Aikman's Texan English

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue Sep 25 18:20:33 UTC 2007

On Sep 25, 2007, at 7:10 AM, Larry Horn wrote:

>> In what way is this an example of "regional" speech? Do we really
>> KNOW that these constructions are regionally and not socially
>> distributed? The "what" construction seems to me particularly
>> pan-American (and maybe not just US/Canadian).
> My comment on regional usage really applied more to that "as/than
> what" construction, which as far as I know is not part of
> Northeastern or California usage.  I associate it with southern
> speech, but I really don't know what the isogloss is.

as far as i can tell, the usage complainers haven't gotten to "as/
than what" for subordinator "as/than", and there's no MWDEU entry or
subentry for it.  perhaps because "as/than what" is perfectly
standard when the "what" begins a free relative clause:

  My family background is as much a part of my political commentary
as what I see in Washington.

(variant: "as what I see in Washington is".  the point is that the
"what" is required in these cases.)

   Looking To Do Something Different Than What I've Seen Here.

(disregard "different than".  again, "what" is required.)

   "It's more than what I hoped it would be, but it's what I expected
from the people of New Lenox," he said.

(this time "It's more than I hoped it would be" is also possible:
subordinator "than" plus a reduced clause.  but "more than" is ok:
preposition "than" plus a free relative object.  lots of hits for
"than what I" could go either way.)

the aiken configuration has "as/than what" where "as/than" is a
subordinator and "what" cannot be understood as beginning a free

   he had every bit as much of an opportunity to make a play on that
ball as what Burress did.

you could easily recognize this as non-standard but have no way of
characterizing it in advice for writers.  still, i'm surprised that
people in the advice trade haven't labeled "what" as sometimes
"intrusive", "excrescent", "pleonastic, or just "unnecessary".  (i've
just checked 19 handbooks -- an assistant has catalogued Omit
Needless Words advice in a number of manuals for me -- without
finding any mention of it.)

i've certainly seen and heard instances.  i have no idea about its
regional or social distribution.  if it's pretty narrow, that might
be another reason why it hasn't made it into the manuals.

in any case, it looks like some sort of combo of subordinator "as/
than" and free relative marker "what".


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