[Ads-l] =?UTF-8?Q?=E2=80=9CThey_didn=E2=80=99t_?=investigate . . .

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 23 18:09:39 UTC 2015

what were the underlying forces."

Quoted in Friedman's NYT article.


When I was learning "proper English," back in 1944-1954, the string,

_they didn't investigate what were the underlying forces_,

was defined as a "compound sentence" consisting of a "statement," _they
didn't investigate_, and an "embedded question," _what were the underlying
forces?_. The form that the combined sentences took was,

"They didn't investigate what the underlying forces were."

There were people who ignored the inversion in their speech, of course.
But, I didn't give that any conscious consideration till Labov observed
that lack of inversion in sentences of this class was a feature of BE and I
realized that this observation was totally accurate. However, it seems to
me that *all* speakers/writers of *any* variety of American English -
except me - ceased to follow this "rule" about 45 years ago.

I haven't made the least effort to keep up with the literature, needless to
say. Nevertheless, I'm still going to say that, AFAIK, nothing has been
written about this change.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

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

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