I have saw

« previous post | next post »

A little while back, it was had did, and other uses of did, rather than done, as the PSP (past participle) of the verb DO. Non-standard PSP did is a (partial) regularization of the system of verb forms in English; all regular verbs, and a great many irregular ones as well, have identical PST (past) and PSP: jump ~ jumpedjumped, buy ~ bought ~ bought. PSP did improves the fully irregular pattern do ~ did ~ done to the somewhat more regular do ~ did ~ did. As I pointed out in the earlier posting, the most common non-standard partial regularization for DO is using done for the PST: do ~ done ~ done (similarly, see ~ seen ~ seen).

What I didn't say in that posting — because I've mentioned it several times in the past — is that the regularization to PSP did is in fact in the usual direction of verb regularization, which gives non-standard I have took / went / rode / wrote etc. John Cowan has now reminded me of this, and also reminds me that H. L. Mencken, in The American Language, refers to this regularization as a feature of "The Common Speech" — widespread, non-regional, non-standard American English. It now seems that the geographical and social distribution is more complex than that, that PSP did has some association with Southern varieties and with AAVE (as several correspondents have suggested to me). And that I have saw is out there too.

Looking into these things brought me to Richard Meade Bache's Vulgarisms and Other Errors of Speech (which I've seen on-line in the 2nd edition (1869)), with its note on I have saw.

First, on PSP did. I finally got to look at DARE, where volume II under do (p. 94) says of the PSP that it's usually done, but also, especially in the South and South Midlands, can be did. It also quotes a 1944 item in the Publications of the American Dialect Society 2.8 that identifies PSP did as Southern, found "over much of the South" and also "Negro", adding that it was "slightly less frequent than done." No observations on a possible difference between perfect and passive uses of PSP did, though DARE cites examples of both.

Then, on to Richard Meade Bache, who says (p. 81 in the 1869 ed.):

Many persons who do not say "I done," and "I seen," do say "I have saw."

This Bache attributes to hypercorrection, triggered by corrections of PST I seen — though it seems gratuitous to appeal to hypercorrection, given the weight of the "Common Speech" pattern.

(There's now a 2007 paperback reprint of Bache available.)

Comments are closed.