Idiolect or more widespread?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon May 29 22:33:38 UTC 2006

On 5/29/06, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at> wrote:
> the latter principle (Include All Needed Words, or IANW) is
> illustrated with complements of "couple" ("a couple of ideas" -- good
> -- vs. "a couple ideas" -- bad, well, bad for *them*).

The acceptability of  "a couple NPs" shows a fair bit of regional
variation. I believe it's pretty common in the North Midland region
all the way to western NJ. But when you get to the metropolitan New
York region, "a couple of..." takes over, usually reduced to  "a
coupla..." [@ kVp at l@], esp. before a consonant.

Of course, even in the Midland dialects where "of" can be omitted,
there are some constraints.  For instance, if the phrase is followed
by a personal pronoun or by a Det + NP sequence, then "of" (or the
reduced form [@]) is obligatory:

a couple of us/you/them/mine/ours/yours/his/hers/theirs
a couple of the/these/those/my/our/your/his/her/their people

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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