>"Aren't" as a contraction for "am not" is what I have said all my >life, as a native speaker of the American version of English. >"Amn't" is what I guess I would logically say if "aren't" didn't >exist, and it is in fact what a Russian friend of mine says all >the time. To her, "aren't" for "am not" sounds strange, since it >is actually incorrect but she is perfectly comfortable with "amn't." >She doesn't like "am I not" because she thinks it sounds too formal. That's interesting. Many Americans (myself included) learned to use "aren't I?" in tag questions for the first person; but you're the first I've ever heard who confessed to using it wherever "*amn't" might have gone. As in, for instance, "I aren't going"? I don't think I've ever heard that; people will simply use the alternative contraction of "I'm not" to avoid that. I don't believe, in fact, I've *ever* heard "aren't" used with the first person outside of a tag question. So it's partly a syntactic matter why this particular contraction gets used -- in a tag question you can't use the alternative contraction because the order of the pieces is changed from pronoun + be + not to be + pronoun + not. And you pretty much have to contract in a tag question, because the full forms (", is he not?", ", am I not?", etc) are very highly marked for formality. As many before you have pointed out, they make us feel uncomfortable. So we attempt whatever strikes us as the best compromise, and "aren't" seems to work. But, like using "wake" in the present perfect, the best solution isn't always good enough for some speakers, and they simply learn to avoid the construction. Luckily, it's a fairly rare occasion when one has to ask a question in the first person. --- Followup: >>Please tell me more about using "wake" in the present >>perfect. I have always felt so uncomfortable about this >>that I use circumlocutions to avoid using it. > >All of these make sense to me: > >"I woke/woke up/awoke at 7:00 AM." >"I should be wakened/awakened . . ." >"I wake up/awaken around ..." >"I was wakened/awoken ..." >"I woke/awoke ..." >"Hush! You'll wake the baby!" >"When do you normally wake/awaken?" >"The noise does/did/will > wake me/awaken me/wake me up." > >"I/he waked up at 7:00 AM" gives me the willies. Me too. I mentioned "wake in the present perfect" because it's my best example of an English "defective" verb; i.e, one that lacks a principal part, in this case the past participle, the one that's used in the present perfect construction. That's formed, as you know, by using a form of "be" followed by the past participle of the next verb in the phrase. The problem is that "wake" just doesn't *have* a past participle. People get around the problem in a number of ways. You can always avoid the present perfect with a little care in rephrasing, or you can use one of the other verbs that are formed with available derivational scraps: wake woke * waken wakened wakened awake awoke * awaken awakened awakened The -en suffix is a relatively non-productive causative affix; white/whiten, dark/darken, red/redden, stiff/stiffen, live/liven, (but: blue/*bluen, orange/*orangen, tall/*tallen, big/*biggen), etc. Since "wake" is inchoative (i.e, it refers to changing from one state to another), its causative means to cause someone to wake, which can be oneself, so there's an inchoative sense available, too, and that means "waken" can be used as a synonym for "wake". And, causative verbs with -en are regular, so there's a guaranteed past participle. The a- prefix is an adjective-forming derivational morpheme that goes on a lot of interesting words. It's not very productive, either, so the words are often archaic. Exx: agley, abaft, atop, anew, etc. There may be several sources for it; I haven't looked up the etymology for "awake(n)". Anyway, "awake" *is* an adjective, and names the state begun by the inchoative "wake(n)". And there's the other end of the chain -- you frequently get word sets in English like causative: open/close inchoative: open/close stative: open/closed where the same form is used in all three, or sometimes only two, of the different senses. The upshot (that's another interesting word, isn't it? Is it an old metaphor?) is that people vary quite a lot in how they interpret the meanings of these four verbs, two regular and two irregular. One principle that's commonly used is to assume that if there are two different words there must be two different meanings, and make up (or discover) a distinction for them to express. In this case, that's somewhat balanced by the need to find a perfectible participle. Other English defective verbs include 'beware' (usable in the imperative only), 'blowdry' (try forming the past tense and you'll see what I mean), 'born' (technically, a "deponent" verb, with only passive forms), and the modal auxiliaries, but they're so irregular anyway that's hardly surprising. Latin had lots more. Anyway, you're in the same boat as the rest of us. Funny we can't just declare it a regular verb, but there it is. Even The Academy can't make it sound right if it sounds wrong. -------------------------------------------- -John Lawler More grammar Linguistics Program University of Michigan "..and, who knows? Maybe the horse will sing."