the spread of adjective-licensed "of"

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Tue Jan 22 17:50:12 UTC 2008

"How sweet the sound" is an example of copula deletion, and irrelevant to
this discussion.

I was partially thinking of "of-deletion" in the old theoretical sense of
deletion that also says that "of" is deleted in the "surface" structure of a
sentence such as "Tom rang the bell" but not necessarily deleted in "Tom's ringing
of the bell. ..."

But I also meant it fairly literally, in that I THINK I am more inclined to
say, e.g., "How broken-down of a horse does he own?" rather than "How broken
down a horse does he own?"

In a message dated 1/21/08 11:44:28 PM, jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA writes:

> >Both "of recent" and "how big of a" sound completely normal to me. I
> >have heard both all my life & thought nothing odd about either one.
> >Indeed, I have always assumed that "how big a" was just a shortened
> >form of the FULL form with "of." Cf. the "to" in "help him (to)."
> That's very interesting to me. I definitely learned that if you say
> "an X Y," you say "how X a Y," and only say "how X of a Y" when X is
> a word like "much." I'm not sure whether it's a case of raising the
> adjective or moving the NP to the end, but there was no question for
> me that it wasn't a dropping of the "of" (which still sounds
> "uneducated" to me); it's like "how sweet the sound," which I just
> can't imagine being shortened from "how sweet of the sound."
> >I can't believe that actual research (as opposed to the mere
> >reporting of transient impressions) will reveal anything odd or NEW
> >here. Of course, since I am merely reporting my own transient
> >impressions, maybe I am dead wrong. But isn't the burden of proof on
> >those who are made the original claims?
> I doubt it's new, either, but now I'm really wondering about the
> history and the underlying structure -- or structures, since clearly
> it's not the same for all speakers.
> James Harbeck.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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