torsdag 30. juli 2009

"is is", "quiero es"

Has anybody else noticed the following phenomenon in American English? Again, I have only observed it on TV, so I don't know exactly what kind of situations it manifests itself in, but it seems to be when people are engaged in a more or less formal discourse. The phenomenon is the repetition of the word "is" in examples like the following: *"My opinion is is that this should be dealt with promptly," or *"The problem is is that they don't obey the rules." You only hear this kind of repetition with the verb "to be" conjugated in the third person sigular ("is"). You would, for example, never hear *"John and Mary are are stupid." The mentioned phenomenon is most likely due to a kind of mix between a sentence like "The problem is that they don't obey the rules" and "What the problem is is that they don't obey the rules."

My opinion is (is) that this phenomenon is highly reminiscent of one that manifests itself in Spanish. In certain regions at least, constructions like the following are common: *"Quiero es helado" ("I want is ice cream.") This is probably a mix between the two sentences "Quiero helado" ("I want ice cream") and "Lo que quiero es helado" ("What I want is ice cream").

2 kommentarer:

  1. Very interesting observation! This is something that has nagged me for quite some time, after hearing a couple of my colleagues at UiB (you can have their names if you want to do research :-)) using different "is is" constructions time and again. I have heard it mostly in WH-clefts, especially "what I'm saying is is..." and "what this means is is"... My initial thought was that it was not necessarily due to a mix between a regular subject-verb sentence and a WH-cleft, but rather a result of the somewhat formulaic character of clefts and similar constructions. Thus, the combination "what I'm saying is" is perhaps starting to be perceived of as a single syntactic unit, with subject function, and many people therefore add an extra predicator.
    Since you have heard it frequently in regular sentences, I'm not so sure about my theory anymore! But it could of course still be the case that the formulaic cleft-construction influences ordinary sentences by some kind of analogy.

  2. Interesting! I hadn't observed constructions like the ones you describe. This phenomenon seems to warrant an investigation..