Date: Mon, 14 Oct 1996 11:10:30 -0700
From: Peter McGraw pmcgraw[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CALVIN.LINFIELD.EDU
Subject: Re: Stoled
O.k., Dennis, but historically speaking "felt" is not redundant, while
"stoled" is. I.e. "feel-felt" is historically a weak verb which had the
dental as its tense marker from the beginning, whereas "steal-stole" is
historically a strong verb which originally had the vowel alternation as
its tense marker (and no dental suffix), with the dental of "stoled" added
redundantly (and so far by a minority of speakers) later. I'm too lazy to
track down the origin of the vowel alternation in "feel-felt" just now,
but I see the verb was a regular weak verb in Old English, as the German
cognate "fuehlen-fuehlte-gefuehlt" is still today, and I assume the
alternation arose in Middle English, creating an apparent hybrid like the
products of so-called "Rueckumlaut" in German (e.g., "kennen-kannte-
In spite of the advanced decay of the strong verb class in English, I
think there are still enough such verbs in the language for its speakers
to be aware that they don't normally have the dental suffix to mark the
preterite and participle. So it's perfectly possible for the same native
speakers to find double-marked forms like "stoled" redundant without being
the least bit prescriptivist, Eastern elitist, or whatever it is you're
being sarcastic about.
On Sat, 12 Oct 1996, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
Well, shucks, Jason, see us Mid-southerners and Midwesterners, we jist
don't understand East Coast logic. See, we got us a whole passel of them
redundants that I guess y'all don't have. Why, we even say 'felt' for the
preterite of 'feel' (which has already got a vowel-stem change so shouldn't
need no dental preterite marker). Reckon we're so slow out here though that
we'll hang on to them redundancies (particularly since it seems to be a
predictable and necessary feature of natural language). By the way, us
Hungarians (farther East than y'all) find phrases like 'two houses' or
'three chickens' pretty silly too. Redundant as all hell. Why put a plural
marker on a noun with a number sittin' out thar in front of it?
Oh, by the way, I'm right about 'vocalization.' It means 'gets to look like
a vowel' (or 'stops being a consonant'). I guess this was misunderstood as
'is pronounced.' If you want fancier words for the 'disappearances' of
nonprevocalic /r/ and /l/ in Southern States English, you caould go for /r/
'desulcalization' and /l/ 'delateralization,' but them's mighty biguns.
I don't understand (but I don't necessarily object to) the use of
"stoled." The -ed seems redundant. One already has the past in "stole."
Why add the same sense again with "-ed?" This is about as comprehensible to
my East Coast sensiblities as "roded"would be for the past tense of "ride."
. (An aside: I'm from near Baltimore, MD. Having a large number of American
dialects is a beautiful thing. That doesn't make the Baltimore accent any
less ugly.) I suppose it makes sense if one drops the L. BTW, "l-vocalizer."
seems to be used in two different senses. Which is correct?
jasonk[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]mail.sjcsf.edu
I first encountered a problem with this word earlier in the year
when I tried to spell it and realized, looking at it, that it was not a
word. I continue
to use it, however. I like it.
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