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Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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Informer: The structure of this sentence, it’s grammatical

Last Modified: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 10:48 AM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

Do you remember the feeling that coursed though your body when someone raked a blackboard with their fingernails or the chalk made that maddening squeaking noise? That is very close to the feeling I get when some TV commentator or newscaster uses a sentence composed with two subjects.

For example, they say, “The president, he gave a speech yesterday.”

Several outstanding English teachers spent considerable time and effort schooling me on the rules of sentence composition. If you find out who started this new way of using our language, would you kindly let me know?

The syntactical arrangement, called left-dislocation, has been around for a long time, is a feature of other languages and “is certainly grammatical in English,” according to linguist Mark Liberman.

“Up to 1500 or so, roughly one in every 100 or 200 sentences had this form, even in formal writing, and a similar frequency of use continues in spoken English to this day,” Liberman writes in a 2008 post on the blog Language Log.

“Over the past few centuries, the frequency of this construction in standard written English has been declining, and it’s now quite rare except in archaic styles, in representations of speech, or in informal styles that use spoken-language norms.”

The structure was named in a 1967 doctoral dissertation, which offered the following examples:

“The man my father works with in Boston, he’s going to tell the police that that traffic expert has set that traffic light on the corner of Murk Street far too low.”

“My father, he’s Armenian, and my mother, she’s Greek.”

“My wife, somebody stole her handbag last night.”

A commenter on Liberman’s blog offered another example: “So left dislocation is not as common as it used to be. Can we say that the times they are a-changing?”

A second Language Log post on the subject was, coincidentally enough, prompted by a presidential speech in 2012. What President Obama said:

“And then I think about Michelle’s mom, and the fact that Michelle’s mom and dad, they didn’t come from a wealthy family. Michelle’s dad, he worked a blue-collar job at the sanitary plant in Chicago. And my mother-in-law, she stayed at home until the kids got older. And she ended up becoming a secretary, and that’s where she worked at most of her life, was a secretary at a bank.”


Moonrise, moonset not always visible

In the paper, whenever there’s the moonsets and moonrises, sometimes for moonrise it has “none.” What does that mean?

It means the moonrise won’t be visible that day in this area.

“Moonrise and moonset may occur at any time of day and, consequently, it is often possible for the Moon to be seen during daylight, and to have moonless nights,” reads the website of the U.S. Naval Observatory.

“It is also possible that a moonrise or moonset does not occur relative to a specific place on a given date.”


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The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email

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