March 14, 2005


Ogged mentions the verb "Gaslighted" (see his blog for the meaning). Linguistics dabblers will immediately say, "Aha! Food for Pinker's argument that irregular verbs, when transformed into nouns and backformed into verbs, become regular!"* It's not "gaslit."

(Blar earlier found an apparent exception; more here.)

This reminds me of a case I've been meaning to try--with new Googlefight capability:

'Daydreamed' vs. 'daydreamt': 44,600:1380

'Dreamed' vs. 'dreamt': 2,940,000:851,000

Quite a falloff for 'daydreamt' as opposed to 'dreamt', but it's not completely unknown.

*Admit it, you linguistics dabblers. You immediately said exactly that.

Posted by Matt Weiner at March 14, 2005 02:52 PM

I suspect I would say "Googlefought", and not "Googlefighted".

Posted by: ben wolfson at March 15, 2005 12:53 PM

Early days, but "Googlefought" is winning AOTW.

--I'm only assuming that "daydreaming" is backformed from a noun, but it seems pretty clear that "googlefighting" is. So that's a good case.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at March 15, 2005 01:33 PM

i don't think there's anything special about this gaslighted thing-- just a case of overgeneralization/overregularization. you know, -ed forms the participle, so let's apply it everywhere. i wouldn't go so far as to say it has to do with changes in syntactic category, though there may be particular cases of regularization happening because of that. also, funny things happen when you deal with compounds-- irregular inflection doesn't like to go inside of them.

Posted by: corey at March 16, 2005 01:48 PM

Pinker makes a big deal out of this kind of case but if he's wrong I won't be hurt. He bugs me.

Actually if I remember him right what you say is compatible with what he says--his point is that new lexical items tend to get regularized. I think. Too lazy to click the link again.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at March 17, 2005 07:31 PM