Date: Sat, 22 Nov 1997 15:38:22 -0500
From: "Dennis R. Preston" preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PILOT.MSU.EDU
Subject: Re: pragmatic change in progress?
Well, I'm older than 54 and this discoursal or exlamatopry 'why' is
completely native to me.
Here's a funny fact about it though.
I'm a /hw/-/w/ distinguisher; that is, 'whale' and 'wail' are not
homophones for me.
BUT - interrogative why ('Why did you do that?') is always /hw/ in my
speech, and the discourse marker 'why' ('Why, it's on the the other side of
the room') is invariably /w/.
Any other standard speakers out there like me who have this distinction
(not /hw/ - /w/ in general; lots of us old codgers from some places have
that, but this specific sepaation of the two 'whys')?
PS: Of course, if you don't have the distinction at all, then you're just
not a speaker of standard American English. The best proof of that I can
think of right off the top of my head (where such comments all seem to come
from) is that you don't sound like me.
At 10:55 PM 11/21/97 -0500, Ron Butters wrote:
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
ever use WHY in that way--only old people talk that way!" This was
answer I expected. Has anybody else had this reaction from students
in this usage? What are the reactions of y'all? Is there a change
I'm 54, and I'm sure I've never used "why" this way except when
conciously imitating someone else's style. I perceive it as both
older generation and predominately female. Instead of "why" I'd use
either "of course" or an intonation pattern that indicates "I'm
surprised you asked".
Waycross, GA 31501
djohns[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]peachnet.campus.mci.net
Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]pilot.msu.edu