On Being Further Tempted From Go to Went
University of Southern California, Los Angeles
In Comrie (1978), the g - w alternation in word-initial position was effectively considered only for go - went, since no underlying initial /gw/’s were posited for other lexical items (other than transparent recent loans where phonetic [gw] remains, e.g. Gwen, guano). However, there are several other instances of initial g - w alternation, e.g. guard - ward, guarantee - warranty, war - guerrilla; in addition, there are other velar-labial alternations, e.g. cow - bovine, come - anabasis, although I shall not here be concerned with these—they serve only to show how general the phenomenon is. This calls into question the phonetic environment posited for gw Development in Comrie (1978:60) (giving [g] before a rounded vowel [w] elsewhere), and indeed the possibility of giving a phonetic environment, but does indicate that the analysis is not an ad hoc response to the go - went alternation.
In many regional varieties of English, for instance in the area around Sunderland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the citation form for go is gan, so that for such dialects one has an alternation gan - went. Speakers of such dialects have no feeling that gan - went is more or less suppletive than standard go - went (with which they are also familiar). Yet in these dialects the derivation of gan and went is much simpler than for standard go - went: while the standard language requires four rules for go and seven for went (Comrie 1978:62), such dialects require only one rule for gan and three rules for went, as can be seen in the derivations in (1):
Comrie, Bernard. 1978. On the go - went alternation: a contribution (?) to the Generative Phonology of English. In T. Ernst & E. Smith (eds.), Lingua Pranca. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Linguistics Club, pp. 59-63.