LINGUIST List 15.150

Sat Jan 17 2004

Qs: German Word Frequency; English Double Copula

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  1. christina mendez, Most Frequently Used German Words
  2. Patrick McConvell, Double copula - new extension

Message 1: Most Frequently Used German Words

Date: Thu, 8 Jan 2004 13:44:14 -0500 (EST)
From: christina mendez <>
Subject: Most Frequently Used German Words

Does anyone know where I can find a list of the most frequently used
German words? I'm looking for 20,000 - 50,000 entries.

Subject-Language: German, Standard; Code: GER 
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Message 2: Double copula - new extension

Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 12:55:45 +1100
From: Patrick McConvell <>
Subject: Double copula - new extension

Today I heard for the first time someone utter a double copula in an
ordinary predicate adjective copular sentence:

The headline is is kinda cute.

This was said by an announcer on a commercial radio station in
Canberra; the person sounded Australian. The 'is is' was destressed,
rapid and without pause between - iziz - with the i central as in most
Australian pronunciations.

This is a breakthrough of the double-be construction from its former
environment into ordinary predicate copula sentences. I would like to
know if people have heard this, with examples, please.

I described the earlier distribution of the 'double-be' construction in

McConvell, Patrick. (1988) To be or double be: current changes in the
English copula. Australian Journal of Linguistics 8.2:287-305.

The construction was widespread in all major (first language) English
speaking countries at least from the early eighties. Its main locus was
and is in clauses like

The reason is is that he disappeared

What I asked was is/was was who disappeared

The 'predicate' is a clause and is in fact the main assertion for which
the initial copular clause is some kind of discourse background. I
analysed the phenomenon in terms of a blend of two intonational targets.
There have been a number of other articles on this more recently, some
of which suggest alternative analyses to mine.

The introduction of two copulas in a single clause causes a dramatic
change in English grammar. However it was restricted to a particular
type of clause combination and I described as ungrammatical for all
speakers sentences like the one I started this message with, with
double-be preceding a predicate NP or adjective. Possibly the nature of
the subject NP 'the headline' has some influence in that it could be
followed by direct speech/writing - I have no data on whether this type
of sentence can take double copula.

The headline is (?is) "Australia wins match"

I have been collecting examples of interpolations between the two
copulas eg

The reason is, though, is that he disappeared

What I asked was, one, is who disappeared; two, etc

This construction seems to make clear the separateness of the two
copulas. However in the new case of double copula preceding predicate
adjective, the tendency would possibly be to create an inseparable
reduplicated form.
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