Archive for the ‘Variation’ Category

Notes on PSP = PST

December 11, 2018

Follow-ups to my posting “A vernacular construction?” yesterday, about expressions like had went and had ran, non-standard counterparts to standard had gone and had run, respectively — which Ben Yagoda has characterized, misleadingly, as exemplifying vernacular constructions involving the inflectional category PST rather than the standard category PSP. Instead, I maintained, the constructions in question call for the PSP, period, but in some vernacular varieties, the PSP forms of some verbs are pronounced the same as the corresponding PST forms (while in the standard language these forms are phonologically distinct).

My posting noted that the vernaculars here extended an already very strong generalization, PSP = PST — that the PSP form is pronounced the same as the PST — so that it applies to almost all verbs, and a Facebook commenter emphasized the greater regularity of the resulting system vis-a-vis the standard array of forms. All true, but critics of non-standard varieties still manage to use these facts to disparage speakers of these varieties.

And then it occurred to me that Ben was viewing expressions like had went and had ran as if he had produced them himself, in which case they’d be inadvertent errors, substitutions of one inflectional category (PST) for another (PSP). But the expressions need to be seen from the viewpoint of the varieties they occur in — and there, they simply involve phonological realizations of the inflectional category PSP.

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A vernacular construction?

December 10, 2018

Ben Yagoda on the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Lingua Franca blog on 12/5/18, “Why Do I Really, Really Want to Say ‘Had Went’?”

… You see what [actor and director Jonah] Hill and [director Bryan] Fogel were doing, grammatically. They were using the preterite (ran, went) instead of the past participle (run, gone). This is by no means a new thing. Writing in 1781, John Witherspoon decried the “vulgarisms” had fell, had rose, had broke, had threw, and had drew.

Such constructions have long flourished in the American vernacular.

Standard English uses the PSP (past participle) form of a verb in the perfect construction and the passive construction (among other places). Ben says that some speakers and writers have different (syntactic) constructions here, using the PST (past, aka preterite — nothing hinges on the name) form instead of the PSP.

I maintain that Ben has seriously misunderstood the phenomenon here, and that Vern, the vernacular variety, doesn’t differ syntactically from Stan, the standard variety, with respect to the forms used in the perfect and the passive; it’s the PSP for both. It’s just that for some verbs, Vern pronounces the PSP differently from Stan; for Vern, the PSP form for these verbs is pronounced the same as their PST.

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Books of the year

December 9, 2018

… in the Economist‘s 12/1 issue,”Books of the year: The big read”, (p. 76), in the Culture category: 6 books selected, including:

The Prodigal Tongue. By Lynne Murphy. Penguin Books; 368 pages; $17. Oneworld, £16.99.

The first and perhaps only book on the merits of American and British English that is dominated by facts and analysis rather than nationalistic prejudice. For all its scholarship, this is also a funny and rollicking read.

And in “The Economist’s journalists unbound: A short hstory of moonlighting: Here are the books our writers published in 2008” (p. 77):

Talk on the Wild Side: The Untameable Nature of Language. By Lane Greene. Economist Books/Hachette; 240 pages; $26. Profile Books: £14.99.

Our Johnson columnist argues that English is a living organism; language rules are often preferences in disguise. “He is open-minded and discerning,” the Spectator said; “no zealot and no snob.”

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Variationist sociolinguistics: NWAV 47

October 14, 2018

Coming in a few days (October 18th-21st), NWAV 47 at NYU:

Already noted on this blog, in my 10/2 posting “The Rickford plenary address”, with the abstract for my Stanford colleague John Rickford’s plenary address (on the 20th), “Class and Race in the Analysis of Language Variation and the Struggle for Social Justice: Sankofa”. To come below, the abstract for the other plenary address (on the 18th), “The Systematicity of Emergent Meaning” by Erez Levon (Queen Mary University of London); and details about a virtual Issue of the Journal of Sociolinguistics, “Innovations in Variationist Sociolinguistics” (ed. by Levon & Natalie Schilling), assembled on the occasion of the conference.

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Brush away the blue-tailed skink

September 4, 2018

From Chris Zable on Facebook on August 3rd, a photo from her family’s holiday in Florida, with her comment:

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“Spotted this little lizard with a bright blue tail on a fence rail at the Tallahassee Museum. Much of their space is a zoo of local native species in generously-sized enclosures that are just fenced off bits of native habitat. We saw pumas, red wolves, and foxes among other critters.”

As good a photo of a blue-tailed skink as any you can find on the net. To come: on skinks; on the “Blue Tail Fly” song; and on my gay highjacking of the song, as “Blue Tailed Skink” (with skink as a portmanteau, skank + twink) — taking things far from Chris’s original child-friendly travel report.

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EDM +of +a :PL

August 29, 2018

The example: because of how good of a friends we are (from the Canadian-American tv series The Good Witch, S3 E3, first aired 5/14/17)

An example of a type that’s very hard to search for, so I tend to treasure each one I come across.

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The Gay Village, Swiss Chalet, poutine

August 8, 2018

Further notes on the 31st motss.con in Montréal (which came to an end with a stragglers’ breakfast on Monday); background in my 8/3 posting “The rainbow pillars of Montréal”. And further explorations of things Swiss, or at least things called Swiss, in particular that Canadian institution, the Swiss Chalet restaurant chain. Motssers on holiday in Québec, food: that means poutine, (by report) consumed often and by many during the con.

Brief visual background on the con’s location, the Gay Village of the city:


(#1) Aerial view of Rue Ste-Catherine E. in the Gay Village, with its overhead rainbow-colored balls (from Chris Ambidge)

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The Taco Bell doll

July 3, 2018

The One Big Happy from June 6th:

— in which Joe eggcornishly re-shapes the name Tinkerbell (otherwise unfamiliar to him) into a name he knows well, that of the fast-food restaurant Taco Bell. The words tinker and taco share the consonant skeleton /t … k …/, but are not otherwise particularly close phonologically. But the following bell presumably facilitates the reanalysis.

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whom can be pardoned

June 9, 2018

It’s CruzISOC Day on AZBlog! Time to report on Ted Cruz‘s Twitter adventures with the non-standard case-marking of the lexical item WHO (Nom who, Acc whom) as an in-situ subject of an object complement. As here (marked up mockingly by Oliver Roeder on Twitter):

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Merer, merer

May 29, 2018

The One Big Happy from the 2nd, with Ruthie dealing, once again, with a word she’s at best vaguely acquainted with:

The word Ruthie and Joe’s father is aiming at — readers of the strip know this, because the word is spelled for us in his speech balloon, but Ruthie and Joe don’t — is the Adj mere, a relatively infrequent item, certainly much less frequent in the kids’ experience than the N mirror. Then we stumble into a gigantic rat’s nest of massive variation on a large assortment of phonetic details.

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