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Re: THEORY: irregular conlangs

From:John Cowan <cowan@...>
Date:Friday, October 1, 1999, 14:44
Daniel Andreasson scripsit:

> In Sociolinguistics class today we had a discussion > about irregular forms in languages. You know, strong > verbs and adjectives, etc. "Go, went, gone". > "Good, better, best". Obviously it is the most > frequent verbs and adjectives that are irregular. > The question is why. We got the explanation that > because they are so frequent, you can produce it > faster if it is a lexeme rather than a conjugation.
I think this is a cart-before-horse explanation. Irregularity is *preserved* by frequency, no doubt: in English, "kine" has been levelled in favor of "cows", and "dwarrows" in favor of "dwarfs" (or "dwarves"), but we still have "I am, you are, he is". But irregularity is most commonly *generated* by sound change, which happens, God only knows why. Suppletion is often the result of sound-change making two forms collapse together so that a suppletive form is needed, though I don't know the specifics with "go, went" ("wend", the suppleting verb, has grown a new preterite "wended"). Scots preserves (or borrows from Norse?) the preterite "gang". -- John Cowan I am a member of a civilization. --David Brin