Date: Sun, 27 Feb 1994 15:20:32 EST
From: TERRY IRONS t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MSUACAD.MOREHEAD-ST.EDU
Subject: Re: there's
I've been intrigued recently by the use of singular (?) there's in
plural contexts, i.e. "There's the books I've been looking for," or
"There's two ways to solve that problem," in unmonitored speech. Has
anyone noticed it, or better yet, studied and written on it? I'd be
interested in learning.
I am currently doing a descriptive study of special cases of agreement
marking using a forced choice test. The results suggest that
agreement is inherently variable in english, which makes it
either a defective node (similar to that deletion in relative
clauses) or a style rule. Am presenting paper on topic this week.
To the point of your query, I used to There _____ items in
my test (which actually originates from Don Lance a few years
a. There _____ two boys and a girl in the room.
b. There _____ a girl and two boys looking for you.
Responses to a. are categorially plural. With b., however,
61% of informants select the singular There's/There is form.
One is tempted to conclude that there really is no such
thing as s-v # agreement in core grammar of english. There
are (!) no number realizations for past tense nor for future
time expressions using will. The only remnant is -s on
third person present singular and some idiosyncratic
auxiliaries. No such marking shows up on modal forms, what
remains of subjunctive mood, or in complement constructions
such as I saw him leave, etc.
I am interested in hearing about any quantitative
descriptive studies myself.