Heard on Springer: "my cousin nephew"; "your baby mama"; "Mary,

Josh Macfelder josh.a.macfelder at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 26 07:37:15 UTC 2008

On Tue, 25 Nov 2008 07:56:54 -0800, Arnold Zwicky wrote:

now "Mary, the girl that I watch her kids" has a possessive pronoun in
it, but otherwise is nothing like the zero possessives.  the point of
interest is the relative clause "that I watch her kids" (modifying
"the girl").  this is a well-known sort of "gapless relative", of a
type that has a resumptive pronoun ("her") instead of a gap.  a gap
would be just ungrammatical in the configuration here; the pronoun
"rescues" an island violation.
as far as i know, resumptive pronouns rescuing island violations are
not particularly restricted socially or geographically, though they
are most common in speech (where they allow speakers to get out of
tight situations in mid-speech).  they also occur in comic writing,
for humorous effect."

This is the first time I have heard this structure used by an English
speaker. But when I was in Foz de Iguaçu on a vacation, I heard
similar-type phrases very, very often. Colloquial Portuguese in Brazil
is famous for such structures (even though they're rightfully
considered slang). For example, the sentence Wilson Gray has heard
would sound something like this in Brazil: Maria, a mulher que eu
cuido das crianças dela (almost equivalent structure-wise to the
English counterpart).


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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