My son Chris (age 26) e-mailed me to ask which was correct: “younger than me” or “younger than I”. He had been watching “The Patriot” (the movie with Mel Gibson), and noted the use of “younger than I.” I assume that this would have been the standard in the late 1700s. When he and I saw the movie “Lincoln” last weekend, I noted that Daniel Day Lewis pronounced what and which, etc. as [hw]. I gather (from Wikipedia, etc.) that the more common pronunciation in both the U.S. and the U.K. is now [w], but couldn’t find anything about the time course of this merger. Is it known for sure that Lincoln said [hw]? Just curious….don’t know anything about how much effort film directors put into this kind of historical accuracy.
The discussion of than in MWDEU suggests that 18th-century usage of “than I” or “than me” would have been a coin flip. As far as I know, there’s been no empirical work on how that coin was biased over time (and space, and register, and social stratum) — this would be a good term project in a linguistics course, and maybe even a good thesis topic.
With respect to Lincoln’s use of [hw] or [w], there’s a survey of relevant evidence in Donca Minkova, “Philology, linguistics, and the history of [hw]~[w]”, and Lesley Milroy, “An essay in historical sociolinguistics?: On Donka Minkova’s ‘Philology, linguistics, and the history of [hw]~[w]'”, in Anne Curzan and Kimberly Emmons, Studies In The History Of the English Language II: Unfolding Conversations, 2004.”