LINGUIST List 3.121

Fri 07 Feb 1992

Disc: Is, is, But, Parsing Challenge

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  1. Ron Smyth, Re: 3.106 Is, is, Finite-Sets
  2. "NAME " William Marslen-Wilson "", Is, is, ....
  3. , Australian 'but'
  4. William J. Rapaport, A Parsing Challenge

Message 1: Re: 3.106 Is, is, Finite-Sets

Date: Tue, 4 Feb 92 10:08:54 ESTRe: 3.106 Is, is, Finite-Sets
From: Ron Smyth <>
Subject: Re: 3.106 Is, is, Finite-Sets

Steve Helmreich asks about "All's I know is..." I too used this until I
made a dialect change in my late teens. I have never 'felt' that it was
a contracted 'is'; I even remember wondering why I said it, and knowing
that it wasn't standard. I don't seem to have any intuitions about it
anymore, so it's hard to think of relevant argument for and against
copula status, but maybe the fact that you can't (?) say "X is all's we're
doing" at least shows that it's not just a dialect variant of 'all', i.e.
a plural marker or whatever. Comments from native speakers?
Ron Smyth
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Message 2: Is, is, ....

Date: Wed, 5 Feb 92 12:49 GMT
From: "NAME " William Marslen-Wilson "" <>
Subject: Is, is, ....

Students of the "Is is" phenomenon in English might be interested
in the following fragment that was circulating in The Netherlands
in the early 1980's:


 Op een bij

 Er was een bij te's-Gravenhage
 Die antwoord wist op alle vragen
 Toen men hem moeilijk genoeg
 "Wat was was eer was was was?" vroeg
 werd hij winnaar van de quiz
 met "Eer was was was was was is."

This was attributed to Kees Stip. Apparently, with the right
intonational bracketing, the final sequence of five "was" and one
"is" is quite acceptable. For the exact interpretation I'd have
to appeal to some reader whose Dutch is less rusty than mine. Of
course, not all those "was" may have the same status.

William Marslen-Wilson
Birkbeck College
University of London
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Message 3: Australian 'but'

Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1992 9:38:44 +0Australian 'but'
Subject: Australian 'but'

As a native speaker of a 'but' dialect (West Australian English), I
might make a few qualifying comments oin previous postings. It seems
reasonably clear to me that the BUT tag is most common to the West
coast of this continent. It was wierd enough when I moved to Canberra
in the late seventies that natives there would comment on the expression
with some regularity.

I haven't seen the "Fringe Dwellers" movie either but know that the book
describes life in the small Western Australian town of Geraldton.
BUT is not particular to the Aboriginal population, but I suspect the Aboriginal
actors in that movie were Western Australians, while other actors were not
necessarily. The BUT is certainly more common in country areas (where I
grew up) than in the big smoke.

Yes, But is similar to THOUGH, though I am sure it can be used apart from
a particular response to a question or comment from an interlocuter, and
I don't have an intuition that THOUGH can be used in the same way.

As a final comment, the construction is so pervasive in Western Australia,
especially among children, that it influences other languages. The following
example is from a six year old French-WAEnglish bilingual. He had lost
the straw from a covered cup. Mum asks why he can't keep an eye on things:

	J'ai pas perdu le couverde, MAIS.

Similar fWAnglais constructions abound. I'm not going to tell the Academie but.

Alan Dench
Centre for Linguistics
University of Western Australia
Nedlands, WA 6009.
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Message 4: A Parsing Challenge

Date: Tue, 4 Feb 92 12:53:44 ESTA Parsing Challenge
From: William J. Rapaport <rapaportcs.Buffalo.EDU>
Subject: A Parsing Challenge

Here's a good test of getting your antecedents straight:

"While in Raleigh, Mr. Sulzberger Jr. married Gail Gregg, whom he met
while visiting his mother in Topeka, who had moved there and which was
Ms. Gregg's hometown."

	- Alex Jones, "Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Passes Times Publisher's
	 Post to Son," New York Times, 17 January 1992, p. A19.
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