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There's + plural noun
PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2007 1:15 am Reply with quote
Bridget
 
Joined: 17 May 2007
Posts: 77


Quite a few linguists ( J Cheshire being one) state that, even among educated people, usage such as "There's lots of museums" is more common that the grammatically correct "There are lots of museums". How did that come about? Why is the ungrammatical form more popular, even among educated people?
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2007 7:03 pm Reply with quote
thegooseking
 
Joined: 10 Sep 2006
Posts: 64
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland


I would tend to use the (equally incorrect) "There are a lot of museums".

I'd be tempted to say the term 'lots of' is an exception to the rule, rather than an indicator of general usage for plural nouns. It occupies a strange space in language where it's technically a collective noun, but is used interchangeably with 'many', which is an adjective. That said, that should still indicate "There are lots of museums".

This does beg the question, though: why are there 'lots' of museums and not 'a lot' of museums? How many museums comprises a lot, exactly, and how do we know when there are simply too many to fit into one lot? I suspect what's happening, maybe, is that 'lots of' and 'a lot of' are being used interchangeably, and the grammar not being suitably altered.

[Edited to add:] Thinking about it further, though, I think I would tend to use 'a lot of' interchangeably with 'many' and 'lots of' interchangeably with 'much', which perhaps seems counterintuitive...
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 4:42 am Reply with quote
Bridget
 
Joined: 17 May 2007
Posts: 77


Quote:
I would tend to use the (equally incorrect) "There are a lot of museums".


Why is that incorrect?
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 10:23 am Reply with quote
thegooseking
 
Joined: 10 Sep 2006
Posts: 64
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland


Same reason "There are a flock of geese" is incorrect.

'Lot' is a singular collective noun, and the verb 'to be' applies to the lot, not to the museums. So it should be conjugated in the singular ('is') rather than the plural ('are').

I think. I'm starting to confuse myself, now.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 5:21 pm Reply with quote
Dave
 
Joined: 08 Jun 2006
Posts: 357
Location: Washington, DC


I think there really are regional/dialectical variants of this.

I believe Americans tend to hear the phrase "a lot of" as functionally equivalent to "many," as a pluralizing noun.

In a similar way, I usually hear British speakers refer to an audience as plural, as in "the audience were in a happy mood this evening." (I performed magic for graduating high-school seniors Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. The audience were in an ecstatic mood.)

It will be interesting to see, over time, what happens with collectivizing nouns such as "flock," "herd," "gang," etc. Will they come to be heard as pluralizing, or will they tend to be thought of as one big lump of similar things? It'll also be interesting to see the different ways these things change in various English-speaking regions.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 1:13 am Reply with quote
Bloomer
 
Joined: 23 Oct 2008
Posts: 136
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA


I'm surprised no one has brought in other languages here. While English and German differentiate in formal grammar between singular and plural (there is/are, es gibt/geben), many languages don't. In Spanish it's just hay, in Portuguese ha, and in French il y a--all meaning a kind of "this situation exists." There are non-IndoEuropean examples as well. In Hausa, they use akwai and Hebrew yesh--both (Semitic langauges) without a sense of number. These are one-size-fits-all expressions, no futzing around with extra grammar when the basic meaning is clear.

By the way, I assiduously avoid "there's" + plural nouns. For being such a descriptive linguist, I'm a snooty prescriptivist at heart. (Learn all them rules, dadgummit! If you don't, I'm better'n you!) ;-)
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There's + plural noun
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