11 August 2010

it's mean

In Brunei, people often say "it's mean" and "that's mean", instead of the standard "it means" and "that means".

I am not quite sure why the /s/ gets shifted from the end of the verb mean to the earlier word. I guess one contributory factor is that it's and that's are both common; but that still does not explain the reanalysis of "it means" and "that means". After all, putting the /s/ on the earlier word does not seem to make it any easier to say.

Or does it? Is the sequence /ts/ somehow easier than /ns/? Perhaps it is − I'll have to think about that.

One other issue we can consider: if the modified pronunciation becomes really common, perhaps it will become the norm. Then we can observe a change in process rather than something we might describe as an error. To become really established, we would have to find it occurring in other varieties of English. Does that happen? It would be really interesting to find out.