Re: Corpora: Query/Discussion: Prep+relative who

Pieter de Haan (
Fri, 02 Jul 1999 11:12:07 +0200

Dear James,
I'm not a native speaker, so any "intuition" I might have on this one has
been acquired more or less artificially, but I would be inclined to agree
with you that

>I think this construction is in an advanced state of near-death

and that most speakers would prefer the construction with the postposed
However, there are also constructions, notably Carsten's # 6:

>(6) Instead, the sites are used by local residents, of who some 25 per
or so come by foot and use the sites like an urban park, primarily to
take a walk (Harrison, 1981). (FR2: 453)

where the alternative construction with the postposed preposition does not
exist - which must have something to do with the fact that in these cases
the PP in which the relative pronoun functions is itself part of an NP,
rather than an adverbial on the level of the relative clause.
I still teach my (Dutch-speaking) students to use WHOM rather than WHO when
it is immediately preceded by a preposition, irrespective of whether this
occurs in a relative clause or in an interrogative sentence (To whom were
you talking just now?), but would you (and other native speakers) say that
perhaps I'd better not pay any attention to it? Or should I teach them to
avoid the construction with the initial preposition as much as possible
anyway? Are native speakers beginning to regard this as an awkward or
perhaps even unnatural construction?

At 14:43 1-7-99 -0500, you wrote:
>Dear Carsten and Al:
> Now that I actually see the data, I have to say that I wouldn't
>use those forms, but they almost sound better to me than the forms with
>'whom', which I obviously don't use either, since I just postpose the
>preposition (how's that for an oxymoron). I strongly suspect that this
>sort of construction is similar to what we find in cases of real
>language death: the grammar just goes all to hell, especially the
>morphology, and I think this construction is in an advanced state of
>near-death, and so perhaps the analogy holds (people with access to
>megacorpora could check this out for frequency, which I bet is very
>low). Of course, another possibility is that the construction has
>already died (read: changed to the postposed version), and is just being
>artificially kept 'alive' by the (pseudo-)'grammarians' who rail at
>'ending sentences with prepositions', etc., in much the same way that
>the change of various verb forms to 'ain't' has been kept by the
>grammarians from going to completion for over 400 years already.
> Jim
>James L. Fidelholtz e-mail:
>Maestría en Ciencias del Lenguaje
>Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades
>Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, MÉXICO
. . . . . . . . . Dr Pieter de Haan
. _+_ . Department of English
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