Is (that) + S"

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Fri Jun 20 16:14:26 UTC 2003

In a message dated 6/20/03 6:56:22 AM, timryte at YAHOO.CA writes:

> I tend to dismiss both phenomena as mannerisms, but I am not a linguist.
Arnold Zwicky has convinced me in his earlier post that this is much more
than a "mannerism," though I guess that term is perhaps sufficiently broad that
it could include about anything that is variable and not particularly
correlatable with sociological variables. The thing about the "Is (that) ..."
phenomenon is that it seems to be relatively new and seems also to be a part of--the
consequences of--a larger grammatical change that affects many Americans (the
"is is" construction).

I said in my earlier post that my mortgage broker starts at least 20% of his
independent clauses with "Is (that)"; I just got off the phone with him and I
am inclined to raise the estimate. (Maybe this is his professional voice.) In
this particular conversation, there were only "Is that + S," no "Is + S"--but
as I mentioned before, I have also heard him delete the "that."

Arnold suggests that we not let the public know about this so that we will
not affect its course. It will clearly be difficult to keep
linguists--especially variationists--from writing and giving papers about this change in American
English. And, given how little what we say seems to affect the public
consciousness, I doubt that any harm will be done. After all, Southerners still use
multiple modals, and the new quotatives go on their merry way, as does, for that
matter, the "is is" phenomenon. Heck, I got a phone call yesterday from a rep
orter who wanted to do a story on this startling new phenomenon: the way that
"teenagers" stick the word "like" into sentences in weird places.

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