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Re: Evolving determiners and gender markers

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  • Karen Badham
    ... Given that example I m reminded of the often misspelled a lot in English. Although it was beaten into my head that it had a space in grade school it
    Message 1 of 17 , Jun 1, 2010
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      On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 9:43 PM, J. 'Mach' Wust <j_mach_wust@...>wrote:

      > On Tue, 1 Jun 2010 19:21:27 -0500, Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
      > wrote:
      >
      > >Mainly I guess the problem is that I have a fairly fixed idea of the
      > division between
      > >definite and indefinite, and I find it hard to imagine a situation (taking
      > place within one
      > >language only) where nominals that were once definite would lose their
      > definiteness. I
      > >don't know what the intermediate steps would be.
      >
      > I know one example of such a shift within one language (without borrowings
      > or pidgins/creoles). It is a (somewhat outdated) Bernese word for
      > grandfather: /trætti/, from /t@r/ 'definit masculin NOM/ACC article' +
      > /ætti/ 'grandfather'. I guess this is to be explained as child language. A
      > child would hear more often /t@r ætti/ than /ætti/, so the child would
      > learn
      > /trætti/ as one word even though that's not grammatical.
      >
      > In that 'lect, nouns referring to a person (personal names included) always
      > require a definit article, except in vocative use. The article is by far
      > the
      > most important grammatical case marker. The vocative is different from the
      > other cases: Its function is not a grammatical role, but deixis. So only
      > those cases that bear a grammatical role are marked (with the article), but
      > the vocative is not.
      >
      > --
      > grüess
      > mach
      >

      Given that example I'm reminded of the often misspelled "a lot" in English.
      Although it was beaten into my head that it had a space in grade school it
      wasn't until sometime in high school that I realized it was two actual
      words. What made it dawn on me? The phrase "a whole lot" Well of course it's
      two words if you can stick a word between them. Duh! I felt really stupid.
      Anyway...

      Maybe sometime down the road it *will* be one word "alot", but we are rather
      anal about spelling in English, so it's hard to say.

      -Karen Terry
      http://anti-moliminous.blogspot.com/
    • Eric Christopherson
      ... That s a cool example! I wonder, though, would people say /t@r trætti/? If not, I would have trouble analyzing /trætti/ as one word. ... Oh, also a good
      Message 2 of 17 , Jun 1, 2010
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        On Jun 1, 2010, at 8:50 PM, Karen Badham wrote:

        > On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 9:43 PM, J. 'Mach' Wust <j_mach_wust@...>wrote:
        >
        >> On Tue, 1 Jun 2010 19:21:27 -0500, Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
        >> wrote:
        >>
        >>> Mainly I guess the problem is that I have a fairly fixed idea of the
        >> division between
        >>> definite and indefinite, and I find it hard to imagine a situation (taking
        >> place within one
        >>> language only) where nominals that were once definite would lose their
        >> definiteness. I
        >>> don't know what the intermediate steps would be.
        >>
        >> I know one example of such a shift within one language (without borrowings
        >> or pidgins/creoles). It is a (somewhat outdated) Bernese word for
        >> grandfather: /trætti/, from /t@r/ 'definit masculin NOM/ACC article' +
        >> /ætti/ 'grandfather'.

        That's a cool example! I wonder, though, would people say /t@r trætti/? If not, I would have trouble analyzing /trætti/ as one word.

        >> I guess this is to be explained as child language. A
        >> child would hear more often /t@r ætti/ than /ætti/, so the child would
        >> learn
        >> /trætti/ as one word even though that's not grammatical.
        >>
        >> In that 'lect, nouns referring to a person (personal names included) always
        >> require a definit article, except in vocative use. The article is by far
        >> the
        >> most important grammatical case marker. The vocative is different from the
        >> other cases: Its function is not a grammatical role, but deixis. So only
        >> those cases that bear a grammatical role are marked (with the article), but
        >> the vocative is not.
        >>
        >> --
        >> grüess
        >> mach
        >>
        >
        > Given that example I'm reminded of the often misspelled "a lot" in English.

