15.2332, Sum: 'Who' & 'What' in Subject-verb Concord Revised

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LINGUIST List:  Vol-15-2332. Wed Aug 18 2004. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 15.2332, Sum: 'Who' & 'What' in Subject-verb Concord Revised

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Date:  Mon, 16 Aug 2004 23:48:22 +0900
From:  Hideo HIBINO <hhibino at mbox.kyoto-inet.or.jp>
Subject:  'who' and 'what' in subject-verb concord

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Mon, 16 Aug 2004 23:48:22 +0900
From:  Hideo HIBINO <hhibino at mbox.kyoto-inet.or.jp>
Subject:  'who' and 'what' in subject-verb concord

Note: This issue is a revised version of a previous summary
(Linguist 15.2322) updated to accomodate the following information:
linguist P, formerly listed as a New Zealander, is an American who
currently teaches in New Zealand.

Thank you very much for your responses to my questionnaire
(Linguist 15.2255) about 'who' and 'what' in subject-verb concord.

I received responses from 16 of you linguists; 9 AmE speakers, 5 BrE
speakers, 1 Australian and 1 New Zealander.

I am pleased to present to you a tentative summary of responses for my
examples (1)-(5).

(1) Who are gathering in the park?

(2) Find out who are coming to our reunion. We need to make a list of
    the participants.

(3) They are demanding that the provincial government take action to
    find out who are responsible for the Tuesday disaster.

(4) Let us proceed to inquire who have been excluded from testifying
    as witnesses under the term "Indian".

(5) Is there an archive site for this mailing list where I might be
    able to find out what have been discussed in the past?

= Acceptability Ratings Table =
     Acceptable= 2 points
     Sound odd but sort of OK= 1
     Not acceptable/Terrible= 0

          (1)  (2)  (3)  (4)  (5)  Total           Comments (Abridged)

A (AmE)   0    0    1    1    0     2     (1) might be improved if
                                          preceded by "The
                                          X's are gathering at the
                                          store, the Y's are
                                          gathering  under the bridge,..."

B (AmE)   0    0    0    2    0     2     Grew up in several places
                                          in the US. I find
                                          only (4) to be grammatical.
                                          (5) is really bad.

C (AmE)   0    0    2    0    0     2     (3) is OK. Southern
                                          Americans might ask
                                          "Who all are..." Get a
                                          reply from a Briton.

D (AmE)   0    0    0    0    0     0     Your examples sound much
                                          more BrE than AmE.
                                          Impossible in America.

E (AmE)   0    0    0    0    0     0     I would reject (1)-(4) and
                                          especially (5).

F (AmE)   0    0    0    0    0     0     56 years old. Grew up in
                                          California, spent most
                                          of adult life in eastern
                                          US. I would prefer
                                          singular or "Who all + plural".

G (AmE)   0    0    0    0    0     0     Your examples don't have
                                          explicit plural
                                          indicators; the singular is
                                          therefore the norm.

H (AmE)   0    0    0    0    0     0     None of your examples sound
                                          natural to me.

I (AmE)     (No judgements given)         Try using a large database
                                          of spoken and written
                                          English and find out how
                                          language is really used.

J (BrE)   2    2    2    2    2    10     All your examples are good

K (BrE)   2    2    2    2    0     8     For me (41-year old BrE
                                          speaker) (1)-(4) are
                                          fine and (5) is very odd.

L (BrE)   2    2    2    2    0     8     Native speaker of English,
                                          born in Scotland,
                                          lived there 26 years, have
                                          lived in England for
                                          the last 11 years. All of
                                          your examples except
                                          (5) sound fine to me.

M (BrE)   0    0    0    1    0     1     I speak standard British
                                          English. I find (1)-(3)
                                          and (5) completely
                                          unacceptable. (4) is slightly
                                          better probably due to the
                                          plural 'witnesses'.

N (BrE)   0    0    0    0    0     0     I speak fairly standard
                                          Irish/British English.
                                          (1)-(5) sound horrible and

O (Aus)   2    2    2    2    0     8     The rules of agreement are
                                          becoming more relaxed.


P (AmE)   0    0    0    1    0     1     American, teaches in New Zealand.
                                          (4) sounds less awful than
                                          the others. Go to some electronic
                                          corpora.  That is more reliable
                                          than people's judgements.

~From looking at linguists A - I, we find that the acceptability
ratings are so low that we may safely surmise the singular is the norm
with AmE speakers.

Linguists J - P, however, present a formidable problem. J,K,L and O
rated the construction very high, while M,N and P gave a flat denial
to the same construction. They are all native speakers of English in
Britain and in countries where BrE more or less prevails.  And they
are linguists!

I said this summary is 'tentative'. I would appreciate knowing how you
would view the apparently conflicting norms BrE speakers have to
choose when using the construction.

Hideo Hibino
Formerly Professor
The Department of English
Kinran College

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