because info

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 6 18:49:33 UTC 2014

On Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 11:55 AM, Neal Whitman wrote:
> Regarding my stance on the POS for "because", I didn't claim in the
> Grammar Girl piece that it was a preposition; she wrote the title
> herself, "'Because' as a preposition," presumably because she figured
> this would be a likely phrase for people to be searching for. My own
> opinion is based on reading the arguments in CGEL for its overall POS
> system: "Because" has always been a preposition, one that takes a
> clausal complement. This is how CGEL classifies just about all of what
> are traditionally called subordinating conjunctions, except for the
> complementizers "that", "if", and "whether". So when "because" takes an
> NP complement, it is indeed a preposition, but just one that now can
> take one more kind of complement (like a verb that can take a
> "that"-clause gaining the ability to take an NP or PP complement).
> However, I did not put this opinion in the GG piece; there, I stuck with
> calling it a subordinating conjunction, and calling "because of" a
> compound preposition, and staying theory-neutral by referring to the
> innovative construction as "because NOUN".

Sorry to misattribute the "preposition" label to Neal rather than to
GG -- I know how headlines can often be out of the writer's control.

> The new usage of "because" I would probably now call "because X," to
> recognize the non-NP complements that Gretchen McCullough and
[sic: it's McCulloch]
> Stan Carey note that it takes, and again refrain from calling it a preposition.

Some interesting discussion going on at Gretchen's blog, including
Neal's suggestion that we consider the complements of new "because" to
be "non-sentential standalone utterances." Gretchen had called them
"interjectional complements," but that might not quite capture it. (I
agree with her that regardless or part of speech, the complements seem
to have interjectional force in online contexts, and their use as
Tumblr tags / Twitter hashtags is evidence of that.)


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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