Positive anymore

Take a look at this sentence, from one of our interviewees in Merced:

"I think that's probably a common greeting anymore."

If this sounds completely natural to you're already familiar with what linguists call "positive anymore." And if this sounds like something you wouldn't say and have never heard before, you might now start to hear it pop up more often than you ever realized!

Let's look at some examples of the most common uses of the word anymore:

"I don't have a T.V. anymore."
"I never see childhood friends anymore."

You might have noticed that both of these sentences are talking about something that is not the case. In most dialects of English, anymore can only show up in negative sentences, like those above, meaning "nowadays." So the first sentence could be rephrased "I had a T.V. before, but nowadays I don't," and the second could be rephrased "I used to see childhood friends, but nowadays I don't."

Some speakers of English can also use anymore in sentences that are do not contain any negative word like not or never. For example, they could say:

"My kids live far away anymore."

or even
"Anymore my kids live far away."

meaning something like "before, my kids lived nearby, but nowadays they live far away."

In these sentences, anymore has the same "nowadays" meaning that it did in the negative sentences you saw before. The difference is simply that anymore is used in a positive sentence to have this meaning (positive).

Linguists have studied "positive anymore" and found that it occurs predominantly in parts of the midwest and the east. Check out the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project for more information and a map of sitings. No doubt migration from that region accounts for its current presence in California. We've found it in both Merced and Redding. As soon as we analyze our Bakersfield data, we'll let you know if it's common there as well.

Was/Were Leveling

Take a look at the following sentences, from one of our interviewees from Redding.

"But there was no cliques in my class."

You've probably heard sentences like this before, using was in this way. These are examples of what linguists call "was leveling."

If you notice, the verb to be in English is a little wonky. (In fact, it is in many languages). There seems to be no rhyme or reason why you should use was with I, he/she/it, but were with you (singular and plural), we, and they. In other words, this is an irregular - a very irregular - verb. It makes sense that people would regularize it, by using was or were across the board:

I was, you was, we was, he was, they was
I were, you were, we were, he were, they were

While the first pattern is common in many dialects of English, both in the United States and elsewhere, the second pattern, which we refer to as "were leveling," is common in parts of Great Britain.

Which sentence the speaker uses at any given moment can depend on a lot of different factors, like who they are talking to, how fast they are speaking, and what they are talking about. Also, many people are more likely to use it in certain types of sentences than in others. For example, in a lot of dialects, was leveling is more commonly used with a sentence that has a there subject. So a sentence like:

"There was fifty people at the concert last night."
is more common than
"They was at the concert last night."

In some dialects, people use was in positive sentences, and were in negative sentences:

"We weren't hanging out with that person."
"We was hanging out with that person."

This kind of regularization of the grammar happens a lot in language, and can lead over time to permanent change. In a hundred years, maybe was leveling will take over, and become a feature of Standard American English. Maybe it will be taught in school, and people who insist on saying "we were" instead of "we was" will be heard as hopelessly old-fashioned.