The best part is, is that you get to shoot your opponent: Corpora and the double copula

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The Internet represents a continuum from ‘virtually spoken’ to ‘virtually published’ texts. This fact makes it a delightful resource for stylistic variation and for linguistic features that are previously not observed or addressed by linguists. In this paper, I will explore the Internet, as well as a ‘real’ corpus, the BNC, as linguistic resources to shed light on the use of what seems to be a recent phenomenon. The paper deals with the double copula construction, as exemplified by utterances like The bad news is is that you have no control over what font is used. Although this may look like a mere spelling mistake, or in the case of speech, a hesitational feature, several facts suggest that it is neither. As the paper will show, the double copula does occur in both speech and writing, and it tends to occur in particular constructions. The data investigated reveal a systmematicity of co-occurrence that suggests that the repeated instance of is is not as haphazard and random as spelling mistakes or hesitational features.

I argue that recurrent patterns suggest the rise of a new grammatical feature: some speakers tend to repeat the copula before nominal that-clauses in the context of a focus construction, especially after certain nouns with very general meaning, such as thing, issue or point. The double copula is interpreted as a conflation of two different focussing structures, the wh-cleft sentence and clausal subject postponements of the type The thing/issue/question/point is that. Both structures add focus to the information-rich parts of the utterance, at the same time constituting apt strategies for buying processing time while planning the main content of the utterance. The presentation will include a survey of various constructions in which is is occurs, distributional statistical data and suggestions as to the most likely development that this feature involves.

From the COLT’s mouth ... and others'

Language Corpora Studies. In honour of Anna-Brita Stenström


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