August 05, 2005

Finna and tryna

The future certainly isn't what it used to be. That's true in general, but I'm talking about English verbal morphology here. In response to my post on future on, Darryl McAdams emailed to point out that there's been a development of fixing to into finna, parallel to the development of going to into gonna (and want to into wanna). He observes that {"I'm finna"} has some 5530 ghits, and turns up examples like this Kanye West lyric:

I wanna tell the whole world about a friend of mine
This little light of mine and I'm finna let it shine
I'm finna take yall back to them better times
I'm finna talk about my mama if yall don't mind

For an example with with a subject that's not a pronoun, and with the copula deleted, there's this from Missy Elliott:

Missy finna spit this simply raw
Misdemeanor always make MC's feel small
Stick you on the table with a plastic cup
Say grace, then eat ya ass up

Darryl adds that "[a]A friend learned it in middle school (Apollo, in Hollywood, FL)".

This one was completely new to me, since fixing to isn't part of my dialect. However, I do use a contracted form of trying to that might be put into IPA as [ˈtɹɐj.nə], and seems to be represented in conventional English orthography as "tryna". This one comes up in recent song lyrics too:

You tryna wear my shoes
You tryna wear my clothes
You tryna be like me,
I'm tryna be like you bro,
What I'm really tryna say
You got to keep it all real

but I can testify that it's been a normal part of American English pronunciation for a long time, even though I don't recall ever having seen it written before I (just now) looked for it on line. I wonder why "gonna" and "wanna" have been standard non-standard orthography for so long, while "tryna" has lagged? Is it because the contraction is newer -- you couldn't prove that by me, I've used all of them from the cradle -- or because "tryna" is just orthographically weirder?

Posted by Mark Liberman at August 5, 2005 09:47 AM