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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:00 pm 
Sumerul
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I want to talk about three contractions that are universally known to English speakers no matter where they live: gonna (going to), gotta (got to), and wanna (want to). These contractions date from 1806, 1884, and 1896, respectively, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. As their etymology attests, these contractions have long been in use in spoken English and even to an extent in informal written English. Standard recognized contractions can be found in any standard grammar of English and the only place they are advised against is very formal writing, otherwise I can even search "can't" for example in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. But "gonna," "gotta," and "wanna" are, to no one's surprise, absent.

So my question to you is at what point do we accept a widely used variant of which there is almost universal usage across dialects into the standard language as a valid form? There are all sorts of contractions we could add to this list even forms like "should've" and "could've" and "would've" are not recognized by the Merriam-Webster dictionary nor by various grammars I perused in their section on contractions. So at what point do we say, we need to alter the grammar and dictionaries?

Just as a side note, the Merriam-Webster dictionary, at least, has an entry for "wannabe" but not "wanna."

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:28 pm 
Smeric
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I think it varies and depends at least partly on how prestigious certain forms are. AFAICT, "gonna" etc. are still considered very much colloquial contractions and of course are much newer than e.g. "can't," so IMO it would seem to require some kind of social change that led to these words being considered overtly prestigious or something. It doesn't look to me like that will happen anytime soon, but that's just my guess.

W.r.t. "wannabe," I think that's because there's probably no synonym of that in English that manages to convey not only the same meaning but also the same level of contempt that that term (often?) implies.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:03 pm 
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Viktor77 wrote:
I want to talk about three contractions that are universally known to English speakers no matter where they live: gonna (going to), gotta (got to), and wanna (want to). These contractions date from 1806, 1884, and 1896, respectively, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. As their etymology attests, these contractions have long been in use in spoken English and even to an extent in informal written English. Standard recognized contractions can be found in any standard grammar of English and the only place they are advised against is very formal writing, otherwise I can even search "can't" for example in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. But "gonna," "gotta," and "wanna" are, to no one's surprise, absent.

So my question to you is at what point do we accept a widely used variant of which there is almost universal usage across dialects into the standard language as a valid form? There are all sorts of contractions we could add to this list even forms like "should've" and "could've" and "would've" are not recognized by the Merriam-Webster dictionary nor by various grammars I perused in their section on contractions. So at what point do we say, we need to alter the grammar and dictionaries?

Just as a side note, the Merriam-Webster dictionary, at least, has an entry for "wannabe" but not "wanna."


The dictionaries will be altered when usage changes. All reputable modern English dictionaries that I know of attempt to be descriptive, not prescriptive.

When will usage change? Who knows. Most of the time, these things are not organized by people getting together and making a collective decision.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:12 pm 
Sumerul
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Viktor77 wrote:
Standard recognized contractions can be found in any standard grammar of English and the only place they are advised against is very formal writing, otherwise I can even search "can't" for example in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Is this true, though? I personally am used to the general lack of contractions in writing except in informal writing or when quoting someone.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:56 pm 
Sanno
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The real question here is why Viktor constantly needs to portray himself as some omnipotent "we" who decides "what to do about" different words. This seems an unusual fantasy, and an even stranger delusion.


Regarding the words in question, the general answer is that as words become more widely accepted in standard English, they become recognised by dictionaries.

The specific answer, however, is that many words and phrases - perhaps all - are to some extent slurred or abbreviated in informal, uncautious spoken language. These do not need to be registered in dictionaries, not only because they are absent in standard English but also because they are not words and dictionaries are lists of words. Not words, just generalisations about phonetic realisations in rapid speech - rules that operate at a general level, not at the level of individual words. These processes may be described in full grammars, but aren't the purview of dictionaries.

Words like "can't" and "won't" are different, because their origin as contractions is only etymological. Knowing that thoroughly unstressed vowels tend to become schwa, or that the final /v/ of 'of' and 'have' is often dropped before a consonant when the word is highly destressed, or indeed that the final stop of "and" is often likewise dropped (if you're going to put "wanna" in the dictionary, shouldn't you put "fish'n'chips" in too, and every other pair of words with 'and' in the middle?), these are phonological rules that let you work out the surface realisation from the words concerned. But you can't work out the pronounciation of "won't" from "will" and "not" and a phonological rule. "Won't" is an independent word that has to be learnt as a word in its own right.