        Oh, also a good example.

        > Although it was beaten into my head that it had a space in grade school it
        > wasn't until sometime in high school that I realized it was two actual
        > words. What made it dawn on me? The phrase "a whole lot"

        That brings to mind "a whole nother" too.

        > Well of course it's
        > two words if you can stick a word between them. Duh! I felt really stupid.
        > Anyway...
        >
        > Maybe sometime down the road it *will* be one word "alot", but we are rather
        > anal about spelling in English, so it's hard to say.
        >
        > -Karen Terry
        > http://anti-moliminous.blogspot.com/
      • Adam Walker
        Wow! That is so similar to Carrajina. Every NP is marked by an article. The my father, the those, the his one car green large, etc. The one time an article is
        Message 3 of 17 , Jun 1, 2010
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          Wow! That is so similar to Carrajina. Every NP is marked by an
          article. The my father, the those, the his one car green large, etc.
          The one time an article is not used is with a vocative. Adam

          On 6/1/10, J. 'Mach' Wust <j_mach_wust@...> wrote:
          > On Tue, 1 Jun 2010 19:21:27 -0500, Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
          > wrote:
          >
          >>Mainly I guess the problem is that I have a fairly fixed idea of the
          > division between
          >>definite and indefinite, and I find it hard to imagine a situation (taking
          > place within one
          >>language only) where nominals that were once definite would lose their
          > definiteness. I
          >>don't know what the intermediate steps would be.
          >
          > I know one example of such a shift within one language (without borrowings
          > or pidgins/creoles). It is a (somewhat outdated) Bernese word for
          > grandfather: /trætti/, from /t@r/ 'definit masculin NOM/ACC article' +
          > /ætti/ 'grandfather'. I guess this is to be explained as child language. A
          > child would hear more often /t@r ætti/ than /ætti/, so the child would learn
          > /trætti/ as one word even though that's not grammatical.
          >
          > In that 'lect, nouns referring to a person (personal names included) always
          > require a definit article, except in vocative use. The article is by far the
          > most important grammatical case marker. The vocative is different from the
          > other cases: Its function is not a grammatical role, but deixis. So only
          > those cases that bear a grammatical role are marked (with the article), but
          > the vocative is not.
          >
          > --
          > grüess
          > mach
          >


          --
          Vote for TIM URBAN as the next American Idol!
        • J. 'Mach' Wust
          ... trouble analyzing ... I couldn t tell whether people would say /t@r trætti/, since I don t actively use the word nor does anybody I know. There is however
          Message 4 of 17 , Jun 2, 2010
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            On Tue, 1 Jun 2010 21:51:19 -0500, Eric Christopherson wrote:

            >I wonder, though, would people say /t@r trætti/? If not, I would have
            trouble analyzing
            >/trætti/ as one word.

            I couldn't tell whether people would say /t@r trætti/, since I don't
            actively use the word nor does anybody I know. There is however a book by
            Carl Albert Loosli (BTW, another variant of that family name, "Loser", is
            quite common here :-) that has the name "Üse Drätti" 'our "Drätti"'. This
            shows that at least in this phrase, /trætti/ is analyzed as one word, since
            the attributive possessive pronoun is by itself a marker for definit noun
            phrases and never combines with a definit article (unlike in Italian or in
            Carrajina). So the phrase */ys@ t@r ætti/ with a definit article is
            ungrammatical, while /ys@ trætti/ is not.


            >> Although it was beaten into my head that it had a space in grade school it
            >> wasn't until sometime in high school that I realized it was two actual
            >> words. What made it dawn on me? The phrase "a whole lot"
            >
            >That brings to mind "a whole nother" too.

