[Ads-l] intrusive "of" intrudes further

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 12 14:35:46 UTC 2015

FWIW, the CNN transcript has:

"You know, the situation is still fluid. And at this point, I can't
tell you how large the area is that we've searched thus far."
(Jennifer Fleishman, spokeswoman, New York State Police Department)

I haven't found video of the news conference, but it should show up
soon on https://archive.org/tv.

On Fri, Jun 12, 2015 at 9:17 AM, Neal Whitman <nwhitman at ameritech.net> wrote:
> I don't think I explained clearly what I meant when I wrote, "This is the first time
> in my recollection that I've seen it intrude into constructions where the 'how ADJ'
> is predicative rather than attributive."
> Usually, I see these constructions in situations like "I don't know how big (of) a
> boat we'll need," where the AdjP "how big (of)" modifies "boat" (and appears in
> the strange AdjP-Det-N syntax that these constructions have). It's a little clearer
> if we leave the WH-phrase in situ:
>         I don't know [we need [how big (of) a boat]].
> But in JL's example, if we leave the WH-phrase in situ, and undo the
> relative-clause extraposition, we get
>         I cannot tell you [[the area we're searching in] is [how large]].
> The AdjP is the complement of "is", not a modifier of "the area we're searching in".
> I'm inclined to call this a production error, a blend of the following:
>         I cannot tell you [how large (of) an area we're searching in].
>         I cannot tell you [how large the area is that we're searching in.]
> On 6/11/2015 3:11 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>> On Jun 11, 2015, at 2:58 PM, Neal Whitman wrote:
>>> This is the first time in my recollection that I've seen it intrude =
>> into constructions where the "how ADJ" is predicative rather than =
>> attributive.
>> I don't find it particularly odd.  Googling "I/You don't know how good =
>> of an idea" or "...how big of a relief" or whatever produces scads of =
>> hits that seem totally natural to me. Ditto, say, this very sequence as =
>> it appears in "Beyond that I don't know how large of an area you have to =
>> scour or what".  Or is there a condition that would rule out the example =
>> below while allowing the ones above?  Is it the definite ("the area")?  =
>> Maybe I'm missing something. =20
>>> On 6/11/2015 2:47 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>>> New York State Police spokeswoman:
>>>> "I cannot tell you how large of the area is we're searching in."

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