Comparative diglossia

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In the comments on "From Bushisms to la langue François", there was some discussion of whether French is more diglossic than English — that is, whether the differences between (formal) writing and (informal) speech are greater in French than in English. As I mentioned, it's not clear how and what to count — informal words and expressions, informal morphological and syntactic variants, sentence complexity and discourse structure? Is the issue relative frequency, or categorically different options? And there's the question of whose version of French or English,  as used in what contexts, to look at.

But however we answer these questions, I remain unconvinced that French is more diglossic than English. Here are a few of the routine features of more-or-less mainstream spoken English that are not found in formal writing:

Missing subject pronouns —

Seems likely.
Got milk?

Vernacular quotatives such as "be like" and "go" — these examples are from the Switchboard corpus —

I was like well I don't know how long it takes
I just got an email and I was like hey okay sure
I walked in and they go oh my God

The verbal auxiliary "had of", common in counter-factuals (and some negative concord as well) —

Because otherwise you know if she had of missed her flight i'm pretty sure they wouldn't have paid for that
It seems to me if I had of went to school and did what I was supposed to do, then I wouldn't of never married him 'cause I wouldn't of met him 'cause I would have been in college
I feel like that if I had of gone to a private school during junior high I probably wouldn't have developed such good study skills

Correlatives and other concatenated phrases with implied syntactic and semantic subordination, as in these examples from Elmore Leonard's LaBrava, quoted in "Parataxis in Pirahã", 5/19/2006:

"What're you having, conch? You ever see it they take it out of the shell? You wouldn't eat it."
"We get here," Larry Mendoza said, "this guy's already got a crew working."
"Listen," Renda said, "we get to a phone we're out of the country before morning."
"All right, I call some more friends. They get us out of the the country, some place no extradition, and wait and see what happens."
"That goddam truck of his, he can go anywhere," Renda said. "He told me, he comes up here hunting."

From Road Dogs, questions without inversion:

Foley said, “You thought you’d be cuffed to the bed?”
“A cop shot you?”

From the same source, that-deletion before missing subjects —

"I was into some shit at the time didn’t work out.”
She’s working for a magician, Emile the Amazing, jumping out of boxes till he fired her and hired a girl Adele said has bigger tits and was younger.

And so on…

This list doesn't prove anything, any more than the lists of speech/writing differences in French prove anything.  And the original question itself is not very important — but it would be useful to have a way to quantify (different dimensions of) diglossia, as input to educational and cultural policy if nothing else.








  1. Walter Underwood said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

    The Economist decided to correct something like this in a story this week. It read:

    Beth, a student at a Christian university in Arkansas, worries that she might run into people she knows at a screening of “Fifty Shades”. That could be embarrassing. However, “they won’t say anything because they [will be] in the same situation,” she predicts.

  2. GeorgeW said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 3:07 pm

    MYL: Some of the examples, such as those under "Correlatives and other concatenated phrases" don't seem to be grammatical English, even in an informal, spoken register. They struck me as English as spoken by a non-native, and not fully fluent speakers.

    But, maybe it is just me.

  3. James Fulford said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 3:18 pm

    "Had of" and "wouldn't of" are properly the contractions "had've" and "would've". On the other hand, uneducated speakers THINK they're saying "wouldn't of", and write it that way.

    A man I know told me of a 1950s sportswriter who allowed a "wouldn't of" in his column, NOT in reported speech, causing colleagues to literally point at him and laugh.

  4. Jonathan Mayhew said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 3:33 pm

    Some of those concatenations sound idiomatic to me, like an Elmore Leonard dialogue.

  5. Robot Therapist said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 3:42 pm

    I would say "had have" not "had of"

  6. Jonathan Mayhew said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 3:42 pm

    Duh, they are from Elmore Leonard. I wasn't reading very closely.

  7. J. W. Brewer said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 3:45 pm

    I don't think the "had of" construction is in my idiolect, even in its most informal register, so it's hard for me to judge, but is "of" really the word being used? It strikes me as very similar to the sort of "eye dialect" orthography that writes out "might of" when what it seems likely the speaker said was "might've." Admittedly "had've" also doesn't fit my idiolect.