            The etymonline.com entry about "N" points to a number of English words that
            have gained or lost an inital /n/ they originally didn't have or had:
            http://www.etymonline.com/?search=n

            --
            grüess
            mach
          • Douglas Koller
            ... Not involving nouns and articles, of course, but it reminds me of how young children acquiring English analyze look at (/lUk@t/). After hearing, look at
            Message 5 of 17 , Jun 2, 2010
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              ----- "J. 'Mach' Wust" <j_mach_wust@...> wrote:

              > I know one example of such a shift within one language (without borrowings
              > or pidgins/creoles). It is a (somewhat outdated) Bernese word for
              > grandfather: /trætti/, from /t@r/ 'definit masculin NOM/ACC article' +
              > /ætti/ 'grandfather'. I guess this is to be explained as child language. A
              > child would hear more often /t@r ætti/ than /ætti/, so the child would learn
              > /trætti/ as one word even though that's not grammatical.

              Not involving nouns and articles, of course, but it reminds me of how young children acquiring English analyze "look at" (/lUk@t/). After hearing, "look at the puppy", "look at the bird", "look at the elephant", "look at Mummy", etc., they analyze "lookit", whole hog, as akin to "regarder" or "mirar". So they point at something and scream "Lookit!" (embarrassed parent dives behind an end-cap at the supermarket). As they grow into English and hooliganism, they analyze it correctly to form, "What are *you* looking at?!" and "I was looking at the television, you sod!" If forms like "Üse Trætti" survive childhood, for quaint reasons of nostalgia or other, then maybe something else is going on.

              Kou
            • Gary Shannon
              ... Along these same lines are: wanna , as in I wanna go home. whatcha as in Whatcha wanna eat? amana as in Amana have a hamburger. guna as in
              Message 6 of 17 , Jun 2, 2010
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                On Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 11:29 AM, Douglas Koller <laokou@...> wrote:
                > ----- "J. 'Mach' Wust" <j_mach_wust@...> wrote:

                > Not involving nouns and articles, of course, but it reminds me of how young children acquiring English analyze "look at" (/lUk@t/). After hearing, "look at the puppy", "look at the bird", "look at the elephant", "look at Mummy", etc., they analyze "lookit", whole hog, as akin to "regarder" or "mirar". So they point at something and scream "Lookit!" (embarrassed parent dives behind an end-cap at the supermarket). As they grow into English and hooliganism, they analyze it correctly to form, "What are *you* looking at?!" and "I was looking at the television, you sod!" If forms like "Üse Trætti" survive childhood, for quaint reasons of nostalgia or other, then maybe something else is going on.
                >
                > Kou
                >

                Along these same lines are:

                "wanna", as in "I wanna go home."
                "whatcha" as in "Whatcha wanna eat?"
                "amana" as in "Amana have a hamburger."
                "guna" as in "He's guna have spaghetti."

                --gary
              • Tony Harris
                ... I often hear might swell or mines-well (not written like that, just pronounced that way!) for might as well . My mom has a fascinating version of that
                Message 7 of 17 , Jun 2, 2010
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                  On 6/2/2010 3:47 PM, Gary Shannon wrote:
                  > Not involving nouns and articles, of course, but it reminds me of how
                  > young children acquiring English analyze "look at" (/lUk@t/). After
                  > hearing, "look at the puppy", "look at the bird", "look at the
                  > elephant", "look at Mummy", etc., they analyze "lookit", whole hog, as
                  > akin to "regarder" or "mirar". So they point at something and scream
                  > "Lookit!" (embarrassed parent dives behind an end-cap at the
                  > supermarket). As they grow into English and hooliganism, they analyze
                  > it correctly to form, "What are *you* looking at?!" and "I was looking
                  > at the television, you sod!" If forms like "Üse Trætti" survive
                  > childhood, for quaint reasons of nostalgia or other, then maybe
                  > something else is going on.
                  >> Kou
                  >>
                  >>
                  > Along these same lines are:
                  >
                  > "wanna", as in "I wanna go home."
                  > "whatcha" as in "Whatcha wanna eat?"
                  > "amana" as in "Amana have a hamburger."
                  > "guna" as in "He's guna have spaghetti."
                  >
                  > --gary
                  >
                  I often hear "might'swell" or "mines-well" (not written like that, just
                  pronounced that way!) for "might as well".

