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",
>> > does that come from?
>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
>www.m-w.com, 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
It's a perfectly logical formation, being in line with:
somewhen (still, I'm glad to say, very much alive in Sussex)
...and the archaic:
The thing the puzzles me is why 'somewho' (= some one) has AFAIK been attested.
A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
[J.G. Hamann 1760]