EDM +of +a :PL

The example: because of how good of a friends we are (from the Canadian-American tv series The Good Witch, S3 E3, first aired 5/14/17)

An example of a type that’s very hard to search for, so I tend to treasure each one I come across.

(I’ve written about these phenomena many times, and there’s a Page on this blog with links to these postings and synopses of their contents, but here, for one more time, very briefly…)

Background: It’s about Adj modifying N, with Deg (a degree adverb) in turn modifying the Adj, as in a very big dog:

NP = [ Det [ [ Deg Adj ] N ]: [ a [ [ very big ] dog ]

Nothing exciting there. This is Ordinary Degree Modification (ODM).

For a certain number of Deg modifiers — among them, that ‘to such a degree, very’ and how ‘to what degree’ —  this option is unavailable: *a that/how big dog. Instead, we get a surprising alternative: that/how big a dog:

NP = [ [ Deg Adj ] [ Det N ]: [ [ that/how big ] [ a dog ] ]

This is Exceptional (or Extraordinary) Degree Modifcation (EDM). It’s extraordinary in more ways than one. The construction requires the Det a; no other similar Det will do, not even one: *that/how big one dog. And it’s available only for I nouns (I = SG CT): in a related but distinct construction, we can have a dog that big (with an I head, abbreviated here as :I), cutlery that big (:M), dogs/knives that big (:PL). But EDM doesn’t allow :M or :PL: *that big (a) cutlery, *that big (a) dogs/knives.

Summarizing: EDM has the properties +a :I.

That’s EDM in a conservative variety of English. In an innovative variety (now the norm for most  younger American speakers), the post-N constituent is marked with the P of: that/how big of a dog. Call this the +of variant of EDM; conservative EDM is then -of.

Now, from my 4/12/12 posting “Innovative EDM”, about how speakers have dealt with the :I restriction:

there are a number of possible schemes for extending EDM to PL and M nouns. Here I’ll look at PLs. Given the model

(0) Deg Adj a I (that handsome a guy)
[-of +a :I]

you can posit

(1) Deg Adj PL (that handsome guys)
[-of -a :PL]

or you can take the a in (0) to be just a mark of the construction and not actually the indefinite article, and so posit

(2) Deg Adj a PL (that handsome a guys)
[-of +a :PL]

or can you start from the +of EDM variant

(0′) Deg Adj of a I (that handsome of a guy)
[+of +a :I]

and posit one of the following:

(1′) Deg Adj of PL (that handsome of guys)
[+of -a :PL]

(2′) Deg Adj of a PL (that handsome of a guys)
[+of -a :PL]

(0) and (0′) are standard English. The other four are non-standard, but all are attested; people want to subvert the :I restriction on EDM. So every once in a while I pick up something like how good of a friends — (2′) EDM +of +a :PL — from The Good Witch.

[Addendum 8/30, with pictures! It begins to look like EDM +of +a :PL is much more frequent than I’d thought. Well, I could find 14 more distinct occurrences of how good of a friends (with the specific Deg how, the specific Adj good, and the specific N friends) in a quick Google search. Two of them, from the social-media site Whisper and from the recipe site Top Inspired:


(#2) Avocado Cream Over Shrimp Tostadas With Voskos Greek Yogurt: “Here they are, together again! So now you can imagine how good of a friends shrimp and avocado make!”]

One Response to “EDM +of +a :PL”

  1. bebopple Says:

    portmoji – a new category of visual language – and this first example – admusion – inspired by your post today:


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