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date: 27 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In an interview on National Public Radio Francis Ford Coppola made the following observation: “The difference is is that as it’s a love story wrapped in a mystery…” One may be tempted to call this double is a speech error. However, this grammatical construction, commonly known as the reduplicative copula (e.g., the point is is), is becoming more common in American English and other varieties of the English language around the world and appears to be grammatical for a significant subset of speakers. This article revisits the reduplicative copula using corpus-based evidence. It analyzes data from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), the largest available corpus of spoken and written American English since the 1990s, containing more than 400 million words. Corpora of contemporary spoken language show what can be learned from what speakers actually do, especially when they speak in unscripted—or less scripted—ways. The article also examines historical corpus data and argues for a correlation between the rise of focusing expressions such as the point is and the emergence of the reduplicative copula.

Keywords: corpora, reduplicative copula, English, Corpus of Contemporary American English, History of English, usage-based grammar, focusing expressions, recent change, linguistics, evidence

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