  8. Frank said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 4:04 pm

    I agree that "had of" is probably just "eye dialect" for "would have" that is just pronounced /də/.

  9. mira said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 4:05 pm

    If it's true that Hollande is getting criticized for saying things like "Est-ce qu'il fait beau" instead of "Fait-il beau" because this is supposedly informal and "not really French", while simultaneously everyone in France says "Est-ce qu'il fait beau", I don't think this is analogous to the Bushisms phenomenon. Most Bushisms I remember were examples of disfluency or inartfulness rather than violations of prescriptive grammar rules or the use of informal grammatical constructions. What would be analogous is if a US politician were being criticized for saying "I know who he voted for" rather than "I know for whom he voted" — something that we are taught is "bad English", and which isn't used in formal writing, but which everyone says anyway.

    I have occasionally been surprised at the offense people in the Czech Republic take when political figures are caught using colloquial language, particularly the kinds of colloquial grammatical forms that nearly everybody uses but are Not Real Czech and as such are absolutely scandalous in the mouths of politicians.

  10. Chris C. said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 4:29 pm

    @J. W. Brewer, @Frank — "Had of" is a new one on me too, but I put it down to eye dialect for "hadn't've", with the negative dropped similar to how "couldn't care less" became "could care less".

    I see "could of", "should of" written that way all the time in online conversations and beginner attempts at fiction writing.

  11. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

    I've read in alt.usage.english that many British people clearly say "had of", "would of", etc., with their LOT vowel, not a schwa. Certainly many Americans write "had of", "would of", which suggests that they're thinking of that word.

    (In a topic that's almost related to this thread, I ask my students to write their answers in "school English". Many of them write "would've", "could've", and "should've". I consider the contractions "I've", "can't", "it's", etc., to be part of academic English, but not "would've" etc.—just on the basis of usage. Maybe a change is happening.)

  12. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 4:36 pm

    Chris C.: "Had of" has no negative meaning, unlike "could care less". Here's an example from the wild.

    "She looked into the system and told me that I would have to pay out of pocket because I only applied for grants… which was a lie. And even if I had of mistakenly applied for grants only, they should have told me that information before hand so that I could prepare."

    Probably compare the non-standard "If I would've" and "If I'd've".

  13. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 4:40 pm

    Well, MYL had already provided examples from the wild, but as they were from transcripts, my example might still show that people write "of" instead of "'ve" on their own.

  14. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 4:53 pm

    And not to take over the comments, but this example sounds acceptable to me in formal writing, as far as the that-deletion goes, anyway.

    "She’s working for a magician, Emile the Amazing, jumping out of boxes till he fired her and hired a girl Adele said has bigger tits and was younger."

    Here's one from the Christian Science Monitor via COCA (not that I'm happy with "seniormost"):

    "At a press conference in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said the military had nabbed the seniormost Iraqi leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, a man he said was the link between that outfit and Osama bin Laden."

    Maybe it's because there's a subject there, Adele or he, though there's also a missing subject.

    I found 22 hits on "a [noun] [personal pronoun] said was" in journalism, but only one in academic writing:

    "They lured him by offering a bamboo they said was a piece of chicken bone."

  15. J. W. Brewer said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 5:07 pm

    I suppose I think of "would've" as just as standard as "wouldn't" although maybe a bit more informal in register (and, in the other direction, some of my own professional writing is in a formal enough register that I wouldn't use "wouldn't"), whereas "woulda" would be non-standard enough to be highly marked if used in writing not intended to be a verbatim report of informal dialogue.

    I find the that-deletion fine in the "Adele said" example but jarring in the other example under the same heading. Similarly, I find the first Elmore quote (about the conch) jarring in a not-my-idiolect way, but the other four fine in speech. So perhaps we all have our lines drawn in slightly different places.

  16. blahedo said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 5:30 pm

    I'm a little late to this party, but Eric Zorn, a columnist in Chicago, has been recently picking on the (newly-elected) governor of Illinois over his fake-folksy tone and "g-dropping" (pronouncing /ŋ/ as /n/ in "-ing" words). It is in some ways the opposite of the French complaint: François is taken to task for being unintentionally lowbrow and being unable or unwilling to speak "correct" French, while Rauner is taken to task for intentionally being lowbrow and trying to speak "incorrect" English. For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure it is fake, and I'm also pretty sure that Zorn wouldn't be bringing this up if Rauner were a natural g-dropper.


