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  1. #1
    leiito is offline Newbie
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    Default "She don't speak English"

    Just noticed a debate on "ain't", which a lot of non-native speakers seem to be very keen on using, perhaps on account of it often being used by various cool characters (usually African American and/or criminal) on TV a lot.

    I agree of course that "ain't" should be avoided by non-native speakers. even if you use it in a common phrase like "it ain't over till it's over". It may be tempting to show off your familiarity with modern urban American slang, but it's just unnatural for a non-native to use "ain't" and makes it look like you have learned English in a ghetto.

    A seemingly similar situation occurs with using the 3rd person of singular as if it were the 1st person, namely expressions like "She don't know...". This "new 3rd person English", again, appears to be especially popular with the African Americans, but more often than not, rather than being a novel way of using English, it betrays lack of education and verbal skills in general.

    On the other hand, however, a language is a living phenomenon and one could make a case for "does/doesn't" in 3rd person singular being redundant since one is already expressing the "3rd personism" with the use of a name or personal pronoun.

    In other words, who knows, perhaps a hundred years from now "does" and "doesn't" will be relegated to the side tracks of linguistic evolutionary process and saying "He don't speak English" will be the norm.

    Same goes for the "s" in the 3rd person of present simple, as in, "he speaks English". This "s", as we all know, is a new form of old English "th" (as in "Methinks the lady doth protest too much"),which shows, by the way, that the 1st person also used to have an s (methinks), which later on was abandoned, obviously.

    What do you think? is grammar (and spelling btw, why not spell it "enuff" instead of "enough"?) something set in stone, never to be changed, or should we take a pragmatic approach and support such changes that take nothing away from a language but make it more user-friendly for the non-native speakers?

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: "She don't speak English"

    She don't is found in various regions and varieties of English- you'll here it used in some regions in the UK; it's fairly common in London, for instance. I don't honestly see why it should be associated with a lack of education- it is non-standard, but plenty of educated speakers use non-standard forms. Care should be taken with non-standard forms as non-native speakers who say she don't will simply be regarded as making a mistake and not as using a non-standard regional form. Maybe the -s ending will disappear in the future- it doesn't seem to serve any real purpose as the other forms get by without any ending, but equally it might continue. Language is shaped by the speakers, who are the real owners. It's down to them, though I wouldn't be surprised to see non-native speakers being among the most vociferous supporters of it.

    Grammar and spelling are definitely not set in stone- things change and the ease with which English can and does change is one of its strengths as a language for international communication.

  3. #3
    leiito is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: "She don't speak English"

    Tdol, I apologize for my ignorance, I had no idea "she don't" was so common, if non-standard, in the UK. My experience with native speakers is mostly from Canada and US and as far as as I could tell, using this particular non-standard form of English is rare among educated people of any race, though it might be getting fashionable with young people in big cities, they sometimes seem to try to sound almost black or it's just influence of the hip hop (sub)culture.

  4. #4
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: "She don't speak English"

    Quote Originally Posted by leiito View Post
    ...
    Same goes for the "s" in the 3rd person of present simple, as in, "he speaks English". This "s", as we all know, is a new form of old English "th" (as in "Methinks the lady doth protest too much"),which shows, by the way, that the 1st person also used to have an s (methinks), which later on was abandoned, obviously.

    ...
    'Methinks' is just an example of a word changing the way it's used. In current speech, we can say 'it occurs to me'. In the case of 'methinks', the thinks part is 3rd person. Similarly it was possible to say in Shakespeare's time (and he didn't, incidentally, use Old English) - where we would say 'I don't like it' -'It likes me not'. The grammar of verbs of thinking, liking ... and other words dealing with states of mind, just changed.

    A similar change happens across languages (both modern):

    No me gusta la cerveza. - Spanish: the 'like' verb is in the 3rd person
    No gosto da cerveja - Portuguese: the 'like' verb is in the 1st person



    b

  5. #5
    leiito is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: "She don't speak English"

    Thanks. Always good to learn something new.

  6. #6
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: "She don't speak English"

    Leiito,

    I have read that in the 19th century both in the United States and the United Kingdom,

    many educated people regularly said, "She don't." I was shocked -- shocked!!! -- to learn

    that our President Woodrow Wilson (1913 - 1921) reportedly would use such

    sentences in private. In public, he "cleaned up" his language and used the correct

    "doesn't." It is only my opinion that anyone today in the United States who regularly

    said "She don't" would never get elected to an important office. People who speak that

    way are considered uneducated and ignorant. It really grates on one's ears. That is

    just the brutal reality.

  7. #7
    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: "She don't speak English"

    Just as a small footnote to this very useful post - the "thinks" in "methinks" is not actually from the verb "think" as we know it. It is from an obsolete word meaning "seems", which became pronounced and spelt the same way as "think" before eventually falling out of the language.

    German until recently preserved the distinction (ich denke, mir dnkt), though the second of these is now obsolete as far as I know.

    With "like", on the other hand, we have indeed a grammatical reanalysis of the same verb over time, from "the picture likes me" to "I like the picture". And not just in English but in many languages.



    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    'Methinks' is just an example of a word changing the way it's used. In current speech, we can say 'it occurs to me'. In the case of 'methinks', the thinks part is 3rd person. Similarly it was possible to say in Shakespeare's time (and he didn't, incidentally, use Old English) - where we would say 'I don't like it' -'It likes me not'. The grammar of verbs of thinking, liking ... and other words dealing with states of mind, just changed.

    A similar change happens across languages (both modern):

    No me gusta la cerveza. - Spanish: the 'like' verb is in the 3rd person
    No gosto da cerveja - Portuguese: the 'like' verb is in the 1st person



    b

  8. #8
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: "She don't speak English"

    Quote Originally Posted by writeawriting View Post
    Hello Everyone,

    Well I think using slangs is okay both for native and non native English speakers when you're in an informal environment i.e. with family or friends. However, in official matters liking writing documents, reports, official emails and chats, slangs should not be allowed and the same form of Grammar be maintained which is prevalent now. Changing it would mean thousand different versions of English. There should be a standard, a benchmark to evaluate against.
    Does this standard or benchmark include such terms as 'slangs', 'non native', the capitalisation of 'grammar', the consideration of 'chats' as official communications, imprecise phrasing, and ungrammatical sentences such as your second one above?

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: "She don't speak English"

    Not any longer

  10. #10
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    mara_ce is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: "She don't speak English"

    Heres a video to illustrate the thread.
    YouTube - Shania Twain - That Don't Impress Me Much

    (What impresses/impress me much is that Shania rejected those good-looking guys! )

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