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  • Well, he couldn’t say how it was; he didn’t know as anybody could say how it was; all he know’d was, that so it was.

(Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, Chapter 12)

Lexico lists three parts of speech that 'as' appears as:

as

  • [adverb]

    used in comparisons to refer to the extent or degree of something.

    go as fast as you can

  • [conjunction]

    1. used to indicate that something happens during the time when something else is taking place.

      Frank watched him as he ambled through the crowd ...

    2. used to indicate by comparison the way that something happens or is done.

      they can do as they wish ...

  • [preposition]

    1. used to refer to the function or character that someone or something has.

      it came as a shock

    2. during the time of being (the thing specified).

      he had often been ill as a child

But none of these seems to correspond to how Dickens uses the word here. It seems to be a similar usage to 'that' or 'whether', used as what a comment has described as a complementiser:

  • ' ... he didn’t know as anybody could say how it was ...'
  • ' ... he didn’t know that anybody could say how it was ...'
  • ' ... he didn’t know whether/if anybody could say how it was ...'

Could anyone explain/confirm the usage of "as" in the above sentence?

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    Anjan, please take note of how well-written questions are structured. Also, you must do research in more than one dictonary and show that research and what you do or do not understand in the question. Once you have edited in your research, the question might be re-opened.
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 4 at 13:23
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    @AndrewLeach - I don't know how the OP is supposed to find out from a dictionary that as in this context means that. You need to have read a lot of representations of uneducated speech in Victorian novels to be familiar with the usage. Apr 4 at 14:47
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    While I'd be among the last to say that the CV reason shouldn't have been applied here, I have to add that I consider the string 'know as' / 'know as how' in this usage (cf 'Do you know [as to] who') idiosyncratic, and that I've not come across it in the usual online dictionaries. Apr 4 at 14:56
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    @DJClayworth At least one dictionary would help. It is in OED, and may be in others. And we do close questions where there is absolutely no evidence of research, but simply a question thrown together and then lobbed in our direction.
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 4 at 16:10
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    OED isn't free, and I don't think we expect people to have subscriptions to dictionaries. Apr 4 at 17:30

1 Answer 1

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This is dialect. Dickens is capturing the lower-class dialect speech, as indicated by the ungrammatical "know’d" (which would be "knew" in normal grammar).

To "know as" something means to "know that" something, or "know if" something, or similar.

I don't know as she's milked the cows.

I know as he went there yesterday

I know as the world be round.

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    It's not in most dictionaries but it's in the OED: " VII. Introducing a noun clause. 26. Introducing a noun clause, after say, know, think, etc.; = that conj. 1a. Also in as that, as how. Now English regional (southern) and U.S. regional."
    – Stuart F
    Apr 5 at 14:10

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