LINGUIST List 15.2255

Sun Aug 8 2004

Qs: Print/screen reading; Eng subject-verb concord

Editor for this issue: Ann Sawyer <>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate. In addition to posting a summary, we'd like to remind people that it is usually a good idea to personally thank those individuals who have taken the trouble to respond to the query. To post to LINGUIST, use our convenient web form at


  1. Billy Clark, print and screen reading
  2. Hideo HIBINO, re: 'who' and 'what' in subject-verb concord

Message 1: print and screen reading

Date: Sat, 7 Aug 2004 03:57:22 -0400 (EDT)
From: Billy Clark <>
Subject: print and screen reading

On behalf of a student, could I ask whether anyone can point to
literature and/or experimental data on differences, including
comprehension differences, between reading from a screen and from
printed material. The most recent material she has found (online) is:

Kellog, Guy. 1999. Students' reactions to reading electronic
v. printed documents. roceedings from the Fourth International
Conference on Language and Development.

She is hoping to find more recent material.

Could you please respond direct to me and the student at these email

We will post a summary of responses to the list.

Thanks and best wishes,

Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: re: 'who' and 'what' in subject-verb concord

Date: Sat, 7 Aug 2004 19:58:57 +0900
From: Hideo HIBINO <>
Subject: re: 'who' and 'what' in subject-verb concord

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002, Huddleston et 
al) states in effect at 18.3 (d) Interrogatives, on pp.505-6:

In general, the interrogative pronouns 'who' and 'what' take the default
value of singular.

[19] i a. Who wants some more ice-cream? b. What remains to be done?
 ii Which (of these ) is/are yours?

 The default singular values for _who_ and _what_ can, however, be
 overridden when there is a presupposition that the answer is plural.

[20] i What are going going to be the deciding factors?
 ii Who haven't yet handed in their assignmnets?
 iii Who have excelled themselves in this year's coxed pairs?
 iv What have pointed ears and long tails?
 (Detailed explanation follows.)

My question is:
Would the following examples sound all right, or considered to be 
standard English, since a plural answer is reasonably expected in 
each of them, just as Huddleston argues?

1. Who are gathering in the park?
2. Find out who are coming to our reunion. We need to make a list of the
3. They are demanding that the provincial government take action to find
 out who are responsible for the Tuesday disaster.
4. Let us proceed to inquire who have been excluded from testifying as
 witnesses under the term "Indian."
5. Is there an archive site for this mailing list where I might be able
 to find out what have been discussed in the past?

The reason for bringing up the plural concord for 'who' and 'what' is that,
as far as I know, no grammar books, including CGEL(1985, Quirk et al) 
support Huddleston.

I would appreciate knowing your thoughts about this problem.

Hideo Hibino
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue