espowssse or espowze?

Tuesday I heard someone on the radio, a person of some education and used to public speaking, pronounce ‘espouse’ the verb like the word “spouse”, i.e. with a voiceless s sound instead of a z sound. I don’t think this was a mistake; I’ve heard people more and more pronounce “houses” as “howssess” rather than “howzez”. To me, this indicates that we are beginning to loose an ancient morphophonemic trait of Engish that gives us knife~knives, wife~wives, i.e. sg. to pl. forms and ………. I can’t think of any verbs right now. Maybe you can send some into the comments section.
Similarly, we see the so-called attraction phenomenon, common to a lot of languages, where the verb takes its ending from the last item in a clause rather than the subject, e.g. the maintenance of so many heretofore unmentionable traits are something we need to discuss, where the subject is “maintenance” calling for a verb form “is” but “are” occurs referencing the last noun in the clause, “traits”. This may or may not be a weakening of the binding of verbs to subjects; I don’t know enough about it, but I see these kind of “mistakes” as evidence of the continual breakdown of the old inflectional system of English. It’s taken 1500 years to get to this point, so I don’t think people should rush to scrap subject/verb agreement marking on students’ essays just yet, but keep observing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *