LINGUIST List 3.18

Tue 07 Jan 1992

Disc: Is, is

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. Ellen Prince, Re: 3.10 Queries: Is is
  2. Alan Huffman, Re: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is
  3. Mitchell Marks, is is
  4. Paul Deane, The reason is, is
  5. Michael Morse, Re: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is
  6. Allan C. Wechsler, 3.10 Is is.
  7. , Re: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is

Message 1: Re: 3.10 Queries: Is is

Date: Mon, 06 Jan 92 00:43:05 ESRe: 3.10 Queries: Is is
From: Ellen Prince <ellencentral.cis.upenn.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.10 Queries: Is is

>From: GA5123SIUCVMB.bitnet
>Subject: "the reason is, is"
>
> I see syntacticians doing so well with explaining "til death do we part"
>that I am inspired to ask for someone to make sense to me out of "is is".
>The reason is, is, I have no handle on this construction, which I hear
>all around me. The point is, is, it doesn't respond to any logic I can
>apply to it. My commas indicate the pauses that I hear; both is's seem
> to be stressed, especially the first one.
> Is "is is" limited geographically? I've heard it in Southern Illinois
>and from some Chicagoans; where else is "is is" used or not used?
> Last week I heard a mixed-tense "is is" -- though I can't remember
>whether it was "was is" or "is was".

charlotte linde was looking at these things back in the mid '70s. i don't
have a current address for her, but i'm sure someone out there does. as i
recall, she was looking at the distribution and function. syntactically, i
don't think there's all that much to be said except that the string gets sort
of glommed together and behaves like a subject, at least like a wh-clause in
a wh-cleft--what the reason is is that... > the reason is is that... but maybe
i'm being simplistic.

i don't think it's limited geographically, at least not in the u.s., tho it
may very well be limited by age and class. my favorite one is 'the thing of
it is is...', which really tests the limits of compositional semantics (and
which in fact doesn't have a common wh-cleft correlate).
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Message 2: Re: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is

Date: Mon, 06 Jan 92 00:52:39 ESRe: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is
From: Alan Huffman <AAHNY%CUNYVMRICEVM1.RICE.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is


Re: "The reason is is". This clearly originated with "What the reason
is, is that..." What the reason is, that "what" got deleted, is another
question.
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Message 3: is is

Date: Mon, 6 Jan 92 15:01:15 CSTis is
From: Mitchell Marks <mitchellcs.uchicago.edu>
Subject: is is

>>>>> "LH" == Lee Hartman <GA5123SIUCVMB.bitnet> writes:

 LH> The reason is, is, I have no handle on this construction, which I
 LH> hear all around me. The point is, is, it doesn't respond to any
 LH> logic I can apply to it.

Are you sure you've heard examples real close to this? What I hear (and
say) is more like this:

 What the reason is, is that I have no handle on this ...
 What the point is, is that it doesn't respond ...

In these, you could call the initial part from "What" to the comma an NP.
That NP is the subject of the outermost sentence, and the second "is" is
the verb of the outermost sentence.
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Message 4: The reason is, is

Date: Mon, 06 Jan 92 16:40:15 ESThe reason is, is
From: Paul Deane <FDDEANEUCF1VM.bitnet>
Subject: The reason is, is

The is, is construction was the topic of a paper by David Tuggy
at the 1989 International Cognitive Linguistics Conference. I don't
know if he's on the net--if he is, I hope he'll join the discussion.
His thesis, as I recall it, is that the construction is an example
of what is, originally, an ungrammatical construction being made
acceptable by the converging influence of a variety of similar
patterns, including both grammatical patterns and common speech errors.
These include (inter alia) superficially similar patterns such as
"The reason for this is that X" (without double is), "What John is,
is X" (with normal grammatical reasons for the doubling), and speech
error patterns involving hesitation (what in another context neuro-
pathologists term perseveration) in which the speaker repeats the
low-information-content verb while searching for the right completion.
However, he argues that the pattern has become entrenched enough to
be a construction in its own right, with special pragmatic functions.
I don't recall the details enough to say much more--David, are you
out there?
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Message 5: Re: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is

Date: Mon, 06 Jan 92 19:31:27 ESRe: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is
From: Michael Morse <MMORSEVM1.YorkU.CA>
Subject: Re: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is

 I grew up in New Jersey in the fifties, and `is is' was
a common locution. I remember it as a contraction of "See, the
reason he said that is, is that he ..."; in the speaker's mind,
apparently, the first `is' "modifies" the first clause, establishing
its existence; the second re-emphasizes the entire point by separately
stressing a pseudo-separate "existence" of the second phrase; in short,
a standard case of the re-duplication of which we have heard so much of
late, with the added wrinkle of turning on a grammatically spurious
phrase distinction..
MW Morse# N3
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Message 6: 3.10 Is is.

Date: Tue, 7 Jan 1992 12:08-05003.10 Is is.
From: Allan C. Wechsler <ACWYUKON.SCRC.Symbolics.COM>
Subject: 3.10 Is is.

Lee Hartman reports "The point is, is ...". I have never heard this,
but I have heard a "doubled" copula like that resulting from a relative.
Here's a set of data that might shed some light.

(1a) Mario eats cucumber salad.
(1b) (That's not what Mario eats;) What Mario eats is cucumber salad.

(2a) Shota is a fool.
(2b) (That's not what Shota is;) What Shota is is a fool.

(3a) The point is that gravity is nonlinear.
(3b) (That's not what the point is;) What the point is is that gravity
 is nonlinear.

I imagine that (diachronically) the relativizer could be dropped, and
the doubled copula reanalyzed as some sort of emphatic.
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Message 7: Re: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is

Date: Tue, 7 Jan 92 10:24:28 -08Re: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is
From: <tshannongarnet.berkeley.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.10 Queries: Smileys, Speech Recognition, Biblical, Is

Re Lee Hartman's query on "The thing is, is": if memory serves me well,
David Tuggy gave a paper at last summer's 2nd Intl Cog Grammar Conf at
UCSC on just this topic. You could contact him for more at:

David H. Tuggy
SIL--Box 9887 CRB
Tucson, AZ 85738-0987

I too have heard this construction a fair amount out west here. The
other day I also heard a strange version on one of the bowl games:
"The reason being, is that..." It seems to me to be particularly
common in the phrase "The thing is, is that..." My impression is
that the first part "The x is," is becoming or has become simply
a gambit for introducing a piece of info, no doubt due to the fact
that it's often used that way and a pause for reflection is fre-
quently made after it & before the new focal info appears
("The thing is ... we just don't know the answer."). As such,
the copula itself (the first one) appears to be losing its original
meaning and thus needs reinforcement. Moreover, to pick up after the
pause with just "that" (??"The thing is ... that we just don't know
the answer.") sounds a bit weird, since the pause seems to break up the
subordination and perhaps needs the repeated copula to reaffirm it,
though this is by no means absolute. Note also that "... is that"
is also a common way of picking up an introduction to new material,
so we may have a blend of these two here (e.g. "The problem that I
always have with these things is that ..."). Multicausality here?
Undoubtedly David will more (and better!) things to say here.

tom shannon
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