25

Is "ima" an informal spelling of "I must"?

MegaCharizardZord Replying to @nytimes about COVID-19 vaccine: i just hope when i take it don't die lol. i trust the government in Canada, but if I do get something ima sue the shit out of em lol.

Source: Twitter

2
81

Ima is an informal contraction of I'm going to when it's used in going-to future construction - not in sentences like I'm going to London etc. It's also written i'ma or imma in informal conversations.

How did I'm going to come to be pronounced/spelt that way?

In casual speech, we tend to drop consonants that require more effort to articulate, assimilate nearby consonants, drop weak vowels etc., for the ease of articulation. Grammatical words that don't have any meaning on their own (function words?) like have to, going to (not present continuous), has, is, was, will etc., are highly susceptible to these sound changes. For instance, have to is often pronounced hafta, trying to is pronounced tryna, want to is wanna etc etc. The same thing happened to the phrase I'm going to.


There are a few processes involved in the reduction of I'm going to to ima.

  • I'm going to → I'm gonna: the consonant t is often dropped in many other clusters and grammatical constructions as well (as in tryna, wanna etc). Here it's dropped and the vowel of to—which is usually a schwa [ə]—is linked with the preceding word; going to → gonna: [ˈɡəʊɪ̃ŋtə] → [ˈgə̃nə]

  • Deletion of the /g/: plosives (/g t d k/ etc) require great effort to articulate (the air is completely blocked and then released), so people dropped the plosive /g/ to make its articulation easier: [aɪ̃m gə̃nə] → [aɪ̃m ə̃nə] (i'm ana)

  • linking I'm and gonna: In causal and connected speech, consonants and vowels are often linked by a process called liaison, so both I'm and gonna join together and become [aɪ̃mə̃nə] (i'mana).

  • Syncope of the vowel in the second syllable: Unstressed schwas are often lost through syncope (for example, 'chocolate' is choc.late for most speakers). If we removed the schwa from the second syllable, we'd get [aɪmnə] (i'mna).

  • Deletion of /n/: It's simple cluster reduction. In English, two nasals that are next to each other are often reduced to a single nasal (as in damn), so the /n/ is deleted, yielding in this case [aɪ̃mə] (i'ma). Or people dropped the /n/ for the sake of ease.

Some people further reduce the diphthong [aɪ] it to something like [a], which results in [ãmə] (ama)

That's why people spell it that way. It's highly informal and as TypeIA pointed out in a comment, it's mostly a verbal thing and is not usually found in written form. It's commonly found in chatspeak or lolspeak. You shouldn't write it in any kind of writing...

1
2

Note that we observe two different evolution paths from (i'mana): in some places it went towards (i'mna), dropping the middle vowel, but other places dropped the final vowel instead, becoming (i'mawn) or more precisely (ah'mawn).

6
  • 3
    Welcome to StackExchange. Do you have any sources for this assertion? We usually require people to back their answers up with sources and citations. – nick012000 Dec 9 '20 at 14:57
  • 3
    @nick012000 Just to play devil's advocate here: do you have this same complaint of the currently-accepted answer, which also has no citations for its claimed etymology? – Daniel Wagner Dec 10 '20 at 20:11
  • 1
    Sources or not, this is still not an answer. It seems to be additional context on a different answer and should be converted to one. – pipe Dec 10 '20 at 23:13
  • 2
    @nick012000 I don't think the other answer needs more citations. I don't think this answer needs more citations, either. That's... kind of my whole point. It needs something, but links ain't it. I can't crystallize what I think it is that it needs, though, and I think you may be in the same boat; but if not, how about suggesting an edit that adds a link to wiktionary, sense 20, and calling it a day? (It will then have about twice as many citations per word as the answer you defend!) – Daniel Wagner Dec 11 '20 at 0:20
  • 2
    @DanielWagner - This answer was authored by a new contributor who may not know much about how SE prefers corroborative references in an answer. I think nick's comment was meant to be helpful. – J.R. Dec 11 '20 at 15:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.