Since + [time period]

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Mon Apr 17 19:37:35 UTC 2000

At 03:02 PM 4/17/00 -0400, you wrote:
>Tom Kysilko <pds at VISI.COM> writes:
> >>>>>
>      [...]          "The two
>governments have been working on a joint proposal since three weeks."
>Am I right in thinking that one would rarely, if ever, hear this from an
>American?  My sense is that the object of prepositional "since" is a more
>or less specific date, time, or event; not a time period, especially not an
>enumerated time period.
>since this morning
>since Easter
>since he was elected
>since three weeks after he was elected
>since three weeks ago  (?)
>Indeed, is this locution even common in contemporary British English?  [It
>makes me think of those Jane Austen emulators, who lard their prose with
>"these three weeks".  Yes, they occur in the Austen corpus, but not very
>Sounds like an L2 calque to me. "il y a trois semaines". Yiddish, too, maybe?
>Then, o'course, the question is how it got into the mouth of a BBC newsreader.
>    Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist and Manager of Acoustic Data
>          Mark_Mandel at : Dragon Systems, Inc.
>  320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA :
>                      (speaking for myself)

"Since three weeks" is indeed very common in L2 English, and from many L1
backgrounds, and it's very hard to eradicate.  'Since, for, and ago' are
very confusing for learners, in part because they're often taught together
(not a good strategy), and in part because of possible combinations such as
"since three weeks ago" (=from a past time up to now).  Might the
broadcaster have been a nonnative speaker?  Having a (near)-RP accent may
have qualified him/her for a BBC job, despite a nonnative background--not
uncommon in the post-colonial world.

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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