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THEORY: Suppletion was: Re: USAGE: "gotten"

From:Ed Heil <edheil@...>
Date:Thursday, January 20, 2000, 22:30
Nik Taylor wrote:

> I suspect that "got" will eventually replace "have" in the present > tense, in America at any rate, to the point of saying things like "will > got", thus creating suppletion between the present _got_ and the past > _had_.
Let's consider this today's lesson in suppletion, then. :) According to cognitive linguists Ronald Langacker, Adele Goldberg, and Charles Fillmore, there is a "principle of no synonymy" operating in language structure. If by some happenstance two forms evolve which come to carry exactly the same meaning, two things can happen. One of them can become incorrect; according to cognitive linguists this is the reason that the existence of an irregular/suppletive form like "went" blocks the existence of a regular form like "goed." Also, one of them can take on a noticeable difference in meaning, including a difference in register. Notice this happening twice in American English: first, "I've got" and "I've gotten" were both recognized as usable forms for the perfect of "I get" -- but a distinction in meaning was created, since a distinction in form without a distinction in meaning is unacceptable by the principle of no synonymy. That distinction was to use "I've gotten" as an ordinary perfect and "I've got" as a periphrastic for "I have." But that creates synonymy between "I've got" and "I have," and so something has to happen to one of those two. In this case we can see a register difference beginning: "I have" is starting to seem awkward in ordinary conversation. Just a little, but that's how it begins. Eventually it could be exiled to a highly formal register, and from there to an archaism, by the pressure of the principle of no synonymy. :) Just bringing up another aspect of what's going on besides the reanalysis-as-present which you so correctly note. Ed --------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------- "Bill Gates is a white Persian cat and a monocle away from becoming another James Bond villain. 'No Mr Bond, I expect you to upgrade.'" --Dennis Miller ---------------------------------------------------------------------