Native Americas: Akwe:kon's Journal of Indigenous Issues is a current-events magazine about issues affecting the Native American community. The Fall 1997 issue included an article about the effort to preserve the use of the native languages among some of the small, nearly-vanished indigenous tribes of California. Here are several odd lines from that article: (1) "... at Yuwlumni-sponsored language immersion camps, everyone quickly learns if they want to take a break, its best not to sit by Agnes at meals. She wo not lapse into English, to make things easier, ever." (2)"...next year at this time, they all theoretically be doing much better." (3)"Leanne and Carol can not speak Yowlumni, so after Matt's done, Agnes translates a bit of what he is said about the picture..." (4)"But it is also been much worse here."
The obvious interpretation is that the article's author was victimized by a faulty spell-check program which split up contractions into their component words. But the program puzzles me. Why would the programmer not set the program to split "won't" into "will not", rather than "wo not"? Presumably, anything ending in "n't" is to be split into the first word, followed by "not". But why would they program a similar rule to make "'ll" into "all"? (in #2) I'm not aware of a single possible English contraction in which "'ll" represents "all" instead of "will". (Although "y'all" comes close.) Obviously, the program has been set to interpret "'s" as always representing "is" instead of "has". But there is one interesting exception; the program has been told to interpret "'s", after a proper noun, as indicating a possessive, which should not be split into 2 words. Thus, in #3, the program did not make "Matt's" into "Matt is", even though that's what it stands for. The lesson here, of course, is to be wary of software which takes it upon itself to alter your writing. 9-21-01