Sing. subj., sing v.-- and therefore sing. obj. of prep. phr.?

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Wed Apr 28 04:33:51 UTC 2010

On Apr 27, 2010, at 4:33 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote, of

> "One of the University of Pennsylvania's captain was found dead in
> his off-campus residence in Philadelphia, university officials said."

> Is this weird, or common?

weird, i think -- looks like an inadvertent error.  i have a few
examples of troublesome number choice within NPs, but they all involve
parentheticals within the NP (as this example does not).  in any case,
the problem with this example has nothing to do with subject-verb
agreement , with the nearest or otherwise.

i seem not to have made the following points sledge-hammer clear in my
posting (though i've made similar points a number of times over the

Quirk et al. and MWDEU both treat the canonical examples of Agreement
With Nearest (or "the proximity principle") -- subject of the form
   head N + postnominal PP,
verb agreeing with the NP object within the PP -- as inadvertent
errors, as do i. there is a pattern to these errors, but it's not, i
think, an aspect of any speaker's grammatical system.

there are cases where i suspect that a pattern of non-standard usage
is indeed an aspect of some speakers' grammatical system, and some
cases where i'm virtually sure of it.  but i don't think that
canonical Agreement With Nearest is such a case.


i now think that it was a mistake for me to have commented on postings
on this topic, and to other postings on differences in syntactic
usage, and i will no longer do so.


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