LINGUIST List 2.516

Sat 14 Sep 1991

Disc: That's

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Scott Delancey, Re: 2.508 That's
  2. , Re: 2.508 That's
  3. "Michael Kac", Re: 2.508 That's
  4. BROADWELL GEORGE AARON, the book that's cover

Message 1: Re: 2.508 That's

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1991 09:18 PDT
Subject: Re: 2.508 That's
"The book that's cover is red" sounds very odd to me, but I'm quite
used to hearing (American) speakers of all ages produce the likes of
"The book that it's cover is red", which with a little allegro reduction
could provide some support and reinforcement for the development/spread
of the other.
Scott DeLancey
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Message 2: Re: 2.508 That's

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 91 12:49:12 EDT
From: <pesetskATHENA.MIT.EDU>
Subject: Re: 2.508 That's
Dick Hudson writes: `The book that's cover is red ...' is quite a common
construction in UK... I use it as evidence that, contrary to received
wisdom, THAT isn't a complementiser but a relative pronoun, in a recent
First, it shows at best that 'that' in these dialects is a relative
pronoun. It says nothing about dialects (like mine) in which these
constructions are impossible. Second, in the dialects in which these
sentences occur, could it be that the possessive "s" is sitting inside
subject position: i.e. the book WH that [___'s cover is red]? To tell,
we'd need object relatives like 'The book that's cover Mary tore'. Are
these possible? [Sorry if such examples are given in previous
correspondence. Linguist comes at such a fast and (often) furious pace
that I don't read all of it with great care.]
-David Pesetsky
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Message 3: Re: 2.508 That's

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 91 19:34:21 -0500
From: "Michael Kac" <>
Subject: Re: 2.508 That's
A subscrib er suggests that the *that's* in *the book that's cover ...* is
analogous to (or even the same as?) the one in *the book that's red* but
this seems clearly untrue. The *'s* in the first case is the possessive
suffix while in the second it's the contracted form of the copula.
For the record, the first usage is completely impossible for me. Relevant
background information: native of Ithaca, New York resident there from birth
to age 18; lived subsequently in Greater Philadelphia, Los Angeles and now
in Minneapolis. I can't recall EVER having encountered the usage in ques-
tion anywhere. Handling positive *anymore* in Philadelphia was enough of a
challenge -- I don't need this!
Michael Kac
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Message 4: the book that's cover

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 91 16:22:27 -0400
Subject: the book that's cover
Thanks to all who have posted information on the construction 'the book
that's cover'. I discovered a bit more about the old prescriptive rule
against *whose* in this context.
Fowler's *Dictionary of Modern English Usage* contains a discussion of
the subject. Quoting from that:
`... in the starch that stiffens English style one of the most effective
ingredients is the rule that *whose* shall only refer to persons. To
ask a man to write flexible English, but forbid him *whose* as a pronoun
of the inanimate, is like sending a soldier on active service and
insisting that his tunic collar shall be tight and high; activity and
stocks do not agree ... Let us, in the name of common sense, prohibit
the prohibition of *whose* inanimate; good writing is surely difficult
enough without the forbidding of things that have historical
grammar, and present intelligibility, and obvious convenience, on their
side, and lack only -- starch'
Fowler really does have quite a sense of style in his writing!
Note, however, that Fowler is not quite right when he implies that
the unusual thing about *whose* is its use with inanimates. The unusual
thing is the use with non-humans (I made the same mistake in my original
The taboo itself doesn'
t specify a solution. However, all the ways that Fowler cites of
avoiding this construction do involve *of which* and *in which*,
e.g. the book, the cover of which (as Larry Hutchinson pointed out).
Aaron Broadwell, Dept. of Linguistics, University at Albany -- SUNY,
Albany, NY 12222
"Prizes bring bad luck. Academic prizes, prizes for virtue, decorations,
all these inventions of the devil encourage hypocrisy and freeze the
spontaneous upsurge of a free heart." -- Baudelaire
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