little posting, i hope to bow out of the nomconjobs
discussion for a while.  in the last few days, i've picked up eleven
topics to post about on my blog, and i'd like to get to them.


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