                  My mom has a fascinating version of that which I never thought of as odd
                  until I realized I never heard it from *anyone* else. She says "minza"
                  (pron. /'majn.z@/) as in, for example, "Well, I minza go get the mail now."
                • Douglas Koller
                  ... I would argue that while we outgrow lookit , we do not outgrow these others, as they are allegro speech versions of their more elocuted counterparts.
                  Message 8 of 17 , Jun 2, 2010
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                    ----- "Gary Shannon" <fiziwig@...> wrote:

                    > On Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 11:29 AM, Douglas Koller <laokou@...> wrote:

                    > > Not involving nouns and articles, of course, but it reminds me of how young children acquiring English analyze "look at" (/lUk@t/). After hearing, "look at the puppy", "look at the bird", "look at the elephant", "look at Mummy", etc., they analyze "lookit", whole hog, as akin to "regarder" or "mirar". So they point at something and scream "Lookit!" (embarrassed parent dives behind an end-cap at the supermarket). As they grow into English and hooliganism, they analyze it correctly to form, "What are *you* looking at?!" and "I was looking at the television, you sod!" If forms like "Üse Trætti" survive childhood, for quaint reasons of nostalgia or other, then maybe something else is going on.

                    > Along these same lines are:

                    > "wanna", as in "I wanna go home."
                    > "whatcha" as in "Whatcha wanna eat?"
                    > "amana" as in "Amana have a hamburger."
                    > "guna" as in "He's guna have spaghetti."

                    I would argue that while we outgrow "lookit", we do not outgrow these others, as they are allegro speech versions of their more elocuted counterparts. "Jeet?" for "Did you eat?" is not child-speak, it's compacted, slurred speech, call it what you will. It's not mis-analysis, the way "lookit" is. "Amana" has *never* occurred in my idiolect, except as something Barbara Hale tried to shill back in the 70s. :) (but I'm not disputing it as an attested form).

                    Kou
                  • Adam Walker
                    My teenage FB friends are always posting stuff like~ Ima go home now. Adam ... -- Vote for TIM URBAN as the next American Idol!
                    Message 9 of 17 , Jun 2, 2010
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                      My teenage FB friends are always posting stuff like~ Ima go home now. Adam

                      On 6/2/10, Douglas Koller <laokou@...> wrote:
                      > ----- "Gary Shannon" <fiziwig@...> wrote:
                      >
                      >> On Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 11:29 AM, Douglas Koller <laokou@...>
                      >> wrote:
                      >
                      >> > Not involving nouns and articles, of course, but it reminds me of how
                      >> > young children acquiring English analyze "look at" (/lUk@t/). After
                      >> > hearing, "look at the puppy", "look at the bird", "look at the
                      >> > elephant", "look at Mummy", etc., they analyze "lookit", whole hog, as
                      >> > akin to "regarder" or "mirar". So they point at something and scream
                      >> > "Lookit!" (embarrassed parent dives behind an end-cap at the
                      >> > supermarket). As they grow into English and hooliganism, they analyze it
                      >> > correctly to form, "What are *you* looking at?!" and "I was looking at
                      >> > the television, you sod!" If forms like "Üse Trætti" survive childhood,
                      >> > for quaint reasons of nostalgia or other, then maybe something else is
                      >> > going on.
                      >
                      >> Along these same lines are:
                      >
                      >> "wanna", as in "I wanna go home."
                      >> "whatcha" as in "Whatcha wanna eat?"
                      >> "amana" as in "Amana have a hamburger."
                      >> "guna" as in "He's guna have spaghetti."
                      >
                      > I would argue that while we outgrow "lookit", we do not outgrow these
                      > others, as they are allegro speech versions of their more elocuted
                      > counterparts. "Jeet?" for "Did you eat?" is not child-speak, it's compacted,
                      > slurred speech, call it what you will. It's not mis-analysis, the way
                      > "lookit" is. "Amana" has *never* occurred in my idiolect, except as
                      > something Barbara Hale tried to shill back in the 70s. :) (but I'm not
                      > disputing it as an attested form).
                      >
                      > Kou
                      >


