Isis: is is, double is
(originally assembled by Patrick McConvell & Arnold Zwicky, in several drafts up to 2009; with additions since then from several sources)
Citations vary somewhat in format depending on the source.
Publications in the linguistic literature
(alphabetical by author)
Andersen, Gisle. 2002. Corpora and the double copula. In Leiv Egil Breivik & Angela Hasselgren (eds.), From the COLT’s mouth… and others’: Language corpora studies: In honour of Anna-Brita Stenstrom (Amsterdam: Rodopi), 43-58.
Bolinger, Dwight L. 1987. The remarkable double Is. English Today 9.39-40.
Brenier, Jason M. & Laura A. Michaelis. 2005. Prosodic optimization via syntactic amalgam: Syntax-prosody mismatch and copula doubling. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 1.45-88.
Calude, A. 2008. Demonstrative clefts and double cleft constructions in spoken English. Studia Linguistica 62, 78–118.
Coppock, Elizabeth & Laura Staum. 2004. Origin of the English Double-is Construction. Unpublished ms., Stanford University.
Coppock, Elizabeth; Jason Brenier; Laura Staum; & Laura Michaelis. 2006. ISIS: It’s not disfluent, but how do we know that? BLS 32.
Curzan, Anne. 2012. Revisiting the Reduplicative Copula with Corpus-based Evidence. In Terttu Nevalainen & Elizabeth Closs Traugott (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of English, Oxford Handbooks Online.
Heycock, Caroline & Anthony Kroch. 1999. Pseudocleft connectedness: Implications for the LF interface level. Linguistic Inquiry 30 (3), 365–397.
Jehn, Richard Douglas. 1979. That’s something that I wouldn’t want to account for, is a sentence like this. Calgary WPL 5.51-62.
Massam, Diane. 1999. Thing is constructions: the thing is, is what’s the right analysis? English Language and Linguistics 3.2.335-52.
McConvell, Patrick. 1988. To be or double be? Current changes in the English copula. Australian Journal of Linguistics 8.287-305.
McConvell, Patrick. 2004. Catastrophic change in current English: Emergent Double-be’s and Free-be’s. Talk at Australian National University. Slides available at: http://ldc.upenn.edu/myl/anubbppt3.pdf
O’Neill, Teresa. 2014. Demystifying double-is. Talk handout, CUNY Graduate Center.
Ross-Hagebaum, Sebastian. 2005. “And that’s my big area of interest in linguistics is discourse” – The forms and functions of the English that’s X is Y-construction. BLS 30.403-14.
Shapiro, Michael & Michael C. Haley. 2002. The reduplicative copula is is. American Speech 77.3.305-312.
Tuggy, David. 1996. The thing is is that people talk that way. In Eugene Casad (ed.), Cognitive linguistics in the redwoods: The expansion of a new paradigm in linguistics (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter), 713-52.
Yale Grammatical Diversity Project: English in North America. 2016. Double IS.
[summary of the phenomenon and the literature]
Zwicky, Arnold M. 2003. Isis inaugurates Memorial Day weekend. Talk at Stanford Isisfest 5/23/03. Handout available at:
Zwicky, Arnold. 2006. Extris, extris. NWAV Abstract, July 2006.
Zwicky, Arnold. 2007. Extris, extris. Talk at Stanford Semantics Festival 3/16/07. Handout available at:
(Some) mentions in the usage literature
(alphabetical by author)
Bierma, Nathan. 2009. The eclectic encyclopedia of English. Sherwood OR: William, James & Co. Entry on “is is”, pp. 133-4.
Cochrane, James. 2004. Between you and I: A little book of bad English. Naperville IL: Sourcebooks. Entry on “is repeated”, pp. 68-9.
Fine, Edith H. and Josephson, Judith P. 2001. More nitty-gritty grammar: Another not-so-serious guide to clear communication. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press. On what this is is: use “this is…” instead, p. 170.
Garner, Bryan A. 2003. Garner’s modern American usage. [2nd ed. of Garner 1998] NY: OUP. Entry on “is is”, p. 469.
King, Graham. 2000. Good writing skills: How to succeed at English. Glasgow: HarperCollins. Listed under “irritating repetitions”, p. 23.
Levin, Samuel R. 1998. Shades of meaning. Boulder: Westview Press. “Solecistic redundancy” in “what happens is is that,” “The fact/problem is is that…,” etc., p. 115.
O’Conner, Patricia T. 2009. Woe is I: : The Grammarphobe’s guide to better English in plain English.. 3rd ed. NY: Riverhead Bks. (Penguin). “The is-ness cycle”, p. 68.
Wallraff, Barbara. 2000. Word court. NY: Harcourt. Discusion of “double is”, pp. 66-8.
Walsh, Bill. 2004. The elephants of style. NY: McGraw-Hill. Entry on “is is”, pp. 195-6.
Net discussions of the construction
(alphabetical by source)
ADS list, May, October, and December 2001
Languagehat, 21 October 2009: Is is, was is:
LINGUIST list, 1992: 3.10, 3.18, 3.29, 3.44, 3.56
LINGUIST list, 2001: 12.1904
LINGUIST list, 2004: 15.150, 15.427, 15.518, 15.535, 15.560
Melon Colonie blog, Jackson Ninly, 16 January 2004
sci.lang newsgroup, September-October 2001
Wishydig, 11 September 2007: What Isis is is not clear:
Language Log and AZBlog postings
(in chronological order)
ML, 6/27/04: The thing is is people talk this way. The question is is why? The answer is is (drumroll please) …:
AA, 6/29/04: A bird in the hand is, is…:
ML, 6/29/04: Isis Fest, with emergent free-bees:
AZ, 7/5/04: Isis bibliography:
AZ, 2/21/07: More Semfest!:
[slightly expanded abstract for a SemFest talk]
For at least 35 years, English speakers have been producing sentences with an occurrence of a form of BE that is not licensed in standard English (SE) and is not a disfluency…
AZ, 2/22/07: Labels Are Not Definitions:
Early on in our investigations of the phenomenon, the Stanford/Colorado research group began to use the label Isis or ISIS (pronounced /ájsɪs/), just to get away from the possibly misleading “is is” etc. stuff. The label is suggestive, but doesn’t look like a characterization or description of the phenomenon. (This tactic doesn’t always work, but we still think it’s better than the alternatives.)
In any case, people come to us with examples of both of the types we try so carefully to exclude.
… If you take the name “double be” to be not just a label, but actually a definition, you’ll be tempted into seeing repetition disfluencies and entirely standard pseudocleft sentences to be instances of the phenomenon. But, to hammer it home again: Labels Are Not Definitions (Or Descriptions)
ML, 8/13/11: Xtreme Isisism: Xtreme Isisism
with links to LLog postings and to some handouts, abstracts, papers, etc.
BZ, 9/25/11: The elusive triple “is”: The elusive triple
BZ, 10/23/12: Obama’s “is is”: Obama’s is is
ML, 11/24/12: Isis (& Wasis) rising: Isis (& Wasis) rising
BZ, 4/30/13: Obama’s “is is” redux: Obama’s is is redux
9/19/13: Miscellany for 9/19/13:
item #8: ISIS on Slate’s Lexicon Valley blog
11/16/14: Name aversion:
On the goddess Isis, the linguistic phenomenon Isis, and the organization ISIS
11/18/16: The Isis files:
announcement of this Page
3/27/17: Early “is is”? Probably not:
cite from 1964