Date: Sun, 27 Feb 1994 15:44:39 -0500
From: Cathy Ball CBALL[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]GUVAX.BITNET
Subject: Re: there's
Terese Thonus writes
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.
Harris & Vincent did a squib on this in _Linguistic Inquiry_ 11.4 (1980),
in which they claim that 'there's' might be analyzed as an existential
particle, particularly in cases with a zero relative, e.g.
'There's a woman wants to see you'. See also Breivik 1981 in _Language_ 57.
I have a brief discussion of these in my dissertation, where I note that
zero relatives in clefts and existentials have been attested since Middle
English, where a particle analysis doesn't seem to be supported. I think
the modern singular copula is related to an increasing tendancy for
agreement in terms of the NP to the left in surface structure. Some related
phenomena might be (a) proximity concord and (b) agreement in some preposings,
which unfortunately I can't remember any examples of off-hand!
-- Cathy Ball (cball[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]guvax.georgetown.edu)