                      --
                      Vote for TIM URBAN as the next American Idol!
                    • Alex Bicksler
                      ... Yeah, I m 18 and regularly use (both spoken and written) I mna / aIm.n@/ or I ma / aI.m@/ for I am going to, and once in a while I ll even use
                      Message 10 of 17 , Jun 3, 2010
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                        On Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 5:05 PM, Adam Walker <carraxan@...> wrote:

                        > My teenage FB friends are always posting stuff like~ Ima go home now. Adam
                        >

                        Yeah, I'm 18 and regularly use (both spoken and written) "I'mna" /'aIm.n@/
                        or "I'ma" /'aI.m@/ for "I am going to," and once in a while I'll even use
                        something like "I'mn'ave" /aIm'n&v/ for "I am going to have." Where to put
                        the apostrophes for these non-standard contractions is always a bit tricky
                        though.
                      • Eric Christopherson
                        ... I ve been wondering lately... if you say /aim@/ for I m going to , what are the equivalent forms for other person/number combinations? E.g. /jOr@/ for
                        Message 11 of 17 , Jun 4, 2010
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                          On Jun 3, 2010, at 11:21 AM, Alex Bicksler wrote:

                          > On Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 5:05 PM, Adam Walker <carraxan@...> wrote:
                          >
                          >> My teenage FB friends are always posting stuff like~ Ima go home now. Adam
                          >>
                          >
                          > Yeah, I'm 18 and regularly use (both spoken and written) "I'mna" /'aIm.n@/
                          > or "I'ma" /'aI.m@/ for "I am going to," and once in a while I'll even use
                          > something like "I'mn'ave" /aIm'n&v/ for "I am going to have." Where to put
                          > the apostrophes for these non-standard contractions is always a bit tricky
                          > though.

                          I've been wondering lately... if you say /aim@/ for "I'm going to", what are the equivalent forms for other person/number combinations? E.g. /jOr@/ for "you're going to"?

                          (Also, I've seen the spelling <Imma> a lot. I'm not sure if that represents a lengthening of either the vowel or the consonant, or neither.)
                        • Alex Bicksler
                          ... I ve used /jOrn@/ for you re going to (which I usually spell , , etc. Pretty consistent across the
                          Message 12 of 17 , Jun 6, 2010
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                            On Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 9:59 PM, Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>wrote:

                            > On Jun 3, 2010, at 11:21 AM, Alex Bicksler wrote:
                            > I've been wondering lately... if you say /aim@/ for "I'm going to", what
                            > are the equivalent forms for other person/number combinations? E.g. /jOr@/
                            > for "you're going to"?
                            >
                            > (Also, I've seen the spelling <Imma> a lot. I'm not sure if that represents
                            > a lengthening of either the vowel or the consonant, or neither.)
                            >

                            I've used /jOrn@/ for "you're going to" (which I usually spell <you'rena>).
                            Same for <he'sna>, <she'sna>, <they'rena>, etc. Pretty consistent across
                            the board, but I don't think

                            And I've never heard any lengthening in 'I'mma.'
                          • Alex Bicksler
                            Umm... I meant to end that sentence but I don t think it s very common. ^^
                            Message 13 of 17 , Jun 6, 2010
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                              Umm... I meant to end that sentence "but I don't think it's very common." ^^
                            • Eric Christopherson
                              Reviving a dead thread. I was looking up the word _mains_ (referring to AC power on the right side of the pond) at
                              Message 14 of 17 , Aug 21, 2010
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                                Reviving a dead thread. I was looking up the word _mains_ (referring to AC power on the right side of the pond) at <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mains>...