  17. Alyssa said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 5:57 pm

    Honestly these examples just underline for me the difference between the situation in English and in French. With the exception of "be like", pretty much all the examples given are debatable. Some are non-standard (I can't say "had've", or "I was into some shit at the time didn’t work out”). In the case of “A cop shot you?” I'd say that's fine in written/formal English. Missing subjects are pretty much limited to very short stock phrases. None of these features are important enough that anyone would notice if you just kept using the more formal versions.

    Whereas in French the differences between written/formal and everyday french are pretty much obligatory. When I arrived in France as an exchange student, I had to very quickly adapt to dropping my "ne"s, replacing "nous" with "on", and getting rid of inverted questions. Almost every sentence I spoke had to be altered from what I'd learned in school. Now, living in French Canada, it's been years since I used the more formal versions in speech.

  18. Mr Punch said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 6:11 pm

    President Obama is interesting in this regard. In 2008, my sense was that he could switch between formal/academic speech and urban vernacular, but seemed weak in the middle register. Since then, I believe he's moved towards mixing formal and informal speech on many occasions, such as press conferences,

  19. J. W. Brewer said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 6:26 pm

    It would probably be more efficient for myl to dig up the links, but there have been multiple prior LL discussions of "g-dropping" by US politicians, from which I vaguely recall being informed that there are very very few AmEng native speakers who never ever g-drop in any context/register. Perhaps Gov. Rauner is one (my mother might be one), but I wouldn't bet very much on it. How conscious or affected the decision to use a particular register on a particular political occasion might be presents a different issue, of course.

  20. Stephen Hart said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 6:52 pm

    Quoting dialog from Elmore Leonard novels as an example of "normal" English speech, or good English writing by a well-regarded author, seems like quoting dialog from Lolita's Mrs. Pratt for the same purpose.
    Nabokov was clearly making fun of Mrs. Pratt. Are you sure Leonard isn't doing the same thing?

    In any case, neither was carefully reporting how people actually speak.

  21. Levantine said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 8:43 pm

    Regarding the use of "of" for "have", I'm not convinced by the eye-dialect explanation: not only have I heard certain individuals (usually Brits) clearly say things like "could of" and "would of", but I've also seen such locutions written down by those who believe them to be standard.

  22. christoll said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 8:55 pm

    I agree with Alyssa. All the things Mark lists seem relatively tame and/or they have parallels in French, and French has other things as well that go far beyond any of this.

    – Missing subject pronouns: as Alyssa says, this is fairly limited in usage in English, and French has a much greater frequency of missing/implied object pronouns (e.g. "j'aime manger"; "il va pas supporter!") as well as such extreme contractions of subject pronouns that they are all but missing (" 's avez", "je ne sais pas" -> "ché pas")

    – "like" and "go" definitely reminds me of things like "quoi" in French, but I'm not knowledgeable enough of them to quote examples with certainty

    – The "had of" thing is very similar to the stigmatized French use of the conditional after si: "Si elle aurait su"

    – As Alyssa says, the non-inverted questions are perfectly acceptable in formal English (I would of thought). It's not even close to French "Pourquoi tu as fait ça?" which is utterly "wrong" in the standard/formal language, but near-universal in everyday French.

    – And as I said, French has all this and much more. Is there anything in formal written English that compares to the French simple past or imperfect subjunctive? There's also the sheer bulk of vocabulary that is largely restricted to one or the other of the French registers: I wonder if there's any other European language that has as much "slang" as French, i.e. words that are used all the time in everyday speech but which are virtually banned from formal writing.

  23. ryan said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 9:56 pm

    I'd've been with you on everything you wrote here, except that I believe "had of" is really "would have".

  24. Lazar said,

    February 20, 2015 @ 10:48 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: I agree with you about not caring for the written forms would've, could've, should've – because I think they're unnecessary. In my experience [ǝv] is already the most common pronunciation of have, but it's only after auxiliaries that people insist on spelling it as 've. For me, at least, the contrast between the spoken sequences "I have seen it all" and "I've seen it all" is that the former uses [ǝv] and the latter uses a non-syllabic [v], so why should I spell [wʊɾəv], which aligns with the first case, as if it aligned with the second?

