Contraction in English
Thread poster: xxxmediamatrix
xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 21:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 27, 2010

For no particular reason it occurred to me to wonder whether there are any rules, conventions or other factors (regional influence, for example, or country of origin, social class, etc.) that influence the way English speakers, whether native or not, use contraction in every-day language.

Let me illustrate my pondering with a question:

How would you contract "I would not have come to the party if I had not been invited"?

I wouldn't have come ... if I hadn't been... ?
I'd not have come ... if I'd not been ... ?
I'd not've come ... if I'd not been ... ?
I wouldn't have come .... if I'd not been ... ?
I'd not have come ... if I hadn't been ... ?

or, indeed, some other variant ...

Secondary question: As a listener, do you feel that there is any difference in perceived meaning between those variants of 'English as she is spoke'?

MediaMatrix


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:52
French to English
+ ...
UK speaker: 1st variant Jan 28, 2010

Very interesting question. As a UK speaker, I think I'd personally tend to say the first variant. But I think you would potentially hear people use any of the other variants you mention. My informal observation would be that overall, UK speakers don't tend to use the variant where "not" is emphasised. But it's definitely a possibility-- maybe it tends to be used when the speaker really wants to emphasise the notion of "not"...?

It seems the kind of thing that could well be subject to regional variation.

Have you searched some of the major English language/linguistics journals? It seems the kind of thing that somebody has probably investigated at some point or other.


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David Russi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:52
English to Spanish
+ ...
US: #1, maybe #4 Jan 28, 2010

#3 is just silly... who could possibly say "I'd not've"?

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Brian Young  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:52
Danish to English
Use #1 Jan 28, 2010

That is the only acceptable usage, at least in writing. #4 might be heard in casual speech, but not in writing. The others are not. "I'd" can actually be found in a dictionary, but its meaning is dependent upon the context, and it would be best to avoid it all together. It looks crude, and would not improve the flow of reading, which is one of the goals of using contractions. I think the perceived meaning would be the same for all of these variations.

[Edited at 2010-01-28 06:52 GMT]


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William [Bill] Gray  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 01:52
Member (2006)
English
+ ...
Oral forms.... Jan 28, 2010

David Russi wrote:

#3 is just silly... who could possibly say "I'd not've"?


Actually, anybody could. The contraction for "have" varies from speaker to speaker (as do many other contracted forms: "and" is a classic), but there are no hard and fast rules, only observations, since it is colloquial speaking we are referring to. The challenge is to present in regularly understood written form what has been produced in casually spoken oral form. Without reverting to the IPA phonemic script, writers may present in whatever manner they believe will convey what was said.

Here is a quotation taken from
http://pinkdormouse.org.uk/fiction/sned.htm

"Ready to do some work then?" He closed the outer door and his tone softened as he temporarily dropped out of role. "Looks like you could do wi’ some more sleep yet. Need you to give all the systems the once-over before I let the tech loose on the ship, otherwise I’d not’ve come back yet."


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:52
French to English
+ ...
Silly? Jan 28, 2010

David Russi wrote:

#3 is just silly... who could possibly say "I'd not've"?


In several northern varieties of UK English, this is perfectly normal (in speech, rather than in formal writing). Just because you haven't seen it, etc...


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 21:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Oh dear! Jan 28, 2010

David Russi wrote:

#3 is just silly... who could possibly say "I'd not've"?


That's exactly how I would most often express it myself.

Maybe something to do with my South-East England upbringing?

MediaMatrix


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 01:52
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Very complex patterns of dialects Jan 28, 2010

For me the ´not´ variants have a delightful Northumbrian burr or even a Scottish lilt, because I first discovered them when my family moved to Northumberland.

Whereas the ´I wouldn´t ...´ etc. sound more southern to me.

My parents came from north London and Bristol, met in Oxford, and brought us up in India, Hertfordshire (at boarding school, with little contact with the local accent) - and north Northumberland.
I went to college in Newcastle and Leeds, and am now an ex-pat again, so I have my own personal idiolect.

I try to read omnivorously: fiction, current affairs, technical literature... and mercifully English speakers on TV are subtitled in Denmark, not dubbed, so I can listen to what they actually say. But the picture is admittedly too mixed to see a clear pattern that way. I avoid writing contractions for that reason!



[Edited at 2010-01-28 11:23 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Interesting question, Mediamatrix Jan 28, 2010

mediamatrix wrote:
I wouldn't have come ... if I hadn't been... ?
I'd not have come ... if I'd not been ... ?
I'd not've come ... if I'd not been ... ?
I wouldn't have come .... if I'd not been ... ?
I'd not have come ... if I hadn't been ... ?


#1 is certainly the most common, but that doesn't mean the others are incorrect. It's certainly the most natural one for me.
#2 is a perfectly repectable alternative - it's in most EFL grammar books, but noted as being less common. Of course, at normal speaking speed, #2 quickly becomes #3.
#3 causes me to read the sentence with a (not very good) Yorkshire accent. I heard "I'd not've done" very recently on the phone, spoken by a Yorkshireman.
#4 and 5, being a mix of the two types of contraction, sound a little muddled. As an EFL teacher, I'd correct them for the sake of consistency.

