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Somewhat (was: another silly phonology question)

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Monday, December 4, 2000, 6:18
At 3:23 am +0000 3/12/00, Keith Alasdair Mylchreest wrote:
>On Fri, Dec 01, 2000 at 02:35:34PM -0500, John Cowan wrote: >> Keith Alasdair Mylchreest wrote: >> >> > In the English East Midlands we used to say /'s@m@t/ for "something", >>where >> > does that come from? >> >> "Somewhat" > >Good try, but I'm sceptical.
Pity - because it happens to be true.
> /s@m@t/ is a pronoun not an adjective, e.g.
'what' is a _pronoun_ (Ok - it can an adjective as well = 'which') - it is the neuter equivalent of 'who'. In earlier English, including early modern English, 'somewhat' was not infrequently used as a _pronoun_ = something. [...]
> >I'd never say *"it's got somewhat in it".
You may not, but Shakespeare might well have done, see below.
>Whatever it's final element >/s@m@t/ is used of things exactly as "someone" is used for persons.
At 1:08 am -0500 3/12/00, John Cowan wrote: [....]
>Absolutely. Check the definition of "somewhat [pronoun]" at >, the Merriam-Webster *American* dictionary: it defines >it as "something", just what you report.
So does Chambers English Dictionary, and so does any decent English dictionary.
>Possibly this is because it appears in Shakespeare, Pericles II.i: > > Thanks, fortune, yet, that, after all my crosses, > Thou givest me somewhat to repair myself,
...and by others, and it continued to be used in English dialect until recent times. "Summ'at" was certainly still used in Sussex when I was young and I was fully aware that it was the local pronunciation of 'somewhat'. It's a perfectly logical formation, being in line with: somewhere somehow somewhen (still, I'm glad to say, very much alive in Sussex) ...and the archaic: somewhither somewhence somewhy (All attested) The thing the puzzles me is why 'somewho' (= some one) has AFAIK been attested. Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================