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How snuck sneaked into English and drug is still dragging behind: A corpus study on the usage of new past tense forms for sneak and drag in British and American English: Tracking diachronic changes in usage across different varieties of English

  • Camilla Søballe Horslund


Language observers may have noticed the existence of two past tense forms for the verb to sneak in American English, sneaked and snuck. Interestingly, both forms have not always coexisted; the original form is sneaked, and snuck has only recently become a real competitor for sneaked (Hogg, 1988: 31–32). The verb to drag seems to be somewhat in the same situation with the original past tense form dragged as well as the new form drug (Bybee & Moder, 1983: 252). However, drug is much less frequent than snuck. Murray's (1998) study on the attitudes towards snuck and drug suggests some difference in the usage of these forms across registers.


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Bernstein, C. 1994. ‘Drug usage among high-school students in Silsbee, Texas: a study of the preterite.’ In Little, G. D. & Montgomery, M. (eds.), Centennial Usage Studies. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, pp. 144154.
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Creswell, T. J. 1994. ‘Dictionary recognition of developing forms: the case of snuck.’ In Little, G. D. & Montgomery, M. (eds.), Centennial Usage Studies. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, pp. 144154.
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Hogg, R. M. 1988. ‘Snuck: the development of irregular preterite forms.’ In Nixon, G. (ed.) An Historic Tongue: Studies in English Linguistics in Memory of Barbara Strang. London: Routledge, pp. 3140.
Murray, T. E. 1998. ‘More on drug/dragged and snuck/sneaked: evidence from the American Midwest.’ Journal of English Linguistics, 26, 209220.
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English Today
  • ISSN: 0266-0784
  • EISSN: 1474-0567
  • URL: /core/journals/english-today
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