In some folk songs, such as Woody Guthrie's "Hard Traveling" and Townes Van Zandt's "Poncho and Lefty," the word "knowed" is used as the past tense of "know."

To what extent and in which dialects has "knowed" actually been used? I find it interesting because common irregulars tend to be well conserved over time (like go→went, is→was, etc), so I'm wondering under what conditions "knowed" would have, uh, arised.

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    I've seen this used for Appalachian and "hillbilly" dialects, but I don't know if it's real or fake.
    – Hot Licks
    May 17, 2022 at 22:12
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    Oh, arised good. Yes, I'd say rural, minimal education, nothing past the little red schoolhouse. May 17, 2022 at 22:37
  • It's the regular past tense of know, which is usually irregular. But these choices vary, like the past tense of dive, which is regular some places and irregular others. There isn't one single "dialect" where all the oddities one notices in others' speech come from. There are millions of idiolects, each unique, occasionally coalescing around social groups; but social groups are fickle and changeable. May 18, 2022 at 1:10
  • Sure, but the fact that the word is extremely uncommon (try googling for organic usage), combined with the fact that it seems to pop up in folk music and is uttered by the Sheriff in "No Country For Old Men" suggests that its usage is more common in rural American speech. I'm trying to characterize that more precisely—fickle and changeable though social groups may be. May 18, 2022 at 1:42
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    Some progress on this is possible by using ngram, which at least gives some clues. For example, google.co.uk/books/edition/Hearings/… suggests the usage may be found in Louisiana. But this would be a huge job and would still miss non-written usage, leaving the answer open to a lot of opinion unless someone here has done a substantial academic study on dialect distribution.
    – Anton
    May 28, 2022 at 6:57


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