[Ads-l] weird "which"

Geoffrey Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Tue Jun 23 12:37:45 UTC 2020

This use of 'which' has been around for a long time, and it may even have been discussed
on this list, but it's kind of hard to search for. I think Bethan’s analysis is right on.

A beautiful instance of usage-based language change, to make a contentious theoretical point 😊


Geoffrey S. Nathan
WSU Information Privacy Officer (Retired)
Emeritus Professor, Linguistics Program
geoffnathan at wayne.edu

From: Bethan Tovey-Walsh<mailto:accounts at BETHAN.WALES>
Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2020 7:09 AM
Subject: Re: weird "which"

---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       Bethan Tovey-Walsh <accounts at BETHAN.WALES>
Subject:      Re: weird "which"

I've noticed this one a lot online, apparently from U.S.-English speakers in particular. I suspect that it's a reanalysis of the standard "which" as a relative pronoun into "which" as a conjunction meaning approximately "in relation to which", "as a result of which", etc.. So instead of understanding "which" as the object of the main clause, it's understood as a conjunction linking a main clause to the preceding noun phrase. I've seen quite a few examples along the lines of:

"She told me to go, which I was not going to do that."
"They said they were stealing, which my kids would totally not steal anything."

It seems to me that the step from "[noun phrase], which I wasn't going to do" to "[noun phrase], which I wasn't going to do that" is a fairly small one. I'd be interested to hear your opinions.


Dr. Bethan Tovey-Walsh

Myfyrwraig PhD | PhD Student CorCenCC
Prifysgol Abertawe | Swansea University

CV: LinkedIn

Croeso i chi ysgrifennu ataf yn y Gymraeg.
On 23 Jun 2020, 10:55 +0100, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>, wrote:
> Weird to me, anyway, especially in a pricey, presumably carefully edited TV
> commercial for a glamour hair product:
> "Including a full-size leave-in elixir which nine out of ten women said
> their hair appeared thicker and fuller in just one week!"
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list