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