                                On Jun 2, 2010, at 2:53 PM, Tony Harris wrote:

                                > On 6/2/2010 3:47 PM, Gary Shannon wrote:
                                >> Along these same lines are:
                                >>
                                >> "wanna", as in "I wanna go home."
                                >> "whatcha" as in "Whatcha wanna eat?"
                                >> "amana" as in "Amana have a hamburger."
                                >> "guna" as in "He's guna have spaghetti."
                                >>
                                >> --gary
                                >>
                                > I often hear "might'swell" or "mines-well" (not written like that, just pronounced that way!) for "might as well".
                                >
                                > My mom has a fascinating version of that which I never thought of as odd until I realized I never heard it from *anyone* else. She says "minza" (pron. /'majn.z@/) as in, for example, "Well, I minza go get the mail now."

                                I wonder if that might be related at all to this definition of _main_:
                                > –adverb
                                > 12. South Midland U.S. (chiefly Appalachian ) . very; exceedingly: The dogs treed a main big coon.

                                The etymology given connects _main_ with OE _mægen_, which I know _might(y)_ is also related to.

                                Back to the reason I was looking up _mains_: is it used with a singular verb? And what is the etymology of that specific sense of _mains_ (i.e. why does it have -s)? The site shows a sense "the main or home farm of a manor, as where the owner lives; manse."; perhaps it's related to that. _Manse_, in turn, comes from ML _ma:nsus_ "farm, dwelling", which I believe is related to _mansion_/_maison_.
                              • Alex Fink
                                On Sun, 22 Aug 2010 01:08:44 -0500, Eric Christopherson ... power on the right side of the pond) at
                                Message 15 of 17 , Aug 22, 2010
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                                  On Sun, 22 Aug 2010 01:08:44 -0500, Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
                                  wrote:

                                  >Reviving a dead thread. I was looking up the word _mains_ (referring to AC
                                  power on the right side of the pond) at
                                  <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mains>...
                                  [...]
                                  >The etymology given connects _main_ with OE _mægen_, which I know
                                  _might(y)_ is also related to.
                                  >
                                  >Back to the reason I was looking up _mains_: is it used with a singular
                                  verb? And what is the etymology of that specific sense of _mains_ (i.e. why
                                  does it have -s)?

                                  The OED suggests no more satisfying reason than just that the principal
                                  power lines tend to be spoken of collectively:
                                  MAIN n.1 8. A principal channel, duct, or conductor for conveying water,
                                  sewage, gas, or (usu. in pl.) electricity. Cf. MAIN adj.2 5a, MAINSBORNE
                                  adj. Also in pl.: the public supply of water, (or electricity, etc.)
                                  collectively. Also fig.

                                  Funnily, of their 15 citations, none of them has "mains" as the subject of a
                                  verb.

                                  Anyway, beyond that, this is the plain old inherited word "main", as you
                                  saw. OED calls this use a re-nominalisation of the adj., which itself is
                                  "[p]robably partly < MAIN n.1 in compounds in Old English; partly < the
                                  cognate early Scandinavian adjective (compare Old Icelandic meginn, megn
                                  strong, powerful), and also < the corresponding early Scandinavian noun in
                                  compounds (see below).". It was the adj. that originally underwent the
                                  development 'strong, powerful' > 'principal'.

                                  >The site shows a sense "the main or home farm of a manor, as where the
                                  owner lives; manse."; perhaps it's related to that. _Manse_, in turn, comes
                                  from ML _ma:nsus_ "farm, dwelling", which I believe is related to
                                  _mansion_/_maison_.

