Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 22:55:19 -0500

From: Ron Butters RonButters[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM

Subject: pragmatic change in progress?

I was discussing with my Language and Law seminar the meaning of WELL and

WHY, using the following examples (1-5 are spun off from an article by

Georgia Green; 6 is my own):

1. Q: Did you kill Mrs. Wayne?

A1: Well, yes.

A2: Why, yes.

2. Q: Who is buried in Grant's tomb?

A1: Well, Grant.

A2: Why, Grant.

3. Q: Where are the hats and coats? A1/2: Well/Why, in the closet.

4. When was A. Lincoln born? --Well/Why, in 1809.

5. Don't you think it was necessary x that these men be hanged as a example?

--Well/Why that would be anarchy.

6. Do you sleep in the nude? -Well/Why, yes/no.

I had a lot of trouble getting my students to focus on the meaning

differences between WELL and WHY in these environments. Though they

understood the differences, they kept saying, "But nobody under age 50 would

ever use WHY in that way--only old people talk that way!" This was not the

answer I expected. Has anybody else had this reaction from students about WHY

in this usage? What are the reactions of y'all? Is there a change in progress