Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
at all. On the other hand, the order in Whom did you see? is imperative because of its interrogative form; the interrogative pronoun or adverb normally comes first in the sentence (What are you doing? When did he go? Where are you from?). In the whom of Whom did you see? there is concealed, therefore, a conflict between the order proper to a sentence containing an inflected objective and the order natural to a sentence with an interrogative pronoun or adverb. The solution Did you see whom? or You saw whom?14 is too contrary to the idiomatic drift of our language to receive acceptance. The more radical solution Who did you see? is the one the language is gradually making for.
These three conflictson the score of form grouping, of rhetorical emphasis, and of orderare supplemented by a fourth difficulty. The emphatic whom, with its heavy build (half-long vowel followed by labial consonant), should contrast with a lightly tripping syllable immediately following. In whom did, however, we have an involuntary retardation that makes the locution sound clumsy. This clumsiness is a phonetic verdict, quite apart from the dissatisfaction due to the grammatical factors which we have analyzed. The same prosodic objection does not apply to such parallel locutions as what did and when did. The vowels of what and when are shorter and their final consonants melt easily into the following d, which is pronounced in the same tongue position as t and n. Our instinct for appropriate rhythms makes it as difficult for us to feel content with whom did as for a poet to use words like dreamed and
Note 14. Aside from certain idiomatic usages, as when You saw whom? is equivalent to You saw so and so and that so and so is who? In such sentences whom is pronounced high and lingeringly to emphasize the fact that the person just referred to by the listener is not known or recognized. [back]