Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Whole ‘Nother Paper

Kent Hendricks—a Calvin alumnus, CICW colleague, blogger in his own right and now in CICW’s own right—is on the lookout for the phrase whole nother, as in “a whole nother ballgame.” His inquiry includes a blog,, that lists examples of the phrase he overhears (the blog’s existence, to its own peril, Kent reports, seems to have put a dent in usage among his friends), and a paper he wrote for Jim Vanden Bosch’s linguistics class on the linguistic classification of whole nother. The abstract, followed by the paper (at least until Language publishes it and asks us to take it down…):

The construction a whole nother has puzzled linguists for decades. It does not abide by the rules of traditional grammar and rarely appears in written English, yet it is found in nearly every idiolect. Because its use is restricted to only spoken English, there is little written documentation of it, and its origins are somewhat clouded in mystery. Most of the discussion surrounding this construction has taken place among structuralist linguists in online discussion forums, and linguists have disputed its presence and ubiquity in the language without reaching any kind of consensus. Language is a system of rules, and everything spoken follows to strict sets of rules that govern semantics, syntax, and other elements of language. The phrase a whole nother exists in the English language because of a combination of rules in the English language that govern infixation, reanalysis, syntactic blending, and the noun phrase.


Posted by Nathan Bierma on 06/22 at 06:44 PM
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