Arnold Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Nov 3 17:23:02 UTC 2001

paul frank, on spoken headline-ese in tv news reports, produces the

 >I suspecting the trend of TV news talking in headline-ese traceable
   ^                                                       ^
 >to Rupert Murdoch...

 >But where it all ending?

carets mark positions where forms of the copula would be required
in standard (non-headline) english.  interestingly, two of the
three positions do not allow copula omission in headlines, or for
that matter, in AAVE.  the first copula, with subject "I", is not
omissible.  and the third copula, in subject-auxiliary inversion,
isn't omissible either.

the point is that both the headline register and non-standard
varieties with "copula omission" show (grammatically rather complex)
conventions on when copulas are omissible.  it's not just a matter
of starting from sentences that standard-variety speakers would
utter and dropping forms of BE all over the place.

on the larger point, the relationship between specialized registers
and what you might call "all-purpose" language: it's a two-way street.
all-purpose language can almost always be used in the contexts
appropriate for a specialized register; headlines and recipes and
classified ads etc. can be composed in perfectly ordinary copula-ful,
arthrous, etc. sentences.  and the conventions of specialized
registers can "leak out into" all-purpose language, evoking some of
the associations of the registers; tv cooking shows sometimes omit
direct objects, as in written recipes ("boil for ten minutes"),
ordinary folks sometimes narrate ongoing events as if they were sports
reporting ("through the door comes Zwicky"), and so on.

arnold (zwicky at

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