  25. Bloix said,

    February 21, 2015 @ 1:15 am

    Children – and adults without much formal education – routinely write "might of," "would of," "could of," etc. You have to be taught to think of these as "might've," etc.

  26. Rubrick said,

    February 21, 2015 @ 1:26 am


    In light of comments such as christoll's, I think you've found your method of quantification: simply multiply the number of comments by how strongly each commenter believes themself correct.

  27. Rachael said,

    February 21, 2015 @ 1:33 am

    The people arguing about whether it's "of" or "have" are missing the point. Constructions like "If she had have missed her flight" are ungrammatical in standard written English, just as much as "If she had of".
    Personally, I'd never write "If I had have" (or "had of"), but I often catch myself saying it in speech.

  28. Eli Nelson said,

    February 21, 2015 @ 3:53 am

    @Rachael and others: More thoughts on "had of":
    It's interesting that it's in constructions like "If she had have missed her flight" where we see evidence for syntactic differences between auxiliary "have" and "of". Since I wouldn't use this sentence, I wondered why the contracted form "If she'd have missed her flight" sounds OK to me; I realized that's because I hear this as an contraction of "If she would have missed her flight". Same with "If I had of": I can imagine saying "if I'd of/if I'd've", but in this case it'd be a contraction for "If I would have". (I see Ryan, above, basically says the same thing.) I wonder if this ambiguity of the contracted form has contributed to the development of "had have".

  29. GH said,

    February 21, 2015 @ 6:31 am

    Where are these examples taken from, anyway? Are they transcriptions of speech, or samples of written texts? In the first case I would ask whether they are definitely transcribed correctly, or might be mishearings of "she'd have," etc. (Personally I would always transcribe it as "have" or "'ve" in this context, never "of.") In the second I would be inclined to see it as a misspelling, or perhaps a mistake when trying to expand something like spoken "she'd've" because they'd been instructed to avoid contractions.

    But I must admit that "had of" is one of those things that puts me into full prescriptivist, fall-of-civilization mode.

    [(myl) The "had of" examples are from transcriptions of recorded telephone conversations. The first one, for example, is a middle-aged college-educated female native speaker, recorded in 2003. I edited out the filled pauses and so on for clarity — here's the whole thing, with a bit more context:

    because otherwise you know if she had of missed her flight i'm pretty sure they wouldn't have paid for that or given her [laughter] another flight for free

    And a spectrogram of the relevant phrase:

    Phonetically, the "of" is just a neutral vowel.

    Here's another example, also from a middle-aged college-educated female:

    and if we had of paid to have it done they wouldn't of been as meticulous about everything as we are

    Again, the "of" in "had of" is just a neutral vowel. In the "wouldn't of" that follows, I would normally have normalized the spelling to "have", but phonetically it's clearly (what we normally write as) "of".

    The spelling isn't what matters here — the point is that there's a counter-factual auxiliary form "had of" (or "had've"or "had have" or "hadda" or …) which is common in speech but is not found in formal writing.]

  30. Rachael said,

    February 21, 2015 @ 7:53 am

    Eli : but "If she would have missed her flight" isn't grammatical either (at least in my dialect). It sounds to me like a non-native speaker who hasn't mastered idiomatic counterfactuals yet. "If she had missed her flight" would be more usual.

    [(myl) Counterfactual "had of" (however you spell it) is a common usage among educated native speakers of American English. See the examples in my response to the previous comment.

    Here's another one, also from a college-educated woman:

    as far as the we had real good teachers and i learned a lot i feel like that if i had of gone to a private school during junior high i probably wouldn't have developed such good study skills because um


  31. Izfal said,

    February 21, 2015 @ 10:22 am

    As "had have" is grammatically incorrect and "of" is just an odd spelling, we'd better think of "of" in "had of" as a relic of past participle prefix "ge-" in Old English or "y-" or "a-" in some modern English dialects. The above-mentioned sound examples also testify to the fact that the "of" pronunciations in "had of" and "would of" are clearly different, in which the former is schwa and the latter is [v]. So although synchronically it seems wrong, diachronically it does make sense, especially if we don't give prestige to the standard language.

