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zompist bboard • View topic - At what point do we accept variation into standard English?

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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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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 2:12 pm 
Sumerul
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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 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 
Boardlord
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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 
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 3:55 pm 
Sumerul
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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:02 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:08 pm 
Sumerul
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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
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 
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:44 pm 
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But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
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I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:59 pm 
Sumerul
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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
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 
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 5:33 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:12 pm 
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"But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?”


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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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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:16 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:30 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:36 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:14 pm 
Smeric
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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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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 10:10 pm 
Smeric
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According to some, the US has already lost hegemony and hasn't realised yet (read . 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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