as ADJ of a N as (fwd) (fwd) (fwd)

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Feb 19 19:52:56 UTC 2004

On Feb 19, 2004, at 6:12 AM, Lynne Murphy forwards:

> For anyone who might be interested, my colleague did a little googling
> on
> this topic.
> ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
> Date: Thursday, February 19, 2004 1:47 pm +0000
> From: Max Wheeler <M.W.Wheeler at>
> To: linguisticsdept at, linguisticspgr at
> Subject: Re: as ADJ of a N as (fwd) (fwd)
> The evidence appears to be that this is standard AmE. So I've
> learnt/learned something new that had escaped my notice...

[lots of hits on "Deg Adv of a"]

this shows that the construction with "of" is very common in american
english.  but that's already well known.  this sampling doesn't control
for source/context/etc. and doesn't compare the "of" construction to
the corresponding construction without "of", so it provides no way of
moving from "very widespread" to "standard".  it could be like
nominative coordinate objects ("between Kim and I") -- very widespread
but not standard -- or like stranded prepositions ("What were you
talking about?") -- very widespread and standard, even if objected to
in some advice manuals.

the question is: what is the practice of elite writers in current
formal written american english?  nominative coordinate objects don't
cut it, but stranded prepositions certainly do.  i'm pretty sure that
exceptional degree marking with "of" doesn't cut it, though to be sure
someone would have to do a study that controlled for the relevant
contextual factors.  i do know that i have *very* few examples from
formal writing by elite writers (except in quoted speech).

my experience is also that those who have only the "of"-less
construction tend to notice occurrences of the "of" construction, to
comment on them, and even to deride them, while those who are heavy
(perhaps exclusive) users of the "of" construction simply don't notice
instances of the "of"-less construction, and are often astonished to be
told that they don't talk/write quite like many other people and that
editors and teachers might even object to their usage.  this is a
common pattern for nonstandard vs. standard variants.

arnold (zwicky at

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