  32. Rachael said,

    February 21, 2015 @ 10:30 am

    Myl : I know. I said in my previous comment that I use it myself in speech. It was "If she WOULD have" that I said was ungrammatical, contra Eli.

  33. Rodger C said,

    February 21, 2015 @ 12:00 pm

    @Rachael: "If she would have" shows a substitution of the conditional indicative for the counterfactual subjunctive. I hear it all the time.

  34. Dominik Lukes (@techczech) said,

    February 21, 2015 @ 7:50 pm

    The boundaries of what constitutes diglossia are not particularly clearly defined as such but I don't think any of these examples qualify. Any language will have a large number of constructions and lexis that will differ by register but that can hardly be considered a case of diglossia. The productive ability and passive access of speakers to all these codes will vary across geography, socioeconomic status and education.

    What you are looking for is "a very divergent, highly codified (often grammatically more complex) superposed variety". Here, Swiss German, Mandarin and Arabic are typical examples. But English (outside perhaps of India and other specific contexts) intuitively does not come up to this scale of difference – even with no clear measurement available.

    That is not to underestimate the difference between standard (written/spoken) and non-standard varieties of English (or many other languages). It is not completely outrageous to claim (as Jim Miller did) that many English children entering schools are in effect learning a foreign language – or at least go through similar issues. But calling this situation diglossia would be erase a fairly useful (if necessarily fuzzy) distinction.

  35. Bart said,

    February 22, 2015 @ 4:31 am

    I agree with Dominik Lukes. I wouldn’t call the topic discussed so far in this thread diglossia. For me, diglossia requires a couple of discrete languages that are mutually unintelligible, as in the examples he mentions.

    I don’t see that it need be an essential feature of diglossia that the two languages be strongly different varieties of the same language (and ‘same language’ is a tricky to define concept anyway). In parts of Indonesia, for example,many speakers habitually use according to social context either Indonesian, the national language, or the regional language, such as Javanese, Balinese etc. That is surely diglossia.

    [(myl) As Wikipedia explains,

    In linguistics, diglossia (/daɪˈɡlɒsiə/; Greek: διγλωσσία < δι- prefix denoting two, from δίς, twice + γλῶσσα, language + -ία, suffix denoting state or attribute, "speaking two languages") refers to a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety (labelled "L" or "low" variety), a second, highly codified variety (labelled "H" or "high") is used in certain situations such as literature, formal education, or other specific settings, but not used for ordinary conversation.

    This is clearly a matter of degree. The high and low varieties may be far enough apart that they are not mutually intelligible; but there are many steps between the case of spoken vs. written more-or-less-standard French or English, and (say) Kreyòl Ayisyen vs. standard French, or Tok Pisin vs. standard English, or Moroccan Colloquial Arabic vs. Al-fuṣḥā. One obviously intermediate case would be AAVE vs. standard English.

    In discussing the claim that spoken and written French are much further apart than analogous varieties of English or German, we're asking how far along each case is on a continuum of diglossia. I don't see the point in claiming that there's a bright line separating "true diglossia" from everything else. It's like saying that you can't talk about cold until you to get to the freezing point of water, and so it's wrong to ask whether Portland is colder than San Francisco today, because neither one is truly "cold".]

  36. Bart said,

    February 22, 2015 @ 11:46 am

    I find that Wikipedia definition far from ideal, but that need not affect what seems to me the important point relating to this thread, namely this:

    Phenomenon A exists where TWO different mutually unintelligible languages are SPOKEN in a community, the choice being made according to social context.

    Phenomenon B exists when ONE language differs in its SPOKEN and WRITTEN forms.

    These are two different phenomena. Phenomenon A is of course much less common than B. Since they are different things it seems advisable to avoid calling both by the same name. Personally I prefer to call Phenomenon A diglossia, and if I ever need to refer to Phenomenon B to find some other name for it.

  37. AB said,

    February 22, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

    I think a British politician who habitually said "If I had've…" or "If I would have…" could expect exactly the sort of reprimand from sniffy broadsheet columnists that Hollande received, explaining that this was Not English and demanding they say "If I had" or even "Had I" instead.

