Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
exist, each in its own right, may sometimes be tested by the method of elimination. If one or other of the factors is missing and we observe a slight diminution in the corresponding psychological reaction (hesitation in our case), we may conclude that the factor is in other uses genuinely positive. The second of our four factors applies only to the interrogative use of whom, the fourth factor applies with more force to the interrogative than to the relative. We can therefore understand why a sentence like Is he the man whom you referred to? though not as idiomatic as Is he the man (that) you referred to? (remember that it sins against counts one and three), is still not as difficult to reconcile with our innate feeling for English expression as Whom did you see? If we eliminate the fourth factor from the interrogative usage,17 say in Whom are you looking at? where the vowel following whom relieves this word of its phonetic weight, we can observe, if I am not mistaken, a lesser reluctance to use the whom. Who are you looking at? might even sound slightly offensive to ears that welcome Who did you see?
We may set up a scale of hesitation values somewhat after this fashion:
Value 1: factors 1, 3. The man whom I referred to.
Value 2: factors 1, 3, 4. The man whom they referred to.
Value 3: factors 1, 2, 3. Whom are you looking at?
Value 4: factors 1, 2, 3, 4. Whom did you see?
Note 17. Most sentences beginning with interrogative whom are likely to be followed by did or does, do. Yet not all. [back]