as far as us is concerned

Overheard at my local Gordon Biersch restaurant a few days ago:

as far as us is concerned, …

Strikingly ungrammatical for me. But I think I’ve figured out where it comes from.

Hard to search for the expression, since you get piles of “as far as US/U.S. is concerned” (with anarthrous U.S.). But it’s easy to find lots of examples with other accusative pronouns (him, her, them, me):

[of Jean Claude Van Damme] He’s never been known for his acting, but lately he’s been putting on some incredible performances, as far as him is concerned. (link)

so it seems….as far as him is concerned…if he REALLY cared for you, he would stop communicating with her, and i agree on the above posts, he needs to get an attorney! (link)

As far as her is concerned, if someone doesnt want to be with me, then leave me. Don’t cheat on me. (link)

[about three novels by Joyce Carol Oates] As far as them is concerned I try to analyse the different types of
women you tell about and the different reactions, emotions and expectations
they have in a world that doesn’t give them any possibilities but marriage 
and children. (link)

[rapper Stat Quo] As far as me is concerned, I love my city [Atlanta]. (link)

As far as me is concerned. I grew up with a WWII father that would have thrown me out of the house if I had acted in the least effeminate. (link)

And then there’s also as far as Acc goes:

As far as him goes, I knew everything I needed to know to make a decision to marry him. (link)

That is a good idea to focus on your son. He needs to feel loved. As far as her goes, alcoholism is a disease and you shoudn’t live with that. (link)

What I meant to say as far as them goes is actually referring to they as the ones responsible for introducing mercury fillings to the dentistry industry. (link)

[from the movie Atlantis: The Lost Empire] Vinny: Well, as far as me goes, I just like to blow things up. (link)

As far as us goes we started in 2005 and we love to take pictures of everything, from nature, to babies, we love being different and artistic in  our portraits. (link)

Here’s the story. It begins with topic-marking as far as, in

as far as NP is concerned, as far as NP goes

Then, beginning in the 19th century, these constructions are sometimes truncated to the verbless alternative as far as NP (roughly similar in function to as for NP). The story of truncated as far as is told in some detail in:

Rickford, John R.; Thomas A. Wasow; Norma Mendoza-Denton; & Juli Espinoza. 1995. Syntactic variation and change in progress: Loss of the verbal coda in topic-restricting as far as constructions. Lg 71.1.102-31.

An astonishing amount of venom has been directed at the truncated construction; some discussion here. For the purposes of this posting, just accept that the truncated construction is widespread — to the extent that I would view it as standard but colloquial/informal (and more American than British) — and has been for a while. (By the way, so far as I know, I don’t use it myself.)

Now comes the question of what happens when the NP in as far as NP is a definite personal pronoun that shows case: 1sg, 1pl, 3sg, 3pl. So far as I know, no one says or writes this topic-marker with a Nom pronoun:

as far as I / we / she / he / they

But only with an Acc pronoun:

as far as me / us / her / him / them

This is what’s to be expected, once as occurs in combination with an NP rather than a clause; it behaves like a preposition rather than a subordinator, and so governs Acc rather than Nom case. (Nom case does occur as an “elegant” variant, often justified by the reasoning that what follows the as is “really” an elliptical clause, so an NP in this position has the case that it would have in the full version. But Acc is in fact standard, and it’s the only really acceptable choice in informal speech and writing.)

And Acc is what we find:

[interview with KISS tribute band SSG] As far as us, we do different parts…one person doesn’t sing only the ‘Paul’ songs, ‘Ace’ songs or ‘Gene’ songs, whatever… (link)

[actor Cameron Bright] I 
basically told them straight out, ‘You don’t have to worry about me
talking about other people’s lives, I’ll talk about mine but I won’t
talk about anybody else’s, you know?’ But as far as them, they looked 
like friends, and that’s all that I can say. (link)

[Denver Nuggets player Carmelo Anthony about La La Vazquez] My endorsement deals are going to come. They’re not going to change. As far as her, she’s a star, she’s in Hollywood, acting, she’s got her own show. (link)

[Carmelo Anthony on LeBron James] “Anybody who loves the game of basketball wants to win the championship, when you don’t reach that level,” said Anthony, whose Nuggets were eliminated in the first round. “Anything else is disappointing. As far as him, he’s in a great state of mind. He’s just chilling, hanging with family and relaxing.” (link)

So in short he wants my company, wants to take me out on dates and have sex but no obligations or expectations. As far as me I don’t know what I want. (link)

(Note that the case usage argues that though as far as NP originated historically as a truncation, speakers are not literally “omitting” the verbs in language production; otherwise, you’d expect Nom. Instead, the verbless variants are now just another construction of the language.)

The next step on the way to as far as us is concerned is the “restoration” of the verbal element be concerned or go, either as a syntactic portmanteau of the verbless and the verbal variants, or as a consequence of instructions “not to leave out the verb” and the like, or (of course) both.

Finally: why the 3sg verb agreement in as far as us is concerned? This, too, is just as expected; as far as us are concerned would be absurd. In general, verbs agree only with Nom subjects, and agreement defaults to 3sg otherwise.

The result is an innovative variant of the verbal constructions — markedly non-standard, but not crazy.

5 Responses to “as far as us is concerned”

  1. The Ridger Says:

    This looks like the phenomenon that’s happening (has happened) with “than”, and it’s exactly the same as happened in constructions such as “he left before me / I did” but *before I.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The connection with than and before is on-target, but there’s no reason to think that these elements originally were treated as ellipsis remnants — in particular, that people used to say and write “He left before I”.

  2. David Marjanović Says:

    “He left before I”

    That’s not done even in German, which lacks the convention of using oblique-case forms of personal pronouns for emphasis. Er ist vor mir (weg)gegangenvor “before” is a preposition and requires the dative, mir.

  3. Pflaumbaum Says:

    Your theory seems good, but I have a couple of queries. First, is it possible there’s an element of ambiguity avoidance going on here? As far as he is concerned can mean either something like

    (1) what he thinks is

    or

    (2)regarding him

    Many of your examples are in the (2) sense, which may seem semantically more object-like.

    Secondly, I wonder if in some of them there’s an element of what Thomas Grano describes here in his thesis on co-ordinated pronouns:

    (20) Me, on the other hand, is a different story.
    (http://www.pauldavidson.net/2004/04/09/dangerous-decisions-or-war-with-canada/)

    There seems to be a sense in which the use of the accusative here serves to draw out the referent of the pronoun as a distinct entity to be commented on rather than as inextricable from the speaker.

  4. Drifting as far as « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] (On this blog, discussion here, with a followup here.) […]

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