Secondary question: As a listener, do you feel that there is any difference in perceived meaning between those variants of 'English as she is spoke'?


As Neil Coffey has already remarked, #2 is sometimes used to give emphasis to the negation. When you're indignant, it's more satisfying to look the other person in the face and say "I'd not have come!".

Aside from that, I'd simply accept that they are speaking a regional variant (or learnt English from a native speaker of one), or simply a less common possibility (along the lines of the pronunciation of "either").

I have to say that many beginners of EFL prefer "he's not", "we're not" etc to the more common "he isn't", "we aren't". They reckon it's more regular, more logical, especially as we say "I'm not". Perhaps we'll all change in the years to come.

One last comment: native speakers are often quite unaware of what exactly they're saying. I was in my 40s when my first-ever EFL class looked at me in amazement and said "You said "ofTen"!" (with the "T" pronounced). It was the first time I ever realised I use both pronunciations - with absolutely no change of meaning whatsoever.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:52
French to English
wouldn't've Jan 28, 2010

My natural response before reading the options was "I wouldn't've come... if I hadn't been.

In fact, in really casual speech (I'm common as muck, me ), I would probably contract even more and make the tenses the same, giving "I wouldn'a (=would not have) come if I hadn'a (had not have) been invited," with the missing 't' becoming a glottal stop of sorts. I daresay there would probably be only the vestiges of the 'h' in "hadn'a", as well, with ellision (I think that's the word) with the "I", making it akin to "I wouldn'a come if I yadn'a bin invited". Oh the shame!

(And as already said by others, #3 is a definite possibility, I have certainly heard it before.)


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British Diana
Germany
Local time: 01:52
German to English
+ ...
what is "correct"- read the article by Michael swan! Jan 28, 2010

Charlie is on the right lines here. In ordinary speech by not academically-educated people (and translators are part of a tiny minority because they ARE educated) there is often little adherence to the rules of grammar that NNS spend so long learning.

The example sentence is of what in German schools is taught as the third conditional pattern (first: realistic, second: hypothetically possible, third: hypothetical but can no longer be fulfilled) and it should be of the "if-clause- past perfect; main clause-would+have+past participle" pattern.

Hoewever, many NS do not even attempt to use this pattern, not to speak of shortening it, they never bother with the past perfect! It is just one example of the phenomenon known as reduction in complexity which makes for lasting changes in a language.

See this link:

http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?p=2839243#post2839243


Another very useful antidote to thinking too narrowly in terms of "correctness" is the following seminal article by Michael Swan, the author of "Practical English Usage"

http://209.85.129.132/search?q=cache:RzEMXF2MsYIJ:www.teachingenglish.org.uk/try/uk-publishers/oup/what-happening-english%20"What%20is%20happening%20in%20English"+Michael%20Swan&cd=1&hl=de&ct=clnk


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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:52
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Contractions Feb 7, 2010

In general, TTBOMK (to the best of my knowledge) contractions are used in informal and spoken English, full forms in formal or written English.

So a lawyer would write to his client: "I have not taken up the case because I think you will not win." But the lawyer could say to his wife, on arriving home, "I haven't taken up the case because I think the client won't win."

Regarding the phrase, I would normally use (in speech) "I wouldn't have come (...) if I hadn't been invited" (in a formal letter) "I would not have come (...) if I had not been invited".

The other two are possible in spoken English, depending on what you want to stress:

"I would NOT have come (...) if I hadn't been invited" means the speaker wishes to stress, for example, that he (or she) probably came but only because he was invited, and that he (or she) probably does not agree with gatecrashing under any circumstances.

"I wouldn't have come (...) if I had NOT been invited" means that he was invited and wants to meditate what would have happened otherwise.

I hope this sheds some light on an extremely complex issue.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
All native speakers use contractions in speech Feb 7, 2010

British Diana wrote:

Charlie is on the right lines here. In ordinary speech by not academically-educated people (and translators are part of a tiny minority because they ARE educated) there is often little adherence to the rules of grammar that NNS spend so long learning.


I don't believe there is a massive difference between the speech of those you term "not academically-educated [English-speaking] people" and those of us who happen to have become translators. Certainly, many non-academics and some academics are unable to construct logical written texts, but in spoken English we all (school dropouts and doctorate-holders alike) use contractions, and contractions are a valid part of those "rules of grammar" you refer to (or I could say "to which you refer" if you prefer).

To quote Michael Swan in Practical English Usage (a handbook of current English for non-native learners and their teachers): "Contractions are common and correct in informal writing: they represent the pronunciation of informal speech." ... "Some negative expressions can have two possible contractions. For she had not we can say she'd not or she hadn't ... forms with n't (e.g. she hadn't) are more common in most cases in standard southern British English and in American English. (Forms with not - e.g. she'd not - tend to be more common in northern and Scottish English.)"

It would take a braver (and far more stupid) person than me to suggest that all Londoners and Americans are educated and all Mancunians and Glaswegians are not!


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