"nt" vs. "ned"....What's your theory?

Say~my~name!?!   Monday, August 02, 2004, 23:52 GMT
What's the whole idealogic behind the suffix "-nt"? I use it all of the time, but there are certainly times where I think it sounds sort of "off-key" and should be replaced with "-ned".

One example is "Burn."

When you say "It's Burn__." Burnt to me usually sounds like the logical suffix.

But when you say "I'm Burnt," it sounds rather strange; almost as if you're referring to yourself as an object. Such as "Sunburn," I've always heard, and am well adapted to, the word "Sunburned," as opposed to "Sunburnt."

Some also seem to be less acceptable than others, such as "Spelt," which would always in English class be "Spelled." Yet, the word "Dreamt" has always been associated with the past-tense form of Dream; versus Dreamed.

This is from an American English point-of-view, from what I've researched the "-nt" suffix is the more accepted form in Britain.
The Cat's Paws   Tuesday, August 03, 2004, 01:11 GMT
There are no such words as ''creeped'', ''sleeped'' and ''keeped''. Only ''crept'', ''slept'' and ''kept'' will do.
CalifJim   Tuesday, August 03, 2004, 06:16 GMT
I don't know if this is the sort of theory you are looking for, but many linguists believe that the less used a form is, the more it becomes regularized. So theoretically, the regularization of "learned" and "spelled" indicates that these words are not used as much as "kept", "slept", and so on. There is also the opinion that change occurs less rapidly in 'conservative' languages. Since the irregulars are dropping out of British English less quickly than in American English, we should be able to conclude that English in Britain is more conservative than in the U.S.

This is a reversal of the situation centuries ago, when English in the U.S. was more conservative. I believe the survival of the final -en in "gotten" and "forgotten" in American English (but not in British) is given as evidence for the conservatism of American English at the time.

This is not the final word, however. I am not a historian of the English language. But you may want to research it further if it interests you.