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AINíT

 

O.T. FORD

 

ĎAinítí is a contraction of Ďam notí. As such, it was originally completely grammatical when used with the first-person singular: ĎI am notí → ĎI ainítí. For the same reason, it was originally ungrammatical for any other person or number (for example, Ďyou ainítí, Ďit ainítí). In time, of course, it was adopted in some dialects for other persons and numbers, or even all persons and numbers. In those dialects, it has been and is grammatical.

At the same time, the standard dialects avoided this expansion of Ďainítí, and prescriptive grammarians rejected Ďainítí so fully that they pushed Ďainítí out of usage even for the first-person singular. ĎI ainítí is no longer used in standard English.

The formula pronoun + Ďbeí + Ďnotí can be contracted in two ways: the form of Ďbeí can be contracted with the pronoun, or it can be contracted with Ďnotí: Ďyou are notí → Ďyouíre notí or Ďyou arenítí. The second is no longer available in standard English for the first-person singular, but the first is (ĎIím notí), so the prescriptive Ďainítí-avoidance is not an issue in declarative sentences. In questions, though, the subject and verb are inverted, and the only available form of contraction is Ďbeí with Ďnotí: ĎIsnít it?í, ĎArenít you?í. Given the prevalence of contractions in normal speech, the non-existence of a contracted form of the inverted first-person singular (ĎAinít I?í) is rather unnatural. The result of extreme Ďainítí-avoidance has been to produce an alternative: ĎArenít I?í. No other use of Ďareí with ĎIí is grammatical in standard English (or any other dialect, for that matter). It seems clear that Ďarenít Ií exists entirely to avoid Ďainítí, and was developed by those who believed Ďainítí was so universally wrong that it would be better to use an otherwise-wrong form of Ďbeí.

 

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