June 29, 2004

Isis Fest, with emergent free-bees

I've gotten a lot of fascinating feedback on my "... is is ..." post, from people who have studied the construction for a lot longer than I have, and in more depth than I'm ever likely to. We're talking about sentences like

(link) The worst thing is, is that procrastination is so easy to stop.

(Be warned: the rest of this post is just lightly-commented references and links. Some more easily-digested commentary is likely to come along later, but if you're interested in the contruction, you'll want to look at this stuff.)

Patrick McConvell sent in a couple of early references:

Bolinger, Dwight. 1987. The remarkable double "is". English Today 9:39-40.
McConvell, Patrick. 1988. To be or double be: current change in the English copula. Australian Journal of Linguistics 8.2:287-305.

along with a brand-new set of slides from a talk he gave a couple of days ago, entitled "Catastrophic change in current English: Emergent Double-be's and Free-be's." [warning -- these are ~1MB files -- .ppt,   .pdf].

Arnold Zwicky emailed to say that

Locally, we call it "Isis", with a bow to ancient Egypt. (if you know some Mozart, you can even sing it.)

In any case, I have quite a lot to say about it. More bibliography, *lots* more analysis, the observation that the historical source(s) of the construction and its current status aren't necessarily (in fact, aren't) the same, and the observation that there are several distinct systems for its use now. Lord knows how i could get this into a LL posting...

Arnold sent in a bibliography, a bunch of notes, and a handout from an Isis Fest on Memorial Day 2003. He'd like to update the bibliography before posting it, and edit the notes in various ways, but here's the IsisFest handout (.pdf) while we're waiting.

Posted by Mark Liberman at June 29, 2004 08:02 AM