Perhaps the most borderline case in your examples is "gonna", where the contraction does have a notable vowel change in some dialects (though for be it's mostly /goUnt@/, with the /t/ sometimes elided in rapid speech, and /goUNt@/ and /goUINt@/ both still found in non-marked, non-emphatic circumstances). But I think it's fair to say that's mostly "going" + "to" for most speakers still, in a way that isn't true of "will + not = won't".

[FWIW, all three 'words' sound very American to me, unless in extremely lax, rapid speech where they are clearly just reduced by circumstances. I do hear 'gonna' (i.e. with /V/) sometimes, I think due to filmic influence. 'Wanna' is confined to emulating the speech of babies and Americans. I don't think I've heard 'gotta', except from a child I know who watches too much American TV.)

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 3:02 pm 
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English will freely adapt lexemes, and even new grammatical constructions, but greatly resists orthographic changes (and I'd put gonna/wanna/gotta in that category). The last time we had even a minor spelling reform was soon after a revolution.

Which is too bad in a way, because I think we really need to fix the spelling of "ginkgo", since it makes no sense at all.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 3:18 pm 
Sumerul
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The question I have is why should written language follow speech? After all, it is useful to have a written language that does not change much, so that future generations can read stuff written now, while if we change how we write to closely follow how we speak, what is written not that long ago, all things considered, will become dated quickly, and soon enough most people will not be able to read it. Personally, I think the goal should be to have a written language that can survive the breakup of English itself as a spoken language. Latin was able to survive as a written and sacred language for almost two millenia. Should we not aim for the same with English?

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Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 3:21 pm 
Sanno
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Travis B. wrote:
Personally, I think the goal should be to have a written language that can survive the breakup of English itself as a spoken language. Latin was able to survive as a written and sacred language for almost two millenia. Should we not aim for the same with English?

Why? The material conditions on Earth today are entirely different than they were in the days when written Latin was a significant lingua franca.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 3:55 pm 
Sumerul
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linguoboy wrote:
Travis B. wrote:
Personally, I think the goal should be to have a written language that can survive the breakup of English itself as a spoken language. Latin was able to survive as a written and sacred language for almost two millenia. Should we not aim for the same with English?

Why? The material conditions on Earth today are entirely different than they were in the days when written Latin was a significant lingua franca.

The purpose is for Standard English's place as a global lingua franca to survive language change itself, because there will still be a need for a global lingua franca, and in particular to enable people speaking different English languages to still have a means to communicate with one another, even if what they speak at home may be non-crossintelligible, and to read things written in times past, rather than being limited to reading things written in recent times.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:02 pm 
Sanno
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Travis B. wrote:
The purpose is for Standard English's place as a global lingua franca to survive language change itself, because there will still be a need for a global lingua franca, and in particular to enable people speaking different English languages to still have a means to communicate with one another, even if what they speak at home may be non-crossintelligible, and to read things written in times past, rather than being limited to reading things written in recent times.

These supposed advantages all presume a standard of instantaneous translation technology similar to what we've known in the past. But I've seen tremendous strides within the past several years and am no longer convinced that the goal of having machines translate as well as the average human could is unachievable. If I can Google Translate quickly and accurately, what real use is a global lingua franca anymore?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:08 pm 
Sumerul
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linguoboy wrote:
Travis B. wrote:
The purpose is for Standard English's place as a global lingua franca to survive language change itself, because there will still be a need for a global lingua franca, and in particular to enable people speaking different English languages to still have a means to communicate with one another, even if what they speak at home may be non-crossintelligible, and to read things written in times past, rather than being limited to reading things written in recent times.

These supposed advantages all presume a standard of instantaneous translation technology similar to what we've known in the past. But I've seen tremendous strides within the past several years and am no longer convinced that the goal of having machines translate as well as the average human could is unachievable. If I can Google Translate quickly and accurately, what real use is a global lingua franca anymore?

Umm this was assuming that everyone would learn Standard English as a foreign language, just like people in non-Anglophone areas do already. One way to accomplish this would be to never develop separate written languages for different English varieties in the first place but rather teach everyone learn to read and write in Standard English, language change be damned.

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Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:40 pm 
Smeric
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I think that's kind of what people already have tried doing. It doesn't seem to work too well.

In practice, it seems very difficult if not impossible to create a written standard that's completely separate from the spoken language anyway. Written Latin has been influenced by spoken languages pretty much from the very beginning, to the point where the way someone wrote Latin could be pretty indicative of where someone came from.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:40 pm 
Sanno
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Travis B. wrote:
Umm this was assuming that everyone would learn Standard English as a foreign language, just like people in non-Anglophone areas do already.

I understand that. Do you understand that my question is, "Why assume that?"?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:44 pm 
Sanno
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Travis B. wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Travis B. wrote:
The purpose is for Standard English's place as a global lingua franca to survive language change itself, because there will still be a need for a global lingua franca, and in particular to enable people speaking different English languages to still have a means to communicate with one another, even if what they speak at home may be non-crossintelligible, and to read things written in times past, rather than being limited to reading things written in recent times.

These supposed advantages all presume a standard of instantaneous translation technology similar to what we've known in the past. But I've seen tremendous strides within the past several years and am no longer convinced that the goal of having machines translate as well as the average human could is unachievable. If I can Google Translate quickly and accurately, what real use is a global lingua franca anymore?

Umm this was assuming that everyone would learn Standard English as a foreign language, just like people in non-Anglophone areas do already. One way to accomplish this would be to never develop separate written languages for different English varieties in the first place but rather teach everyone learn to read and write in Standard English, language change be damned.

Yes, but LB is questioning that assumption. If there is no need for a lingua franca in the future, why would everybody learn Standard English? And moreover, you assume that language learning and writing standard formulation both occur through the policies of some sort of central authority. If, instead, written standards develop democratically through mass usage, and are learnt by individuals on the basis of social prestige and personal utility, how would your lingua anglica achieve such dominance?

However, personally I think a more likely option is between the two extremes. Computer translation will eliminate most of the need for shared languages, but language learning will retain some value as a source of social prestige and a marker for cultural identification. People will still learn English. What English will they learn? Well, I think that may be a false dichotomy. I suspect that, just as today, there will be a continuum, albeit a larger one than today, between Standard English and local dialects, with the former having a certain cachet in more formal, academic, conservative and literary contexts. Writers will still want to write novels that their readers can read for themselves, without needing the intermediation of a translation. Just as today there is a continuum in spoken forms, so there will probably also develop a continuum in written forms (as there already is to a limited extent).

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:59 pm 
Sumerul
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Vijay wrote:
I think that's kind of what people already have tried doing. It doesn't seem to work too well.

In practice, it seems very difficult if not impossible to create a written standard that's completely separate from the spoken language anyway. Written Latin has been influenced by spoken languages pretty much from the very beginning, to the point where the way someone wrote Latin could be pretty indicative of where someone came from.

I realize that. Future Standard English will almost certainly be influenced by how the person writing speaks, of course. But in practice what is needed is for people to write and read in a manner that is crossintelligible both with each other and for people to be able to understand how people wrote in the past, not complete stasis. Standard English 500 years from now will not be identical to Standard English today, even if Standard English today is used as an ideal model, but how different people write it should still be closer together than how they speak.

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Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 5:13 pm 
Smeric
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Travis B. wrote:
Viktor77 wrote:
Standard recognized contractions can be found in any standard grammar of English and the only place they are advised against is very formal writing, otherwise I can even search "can't" for example in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Is this true, though? I personally am used to the general lack of contractions in writing except in informal writing or when quoting someone.

I was instructed in very formal grammar in school, so I was astonished to see contractions, first person, second person, and missing who/whom distinctions in academic papers when I got to college--and I was a literature major! O_O That's probably why one professor described my academic writing as "stuffy" (he meant it as a compliment).

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 5:33 pm 
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Travis B. wrote:
But in practice what is needed is for people to write and read in a manner that is crossintelligible both with each other and for people to be able to understand how people wrote in the past, not complete stasis. Standard English 500 years from now will not be identical to Standard English today, even if Standard English today is used as an ideal model, but how different people write it should still be closer together than how they speak.


How much have you read this year that was written in English around 1516? I'd wager "almost nothing". How much before 1916?

It's nice to be able to read earlier stuff, but it's not a really huge feature. We don't even read things from 1516 in their contemporary spelling; we read them in modernized editions, and that will always be possible. (I know, Shakespeare, but we read him in modern spellings, or more likely hear him and don't understand a quarter of what he says but just focus on the rest.)

