Tuesday, May 15, 2007

About 'in about in'

The many tongues at Language Log have found a new issue to drive their wagging. (That sounds derogatory and I don't intend any derogation. It is an excellent web log.) There's some preposition doubling going on. Some of their examples:

  • A thing of which I'm afraid of

  • A phenomenon in which I'm starting to believe in

  • the streets in which he lives in

  • making sense of the world in which he lives in.

  • something to which Traore grew accustomed to

Theories abound. I remember in the summer of 94 once saying "that's the professor about which I was talking about." Why did I say it? It was a combination of trying to be "grammatically correct" by not stranding the preposition, but not being used to that construction. So that heavy transitive accretion persisted. A syntactic blend.

A few months ago now I first noticed the "in about in" phrase. Consider the combination of the following two forms: In about two hours and In two hours. Searching for this construction is tricky. A web search of {in about in} brings just short of 10,000 results. But a lot of those are clear typos. This leads me to exclude a few repetition typo markers such as "in about in about" or non-credible forms as in the following passage:
I have visited same SWSS that you talk in about in Thailand farms shrimps. But, I have seen it in P.indicus in Iranian farm shrimps in ago year. That shrimps had sign SUBCARAPACE WATERY SAC with white muscle in abdominal together. Outbreak been limited some farms but in ponds been height and... . If you have propensity, I have excess data in about to accompanying pictures.
Best regards!

Odd as that is I don't think it has much to say about English forms that are becoming standardized or normalised.

I hate jumping on bandwagons. Just ask mxrk. He'll tell you that I mentioned this in about in construction to him at least a month ago.

But I don't think this is fruitful as an emerging syntactical form. Mark Liberman has suggested that some preposition doubling might hail a future of case marked prepositions. He makes the claim lightly. With more chuckle than anticipation. In the case of in about in I'm not holding out for much more for more than a simple syntactic blend analysis could provide.

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