    I tend to think of counterfactual "had've" as being a class marker in British English. I can't imagine Stephen Fry or David Cameron saying it, even in casual conversation.

  38. Alan Palmer said,

    February 23, 2015 @ 6:28 am

    Columnists occasionally make accusations that a well-educated British politician has 'dumbed down' his or her usual accent (usually from RP to 'Mockney' or 'Estuary English') in an attempt to become more 'of the people'. The former PM Tony Blair was often mentioned in this way.

  39. Benjamin Massot said,

    February 23, 2015 @ 7:11 am

    As a matter of taste, I like to stick to the Fergusonian definition of Diglossia. It adds some criteria to the matter of distance/divergence between the H and L varieties, which give Diglossia its particular flavour as a sociolinguistic complex. Ferguson has repeated all this in 1991 («Epilogue: Diglossia revisited». In Southwest Journal of Linguistics 10.1).
    For instance, H and L have to be related to each other. Or the following 2 criteria, which I think help putting forward a contrast between English or German and French:
    1. The H variety is noone's mother tongue in the community. This is clearly false in Germany, and on the contrary could be claimed for France. I can't tell if all English speaking children have to learn so much to get a good command of standard English in the school, but that to me is clearly the case for French.
    2. The H variants sound misplaced when used outside of a formal situation.
    Again, I'm not sure if French fully fits the sociolinguistic situation discribed by the Fergusonian diglossia, but it strikes me that inversion, or the use of nous, and quite some other H variants (as cited in some of the comments) are virtually absent from informal speech, and that training is needed to master them and produce them spontaneously (like when improvising a formal speech). My impression is that many of the H variants in the English H/L pairs given in the examples don't sound that misplaced in ordinary conversation.

    On another note, to answer Mark's wishes at the end of his post, "Vernacular French Linguistics" has become a field of its own and these issues and others will surely be tackled in the next conference of the Association for French Language Studies in Caen (Normandy, France) in June: AFLS 2015. "La linguistique du français vernaculaire : analyses synchroniques, perspectives diachroniques et applications didactiques".

  40. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 23, 2015 @ 11:02 am

    As far as I can tell (with all the problems of the unreliability of introspection as to ones own usage) I don't use the "had of" construction at all in my idiolect. But I do think I use in speech the double-contraction 'd've in counterfactuals, as in "if I'd've/you'd've/he'd've/etc." My conscious mind believes that to represent "if I (etc.) would have," but working back from the contraction I guess "had" is, ex ante and w/o any presumptions about what would or would not be grammatical in context, as good a candidate to be represented by "'d" as "would" is. Could "had of" conceivably have arisen as an eggcorn backformation from 'd've?

    There's maybe a bit of confusion or goalpost-moving here in terms of talking about the contrast between formal writing and informal speech versus between writing and speech of equivalent levels of formality (thus trying to limit the number of variables). I think contraction use in English is a good example of the latter, as was suggested either upthread or in a prior post on a similar topic. Example from my own professional life: in written American litigation discourse (lawyer's briefs and judge's opinions) it remains quite common to eschew contractions, so it's typically "could not" and "that is" rather than "couldn't" and "that's." But in spoken litigation discourse, i.e. when the lawyers are arguing in court and responding to the judges' questions, such contractions are ubiquitously used by both lawyers and judges even if they are both working at the "formal" rather than "colloquial" end of the spectrum for how such oral interaction is conducted. The point is that in the give and take of in-court argument, neither the lawyer nor the judge is reading from a prepared script, and neither has the functional capacity (at least not without undue self-conscious effort that would not be cost-effective in context) to consistently eschew contractions in unscripted/improvised oral discourse even in the most formal register of that discourse of which they are capable. It sounds anecdotally like French has a larger of number of parallel phenomena, but I don't know French at all.

  41. Greg Morrow said,

    February 23, 2015 @ 5:39 pm

    To me, the "simple past" of written French establishes, just itself, greater distance between written and spoken French than anything I'm aware of in English. It's a full-blown tense that cannot be learned in the course of ordinary language acquisition, because no one speaks it. To have an English equivalent, we'd be doing something like using thou pronouns and -eth verb forms in the written language.

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