LINGUIST List 11.237

Fri Feb 4 2000

Qs: Double "is" in American Eng,Spanish Word List

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <>

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.


  1. Hank Mooney, Double "is" in American English
  2. rebecca johnson, Spanish Word Frequency List

Message 1: Double "is" in American English

Date: Wed, 02 Feb 2000 15:23:14 -0800
From: Hank Mooney <>
Subject: Double "is" in American English

I'm wondering if anyone has published anything on the use of a double
"is" in English sentences, for example:

The problem is is that Bob doesn't know how to drive.

This usage, which I hear commonly and from very educated people, is
distinct from what I will, at the risk of being judgemental, call the
"legitimate double 'is' ", as in:

The question is is Bob a competent driver?

In the latter sentence, "is" occurs twice in a row because the structure
of the sentence requires it, viz.:

Subj. (The question) + copulative (is) + predicate (Is Bob a competent driver?)

In the first example, however, there is no structural reason for the
doubling of the copulative.

My analysis of this usage is that the double "is" acts as a focusing
mechanism, and serves the same function that a pause might serve, for example:

The question is: (pause) Do we want four more years of incompetent leadership?

But in rapid speech, a true pause becomes awkward, so instead the "is"
is doubled as a way of signaling to the listener that the following
phrase is something s/he should pay particular attention to.

Has anyone else addressed this matter?

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

Message 2: Spanish Word Frequency List

Date: Wed, 02 Feb 2000 15:21:23 PST
From: rebecca johnson <>
Subject: Spanish Word Frequency List

I am a graduate student working on my thesis on the word associations of 
Mexican children. I am searching for a standard Spanish word frequency list. 
 If you have information as to where I might acquire such a list, I would 
appreciate it. Thank you, Rebecca S. Johnson
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue