as ADJ of a N as

Lynne Murphy M.L.Murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK
Wed Feb 18 18:13:37 UTC 2004

Hello all,

I've been off the list for some time tentatively coming back to
find out whether there is such thing as a healthy work-ADS-L balance.  An
especially hearty 'hello' to those I used to regularly correspond with
through this medium.

Anyhow...a query.

A colleague here read an American student's phrasing "As old of a joke as
this is..." and queried whether the rest of us could say such a thing.
(Almost) needless to say, I could, but my British colleagues couldn't.

Some other examples via google:

It's as nice of a stock trailer as you will ever see.

As old of a game it is, it stays fresh...

Even if it did, its concentration would be much less than it is now, so it
pose as serious of a threat as it does to South Asian residents (this e.g.,
is actually Canadian).

The British can say "as old a joke as this", so it's the _of_ that's
particularly N American.  (I can say it either way, and suspect that other
Americans can too, but let me know if I've been Anglified.)

My 'theory' about it:
I'd guess that the 'of' could be considered something like an (would I be
inventing this concept?) 'epenthetic morpheme' that's inserted in order to
prevent a perceived ungrammatical string ('nice a stock trailer', 'old a
joke')  (Could we talk of morphotactic or grammotactic or syntactotactic
constraints here?).  I think one hears 'of' used in such a way in other
American constructions (and I remember in Texas feeling that some of my
students inserted 'of's into sentences willy-nilly--but part of that was
the perception that they'd use 'of' when they should have used a different
preposition). Unfortunately, I can't think of those other constructions...

So, my questions:

1.  Is it regional in N Amer?  Is it considered to be lower-register in any

2.  How would you parse the phrase---is it [[As Adj] [of NP}] or [As [Adj
[of NP]]?

3.  Would you agree with the 'epenthetic' of analysis?  Can you think of
other cases of epenthetic 'of'?

4.  Is there anything published on this construction?

Thanks in advance...

Dr M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics

Department of Linguistics and English Language
Arts B133
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QN
>>From UK:  (01273) 678844
Outside UK: +44-1273-678844

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