December 19, 2004

"... people who love me (be)cause of I've been able to bring them some joy ..."

In the commentary on today's Partially Clips, Rob Balder writes:

To my readers from Language Log, sorry for no apostrophe on "CAUSE" in the last panel. It was more of a graphic design issue. Don't stop linking me 'cause of that, 'kay?

No fear -- we'll even warn you if Lynn Truss is on the prowl!

Reading Rob's comment, I realized something about my own speech: I think that I've lexicalized cause of as a preposition, with a different pattern of usage from because of. If that's true, then perhaps the apostrophe should be omitted for linguistic rather than graphic design reasons, at least some of the time.

I have the expected pattern with clauses after because and noun phrases after because of, and not vice versa:

Leslie left because Kim arrived.
*Leslie left because of Kim arrived.
*Leslie left because Kim.
Leslie left because of Kim.

But for me, 'cause of works like since or after, introducing either a clause or a noun phrase:

Leslie left 'cause of Kim.
Leslie left 'cause of Kim arrived.

(This is in informal speech, of course).

Google confirms one end of this -- the use of 'cause of as a clause-introducer (examples found by searching for "cause of I"):

Now I am sad, cause of I can't help fight child molestors anymore.
The reason why I wrote KLIRA above caption is, cause of I had seen the Klira guitar with same headstock pattern and fretboard design.
Note that just cause of I have posted the programs here you have absolutely no right to pass them on.
Ahh, it ONLY has one coxaial digital input next to the RF input that I cant use cause of I dont have a ld/dvd player.

Unfortunately for my theory, similar examples are common with because of:

Regarding to the painting, I can't contribute with too much secrets because of I don´t use a specific standard or scheme of colours ...
I’m world famous, everywhere I go there are people who love me because of I’ve been able to bring them some joy from the movies I’ve made.
This is more because of I have found less and less time to devote to the numerous responsibilities I have ...
I think it will help [getting noticed at Pitt], because of I've been playing for a winning team.

The Oxford English Dictionary doesn't recognize the (be)cause of SENTENCE construction, but it gives both spellings cause and 'cause, and indicates that the apostrophe is a sort of new-fangled fashion in this case:

Since c 1600 often written 'cause; now only dial., or vulgar; also spelt cos, coz, cuz, case, etc.


Posted by Mark Liberman at December 19, 2004 11:43 PM