                                  Yeah, separate etymology. OED: "Shortened < the plural of DEMESNE n. 3",
                                  where ultimately "Demesne is thus a differentiated spelling of the word
                                  DOMAIN", tracing to "L. dominic-us, -um of or belonging to a lord or master,
                                  f. dominus lord". The association with words from L. _mansio_ is old,
                                  though, and probably explains the <s> in the spelling.

                                  Alex
                                • Samuel Stutter
                                  If you re interested, Never heard of the mains plural being used for water, always heard the singular ( the water main is burst again ). And, what with
                                  Message 16 of 17 , Aug 22, 2010
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                                    If you're interested,

                                    Never heard of the "mains" plural being used for water, always heard
                                    the singular ('the water main is burst again'). And, what with
                                    electricity supply being (thankfully) pretty constant, I never really
                                    use it as a verb's subject. However, thinking about it, 'the mains is
                                    pretty constant' seems right, "the mains are constant" sounds wrong to
                                    me. Then again, am I using "mains" as an adjective for the absent
                                    "electricity"?

                                    Dunno, but I'd say singular.

                                    Sam S, reporting from the usually rainy Manchester

                                    On 22 Aug 2010, at 15:33, Alex Fink wrote:

                                    > On Sun, 22 Aug 2010 01:08:44 -0500, Eric Christopherson <rakko@...
                                    > >
                                    > wrote:
                                    >
                                    >> Reviving a dead thread. I was looking up the word _mains_
                                    >> (referring to AC
                                    > power on the right side of the pond) at
                                    > <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mains>...
                                    > [...]
                                    >> The etymology given connects _main_ with OE _mægen_, which I know
                                    > _might(y)_ is also related to.
                                    >>
                                    >> Back to the reason I was looking up _mains_: is it used with a
                                    >> singular
                                    > verb? And what is the etymology of that specific sense of _mains_
                                    > (i.e. why
                                    > does it have -s)?
                                    >
                                    > The OED suggests no more satisfying reason than just that the
                                    > principal
                                    > power lines tend to be spoken of collectively:
                                    > MAIN n.1 8. A principal channel, duct, or conductor for conveying
                                    > water,
                                    > sewage, gas, or (usu. in pl.) electricity. Cf. MAIN adj.2 5a,
                                    > MAINSBORNE
                                    > adj. Also in pl.: the public supply of water, (or electricity, etc.)
                                    > collectively. Also fig.
                                    >
                                    > Funnily, of their 15 citations, none of them has "mains" as the
                                    > subject of a
                                    > verb.
                                    >
                                    > Anyway, beyond that, this is the plain old inherited word "main", as
                                    > you
                                    > saw. OED calls this use a re-nominalisation of the adj., which
                                    > itself is
                                    > "[p]robably partly < MAIN n.1 in compounds in Old English; partly <
                                    > the
                                    > cognate early Scandinavian adjective (compare Old Icelandic meginn,
                                    > megn
                                    > strong, powerful), and also < the corresponding early Scandinavian
                                    > noun in
                                    > compounds (see below).". It was the adj. that originally underwent
                                    > the
                                    > development 'strong, powerful' > 'principal'.
                                    >
                                    >> The site shows a sense "the main or home farm of a manor, as where
                                    >> the
                                    > owner lives; manse."; perhaps it's related to that. _Manse_, in
                                    > turn, comes
                                    > from ML _ma:nsus_ "farm, dwelling", which I believe is related to
                                    > _mansion_/_maison_.
                                    >
                                    > Yeah, separate etymology. OED: "Shortened < the plural of DEMESNE
                                    > n. 3",
                                    > where ultimately "Demesne is thus a differentiated spelling of the
                                    > word
                                    > DOMAIN", tracing to "L. dominic-us, -um of or belonging to a lord or
                                    > master,
                                    > f. dominus lord". The association with words from L. _mansio_ is old,
                                    > though, and probably explains the <s> in the spelling.
                                    >
                                    > Alex
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