Zero vs. 'that'-relatives

Spruiell, William C sprui1wc at CMICH.EDU
Wed Jan 7 22:32:50 UTC 2009

[Note: I just subscribed, so apologies if the following ignores a point
previously made / reinvents a wheel, etc.; I'm basing it on the recent


I'm wondering if the increase in 'that'-usage in the 30s-70s period
might represent a shift from 'which' instead of an actual decrease in
zero-marking. If zero-marking stayed constant, but formal variants like
"in which we discussed the issue" were being replaced by more colloquial
ones like "that we discussed the issue in," the total instances of
'that' would increase (likewise if writers who still believed that
wh-relatives were the only acceptable ones were gradually replaced by
ones who grew up unaccosted by which-doctors). 


Bill Spruiell

Dept. of English

Central Michigan University

The American Dialect Society -

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