LINGUIST List 10.1040

Tue Jul 6 1999

Disc: Re: Corpora: Query/Disc: Prep+relative who

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Steve Finch, Re: Corpora: Query/Discussion: Prep+relative who
  2. James L. Fidelholtz, Re: Corpora: Query/Discussion: Prep+relative who
  3. Dan I. SLOBIN, Re: Corpora: Query/Discussion: Prep+relative who

Message 1: Re: Corpora: Query/Discussion: Prep+relative who

Date: Thu, 01 Jul 1999 09:45:26 -0300
From: Steve Finch <>
Subject: Re: Corpora: Query/Discussion: Prep+relative who

In message <>, Carsten Breul writes:

>Do native-speakers of English actually use Prep+relative who? In other
>words: Do you think that the sentences may very well be correct

Native English speakers have lots of bad schoolday memories about the
word "whom", I think! In speech, it sounds pretentious. In general
we don't get when to use it, so we avoid constructions where it might
be deemed necessary.

>representations of the text-producers' usage? Or would you consider it
>likely that there are printing/typing (or transcription) errors
>involved here (omission of 'm' in 'who'), which distort the picture? (I
>think my question points to a, perhaps seldom relevant, but
>nevertheless interesting problem for corpus linguistics if low
>frequency features are concerned: How sure can we be that the corpus
>represents text-production authentically?) 

I think this reflects native speakers' confusion about when to use
"whom". If you analysed the use of the apostrophe, you would find
similar (probably worse) data. Most of the sentences look like very
plausible "misuses" of the word "who". (2), however, is perfectly
acceptable; 'whom' sounds very odd there.

These aren't typos; they do indeed reflect real usage of a confusing
word, IMHO.

- Steve.

>All but (8) are from written sources. 
>(1)	A passionate lover of the Savoy Operas, she was a founder
>member of the Bradford Gilbert and Sullivan Society, with who she had
>a long association. (C8G: 418) 
>(2)	It's almost impossible to put him down in the tackle, and
>there are few players about who you an [sic; probably 'can' is
>intended] say that. (CB2: 396) 
>(3)	They need to keep their bankers happy by reducing a \1633
>million-plus debt in the next few months, and Robson, in who Leeds are
>already showing an interest, will become their most disposable asset.
>(CBG: 305) 
>(4)	It has one senior bishop, two suffragans, one dean, four
>archdeacons, and 21 rural deans of who one is a woman. (ED9: 3029) 
>(5)	They must be treated as adequate because they reflect the
>statutory provisions in regard to appeals by persons upon who
>intervention notices are served by S.I.B. in the exercise of the
>intervention powers delegated to it by the Secretary of State (as to
>which see section 97 of the Act). (FD1: 413) 
>(6)	Instead, the sites are used by local residents, of who some 25
>per or so come by foot and use the sites like an urban park, primarily
>to take a walk (Harrison, 1981). (FR2: 453) 
>(7)	Through its founder Molly Braithwaite, for who we held a
>heartfelt admiration, we feel an affectionate living bond with all
>those in positions of responsibility within the MEDAU SOCIETY. (HU8:
>(8)	I would also I think put in a word for the work of the joint
>[...] policy panel [...] which is shared between this committee and
>the social services committee because it seems to me that it is not
>[unclear] for us to be thinking that there is a group of children for
>who nursery education is necessary [...] or desirable and a different
>group of children for whom something else [...] is necessary and
>desirable, largely because of their parents' position. (JWA: 149) 
>Dr. Carsten Breul 
>Universitaet-GH Duisburg 
>FB 3; Anglistik 
>47048 Duisburg 
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Message 2: Re: Corpora: Query/Discussion: Prep+relative who

Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 14:43:27 -0500 (CDT)
From: James L. Fidelholtz <>
Subject: Re: Corpora: Query/Discussion: Prep+relative who

Dear Carsten and Al:
	Now that I actually see the data, I have to say that I wouldn't
use those forms, but they almost sound better to me than the forms with
'whom', which I obviously don't use either, since I just postpose the
preposition (how's that for an oxymoron). I strongly suspect that this
sort of construction is similar to what we find in cases of real
language death: the grammar just goes all to hell, especially the
morphology, and I think this construction is in an advanced state of
near-death, and so perhaps the analogy holds (people with access to
megacorpora could check this out for frequency, which I bet is very
low). Of course, another possibility is that the construction has
already died (read: changed to the postposed version), and is just being
artificially kept 'alive' by the (pseudo-)'grammarians' who rail at
'ending sentences with prepositions', etc., in much the same way that
the change of various verb forms to 'ain't' has been kept by the
grammarians from going to completion for over 400 years already.

James L. Fidelholtz			e-mail:
Maestr\237a en Ciencias del Lenguaje
Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades
Benem\233rita Universidad Aut\243noma de Puebla, M\201XICO
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Message 3: Re: Corpora: Query/Discussion: Prep+relative who

Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 16:58:10 -0700 (PDT)
From: Dan I. SLOBIN <slobincogsci.Berkeley.EDU>
Subject: Re: Corpora: Query/Discussion: Prep+relative who

I'm quite confident that the examples with PREP+who are genuine, and not
transcription errors. At least in American English, "whom" seems to be
non-existent in spoken registers--probably entirely absent for speakers 
younger than middle-age, and marginal in older speakers. I don't think my
students know the difference between "who" and "whom." And there are
strange overcorrections--for example, a formal academic letter from a
colleague in his 50s, using "whom" as sentence subject (probably because
it sounds archaic). In Sapir's famous discussion of "whom" in 1921 (his 
chapter on drift, in Language), he said: "We may venture to surmise 
that..._whom_ will ultimately disappear from English speech." He 
predicted: "It is safe to prophesy that within a couple of hundred 
years from to-day not even the most learned jurist will be saying `Whom 
did you see?'" It took less than a half-century for that form to 
disappear, and the PREP+whom form seems to be its way out too.

Dan I. Slobin
Dept of Psychology
University of California, Berkeley
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