the problem is is that...

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Mon Dec 17 18:20:32 UTC 2001

This is of interest to me, since I'm working on a long-promised paper on
this and related constructions (and I will get it to you soon,
Arnold!).  Of course the double "is" is deliberate, and it's become
extremely common (the other "is"s are totally unrelated and completely
"normal" in context).

The omission of the subject relative pronoun "that" may not be a matter of
careless proofreading at all; this omission is common in some dialects of
both BritEng (cf. Trudgill) and AmEng, including Appalachian English (and
its fringe variety here in SE Ohio).

So you have two different issues here, one a matter of general spread
throughout the U.S. (and Britain?); George Bush has used it many times, but
Robert Stockwell once told me that it was (at that time) very common in
California and the West in general, and now I hear it frequently in the
Eastern media as well.  The other issue (deleted subj. rel. 'that') is not
general but dialectal.

At 05:55 PM 12/17/01 +0000, you wrote:
>There was a discussion on this list a while back about is-is, and I just
>came across the following in an essay I'm marking.  So I send it on in case
>anyone's collecting these:
>(2nd year linguistics undergrad, conclusion sentence for aphasiology essay)
>However, the problem is, is that this is all [that] is shown since
>neuro-linguistics is still a long way off from being able to identify
>exactly how syntax is encoded or how a word is represented.
>Does this get the prize for the most 'is's in a sentence?  Obviously, this
>is not a student who's a careful editor/proofreader (note the missing
>'that'), but the comma after the first 'is' makes 'the problem is is that'
>look fairly deliberate.
>Off to the States for Christmas...see some of you at the LSA.
>Dr M Lynne Murphy
>Lecturer in Linguistics
>Acting Director, MA in Applied Linguistics
>School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
>University of Sussex
>Brighton BN1 9QH
>phone +44-(0)1273-678844
>fax   +44-(0)1273-671320

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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