Contraction in comparatives

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Jun 19 21:42:03 UTC 2006

On Jun 19, 2006, at 6:34 AM, Ed Keer wrote:

> I find the following pretty bad.
> 1. This pistol is as long as I'm tall.
> Especially compared to the non-contracted version.
> 2. This pistol is as long as I am tall.
> I'm not sure of my judgement in this case, so I'd love
> to hear opinions.

Wilson Gray reported similar judgments, and i'm with the two of you.
Geoff Pullum and i have something of an account of this: Auxiliary
Reduction is not possible in positions where the auxiliary must bear
some accent, as it must for me (and presumably Ed and Wilson) in 2.

> Also, are there dialects where (1)
> is acceptable (if it's not good for others)?

Jon Lighter reports that it is.  i'd predict that this sort of
comparative construction doesn't require a (weak) accent on the
auxiliary for him; he should be able to pronounce 2 with a schwa (as
well as with an ash).

> I'm trying to figure out why this sentence:
> 3. I'm gonna buy me a pistol just as long as I'm tall.
> from the Everly Brother's version of 'T for Texas'
> bothers me. I think it's the contraction, but I'm not
> sure.

certainly it's the contraction for me.

in a different ellipsis construction, pretty much everybody requires
some accent on the auxiliary, and the AuxRed version is terrible:

4.  I'm going to buy me a pistol just as long as I am.
5. *I'm going to buy me a pistol just as long as I'm.

The American Dialect Society -

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