Monday, May 5, 2008

The Perils of Planning

I just can’t get this construction to work for me:

“Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 or more delegates than Obama, according to Clinton campaign operatives.”

This comes from Huffington Post contributer Thomas B. Edsall. To me, the construction “or more” must always be optional. In other words, you should always be able to delete “or more” and the sentence should mean roughly the same thing. But in this case, deleting “or more” would cause clear ungrammaticality to ensue:

*Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 delegates than Obama…

Ugh!

My guess is that Edsall had a “X more Y than Z” construction planned, then decided to throw in a little “or more” for flavor, but he was faced with the catastrophic prospect of TWO more’s in ONE sentence, right next to each other! Gasp! That can’t be right, right?

*Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 or more more delegates than Obama…

Well, for this speaker of Northern California English (truly, the finest of all the Englishes, as well you may know), “or more more” sounds better than the original.

4 comments:

Jason M. Adams said...

It seems perfectly natural to me. It is really cool now that you point it out though, that more is doing double duty in "an estimated 55 or more delegates" and "more delegates than Obama." A double more would force me to pause to parse it.

Evidence against the validity of parse trees! I called it! Score one for LingTroll! :)

Chris said...

Hmmm, maybe this is a syntactic geminate?

Jason M. Adams said...

Is that something that has been documented before or are you proposing something new?

Chris said...

hehe, I made up ... uh ... coined the term "syntactic geminate". Since most syntactic theories have mechanisms to deal with raising and control, I assume there are mechanisms to model this sort of thing too.