This wasn't always the case... even a couple centuries ago, if you read books at all, you were likely to read not only works but editions a hundred or more years old.

This is relevant to spelling reform as modern cases often come at times when people are willing to throw out old literature (or at least make it more difficult)— e.g. the PRC's simplified characters, or Atatürk's romanization, or the 19th century move to write Hindi in Devanagari rather than Arabic script.

These were all motivated by politics as well, so probably we'll only get Nu Riting if Trump is elected.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:12 pm 
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zompist wrote:
These were all motivated by politics as well, so probably we'll only get Nu Riting if Trump is elected.

Not to turn this thread to politics--I'm not a supporter of Trump and have no interest in defending his policies--but what interest would Trump have in a new orthography? It might appeal to the ultra-nationalists in his support base, but I don't really see them caring about spelling so much as making English America's only official language. As for Trump himself, I'd think he'd oppose it as a businessman--switching everything over to the new orthography would take time and money.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:13 pm 
Sumerul
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Point taken. But would it be a net positive if people from different parts of the Anglosphere could not understand each other in writing 500 years from now because their ancestors had not the foresight to maintain a unified literary language?

(This was in response to Zompist.)

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Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:16 pm 
Smeric
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Zaarin wrote:
zompist wrote:
These were all motivated by politics as well, so probably we'll only get Nu Riting if Trump is elected.

Not to turn this thread to politics--I'm not a supporter of Trump and have no interest in defending his policies--but what interest would Trump have in a new orthography? It might appeal to the ultra-nationalists in his support base, but I don't really see them caring about spelling so much as making English America's only official language. As for Trump himself, I'd think he'd oppose it as a businessman--switching everything over to the new orthography would take time and money.

I think it might've been a joke.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:30 pm 
Smeric
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Vijay wrote:
Zaarin wrote:
zompist wrote:
These were all motivated by politics as well, so probably we'll only get Nu Riting if Trump is elected.

Not to turn this thread to politics--I'm not a supporter of Trump and have no interest in defending his policies--but what interest would Trump have in a new orthography? It might appeal to the ultra-nationalists in his support base, but I don't really see them caring about spelling so much as making English America's only official language. As for Trump himself, I'd think he'd oppose it as a businessman--switching everything over to the new orthography would take time and money.

I think it might've been a joke.

Image

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:36 pm 
Boardlord
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Travis B. wrote:
Point taken. But would it be a net positive if people from different parts of the Anglosphere could not understand each other in writing 500 years from now because their ancestors had not the foresight to maintain a unified literary language?


There are positives to a standard language, sure. But there are negatives, too. Once things get centuries out of sync, then learning the standard language is, well, learning a different language. People will put up with this for a long time— our own spelling is pretty much late 1600s, with capitalization and punctuation standards from even later. (And for Americans, there was a minor reform two centuries ago.)

When it gets to be a thousand years out of date, it's probably more cumbersome than helpful.

(Besides, who knows how technology might change the terms of debate by 2516. Maybe then we'll just flip a switch and propagate spelling changes not only to all electronic works but to our own brains.)


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:14 pm 
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It's okay, Zaarin, that happens to me, too. :D


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 9:38 pm 
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Travis B. wrote:
Point taken. But would it be a net positive if people from different parts of the Anglosphere could not understand each other in writing 500 years from now because their ancestors had not the foresight to maintain a unified literary language?

Will there even be an "Anglosphere" 500 years from now?

Seen on the scale of human civilisation, European dominance is a fluke, and already well on the wane. US dominance is even more recent and more flukey; we have a better chance of still being significant in 500 years, but dominant to the point of setting the standard for a global lingua franca? I'm not sure that's the way to bet.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 10:10 pm 
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According to some, the US has already lost hegemony and hasn't realised yet (read Why the West Rules—For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future. With the way the world currently is (which will obviously change in 500 years), I don't think that any country will replace the United States. As English is already conveniently used and the United States would continue to be a powerful country after it ceases to be the most powerful country, I think English will continue to be the dominant language. Many argue for Mandarin, but China and the US are extremely interdependent. While being spoken by more than English, even if you count L2 speakers, Mandarin is generally not understood outside of Chinese communities.

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