(dis)agreement with "all politics is local"

David Bowie db.list at PMPKN.NET
Wed Jun 23 11:45:52 UTC 2004

From:    Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU


: For Rell, "politics" is evidently a collective plural, so that it
: really *should* have been "All politics are local" instead.  Or is it
: the "all" that she thinks makes it plural?  Would we say "All
: linguistics are tricky"?  "All mathematics are hard"?  (Note that
: it's not purely a formal question --while it is indeed possible to
: have "all statistics are biased", that's a real count noun, the
: singular "that statistic is biased" being impeccable as well.)

For me, the 'all' clearly plays a role. Consider, based entirely on personal

Politics is/*are local
Linguistics is/*are tricky
Mathematics is/*are hard

(I'm curious what British English intuitions are for 'Maths is/are hard',

Oddly, this pair:

Statistics *is/are biased
Statistics is/*are useful

So, apparently, there's a difference for me between different uses of a
single such term. Consider:

Politics is/are dirty

(Where whether you use the 'is' or 'are' depends on what you want 'politics'
to mean--the concept/process in general ('is') or political process*es*,
such as campaigning, lawmaking, &c.

Interestingly, i can't think of any sentences where i'd accept 'are' to go
along with bare 'linguistics' or 'mathematics' (or 'math', FTM). However,
upon adding 'all' to the mix:

All politics ?is/are local
All linguistics is/*are tricky
All mathematics is/?are hard
All statistics *is/are biased
All statistics is/are useful
All politics is/are dirty

Basically, you put 'all' in front of one of these, and except for
'linguistics' (which may be different due to excessive familiarity), 'are'
becomes at least marginally acceptable.


David Bowie                                         http://pmpkn.net/lx
    Jeanne's Two Laws of Chocolate: If there is no chocolate in the
    house, there is too little; some must be purchased. If there is
    chocolate in the house, there is too much; it must be consumed.

More information about the Ads-l mailing list