Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 06:38:22 CDT
From: Natalie Maynor maynor[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CS.MSSTATE.EDU
Subject: Old Mail (topic: various)
Although I'm still out of town, at least I'm on a Unix-to-Unix connection
now, thank goodness, and can therefore lead a fairly normally e-mail life.
Here's some bounced mail from week before last:
Date: Fri, 13 May 1994 23:11:50 -0400
From: BITNET list server at UGA (1.7f) LISTSERV[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]uga.cc.uga.edu
Subject: ADS-L: error report from UCLAMVS
The enclosed mail file, found in the ADS-L reader and shown under the spoolid
2174 in the console log, has been identified as a possible delivery error
notice for the following reason: "Sender:", "From:" or "Reply-To:" field
pointing to the list has been found in mail body.
-------------------- Message in error (95 lines) -------------------------
Date: Fri, 13 May 94 20:10 PDT
From: benji wald IBENAWJ[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UCLAMVS.BITNET
Subject: Re: Does Anybody Have Yesterday's Digest?
Hey! What happened to the ANYMORE discussion. I was gonna give a big spiel
on positive anymore, but only as compensation for changing the subject. Now
I see that the list is so volatile that I can dispense with that discussion
-- unless anybody wants to hear it -- and just change the subject.
If I WDA KNOWN YOU WERE COMIN I'D A BAKED A CAKE
IF I HADDA KNOWN ...
IF I WD KNOW YOU WERE COMIN ...
IF I WD KNOW SPANISH I CD GET A BETTER JOB
IF I WD BE YOU I WDN'T DO THAT
Do any of these strike anybody out there as peculiar? Which? Why? Where
are YOU from?
The main point, of course, is the "non-root" use of the WOULD in if clauses.
This seems to be sweeping the country in the last generation from problematic
origins. It is not part of my original New York City dialect, but I've even
noticed it there recently. The only comment I've ever seen on it outside
of my own is Trudgill & Hannah's assertion that it is "American". Trudgill's
the expert on British dialects, but I suspect it came to the US from Britain
even if it hasn't survived there. The "hadda", of course, is attested in
Britain at least as far back as Caxton. Jespersen says it's a back formation
from contracted 'd ( would) to "had", so ... In the US my impression
is that "hadda" is basically Southern, which, of course, includes Southern
California, since I think the definition of "Southern" is any place where
it's lower class to maintain the "which/witch" distinction.
Although spread of the modal (or its equivalent) from the consequent to the
conditional clause is a commonplace across languages, there seem to be
subtleties to the use of "would" according to the distinction between
active and stative verbs, hence the strangeness of
when I was six years old I WOULD (= USED TO) live across the street
from the school.
That's why I carefully chose the examples I gave above.
I first became aware of WD in if-clauses in studying the East LA community,
a bilingual English-Spanish community with English dominance. When I told
a class I thought it was Spanish influence I lost authority, because the
students told me "everybody" in LA talks like that. They were right. Like
other things you don't notice till you notice, then I noticed it just
about everywhere. However, there seem to be constraints along the lines
I suggested above. These are what interest me most, but I'm also interested
in the current geographical distribution of "hadda" and where, if anywhere,
there is across-the-board insistence on the simple pasts in if-clauses of
such conditionals, my native dialect -- but unfortunately for interpreting
judgments, also the standard.
I've written about the problems involved and the subtleties in an article
in Norbert Dittmar, ed. (1993) Modality and Second Language Acquisition,
Berlin: De Gruyter (I forgot the exact name of the article, something about
modality in East LA with notes on general American modal use in speech)
where I concentrate on East LA and limitations to linguistic assimilation.
But there's a lot more to be done on its use in other American English
dialects, and that can affect to some extent the conclusions I reached
even in that paper.
I fear that if it is not attended to until the next generation
it will have already taken over, it seems to be spreading that
quickly, and they will be arguing about how it started and spread, and have
a dim opinion of us for not noticing and documenting it. Benji Wald