Samples in which hypercorrections are in

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Following up on "A nation in which supports dependency" (7/9/2012), Glenn Bingham has sent me an annotated compendium of "Samples in which hypercorrections are in", reproduced below as a guest post.

Glenn's diagnosis is that these examples arise by way of an attempt to "sound erudite" by adding an extra preposition at the start of a relative clause, thus yielding a formal-sounding collocation like "in which" without any valid grammatical license.  He sees this as a hypercorrection along the lines satirized by James Thurber in his "Ladies' and Gentlemen's Guide to Modern English Usage":

The number of people who use "whom" and "who" wrongly is appalling. The problem is a difficult one and it is complicated by the importance of tone, or taste. Take the common expression, "Whom are you, anyways?" That is of course, strictly speaking, correct – and yet how formal, how stilted! The usage to be preferred in ordinary speech and writing is "Who are you, anyways?" "Whom" should be used in the nominative case only when a note of dignity or austerity is desired.

As discussed in "Back to the future, redundant preposition department" (5/4/2007) and "A phenomenon in which I'm starting to believe in" (5/14/2007), I'm not entirely sure that the extra-preposition examples are all errors, hypercorrect or otherwise — but Glenn's rational catalogue, drawn mostly from assignments submitted by his students, is a valuable step.

Below is a guest post by Glenn Bingham:


“Heavy Trace” Pied-Piping

In this set, instead of pre-posing the which and its proposition or else pre-posing the which and leaving the preposition behind, the preposition is copied so that it does both: fronts and stays behind. It is as though there is a need for more than a normal trace being left behind, so we might think of it as a “heavy trace.”

For each of the following, the P-which can be replaced with that. Alternatively, the separated P can be erased. Either result seems to produce a standard sentence.

Also let[‘]s not forget the atmosphere in which we live in.

I would like to start of[f] by saying I attempted to find an area of the essay "Defining God into Existence", in which I had a doubt in[;] however while researching, I was able to find an explanation.

If there are morals in which are in forms of commands then there must be a commander in which not everything is permissible.

The basic aim of moral philosophy is to come up with a standard principle on which all moral judgments are based on.

On the other hand I think that some things, like animals or humans do have a reason for existence for which I give the God to my understanding the credit for.

This seems to try to repeat the infinitive marker instead of a preposition, so fails one leg of the fix-up algorithm:

…[T]hey take on traits and actions to which leads them to become either good or evil.”

[Random P]-Which…P

For this set of examples, the P-which can be replaced with that. The alternative, however, is to move the P that was stranded into the pre-which position, eliminating the random P originally associated with it. The first several use in which, but there is plenty of variety after that.

For this assignment, I chose unicorns to be my mythological character in which I am familiar with.

We must look at ourselves and the universe that surrounds us, while recognizing that this is the only evidence that exists at this point in time, whether it be for or against a higher power, this is the evidence in which we must apply our logic to.

It is an entity in which all things came from and will come from.[1]

Both are two different argument types, but just about mean the same thing about where God can be found, a thought in which many ponder upon.

Heraclitus believed that fire was the primary element in which the earth was composed of.

But when people talk about judgment day it is believed that when god returns to earth he will judge if your time on earth was spent well and if that is the case you are supposed to be brought back to life in his kingdom in which he will be the king of.

There is a foundation of which our beliefs are built apon [sic].

These imperatives were based around a set [of] principles or rules to which all aspects had to agree with in order for them to be good by nature.

Seeing as how in the time of the day women were nothing more then an afterthought and thought of as silly little playthings for which men fought over to posses this myth gives women a power that men need.

Though, Anaximenes and Thales both were monists, their main difference was their stance on which primary substance was the source of which the earth was derived from.

So there was an explanation for the things at which he could not be certain about.

Conversely, hypothetical imperatives state that there is a particular goal for which we act on.

Thales believed that the substance out of which all living things came from was water.

Mxxx Rxxx Elementary School is one of three elementary schools in Fxxx Township.  The school currently houses 446 students in grades 3 through 6. Our primary goal is to provide the children with a firm academic foundation with which they can build upon as seventh graders at Dxxx Regional Middle School.[2]Official school website


[1] A problem for the fixing suggestions:
It is an entity that all things came from and will come from.
?It is an entity from which all things came and will come.
?It is an entity from which all things came and will come from.

[2] This website has been recently edited. The school is now for grades 3 and 4, and the children are sent to another school for grades 5 and 6. The expression “with which they can build upon” remains intact.

 

The following example draws the which from an infinitive phrase, and as such does not meet the general rule. The alternative works, carrying the left-behind preposition to the front, producing …upon which to base…, but that  does not settle into the which-P spot if vacated: *…arguments that to base the existence of God.

While reading the "Defining God into Existence" essay by Professor [Bxxx], I found there to be many insightful and weak arguments on which to base the existence of God upon.

Over-Formalized That Replacement

The following samples just have a stuffy, over-formalized form substituted for the normal that, so it amounts to a straight-forward hypercorrection. Several students admitted that these forms, especially in which, make the sentence sound more formal. Writers who whom who’s whether whoming is needed or not would be more inclined to add this embellishment as well. Note that the bulk of the replacements involve in which, but then some other random prepositions are inserted and then a couple of more complex varieties emerge.

In order to do this though they needed to respect the laws in which government made…

The one in which i felt  i understood the most was The Universe is like a Vegetable.

He believed that air was the main source behind the way in which fire is created as well as water and earth.

I see a lot of uses like "a big, red house," in which my teachers 50-60 years ago would have circled the comma in red.[1]

A person can be evil but it doesn't mean their nature is bad; sometimes people are born into a situation in which may change who we really are.

It’s probably the most comprehensible argument in which simply states there cannot be an infinite amount of causes towards an event….I believe the cosmological argument is a sound and simplistic argument in which is really easy to understand.

The ultimate goal in society was to reach this level of goodness in which he describes as happiness.

Scientific data and enlightenment have paved the way in which we think about the world in which we live. [The second occurrence is standard.]

God is supernatural in which is above and beyond normal natural phenomena,…

I believe we are all born with innateness, in which only takes us so far through life.

All of us want to be happy, therefore we usually do things that make us happy, such as eating food or having one more glass of wine, in which we know is bad for us but we do it just to have that moment of gratification.

As audience members, we tend to follow the direction in which our speaker is looking.

In today’s society, it seems as though there has been a large difference in the moral standards of the future generations compared to those in which many of us were raised with ourselves.

Selsberg's argument is that although teachers have taught their students to write lengthy papers with MLA style works cited pages, students would be much more efficient and interested in writing shorter assignments in which grab their attention and stay in tune to the world's conversation.

The very idea of this book is the philosophical question of, “do we have innate knowledge?" in which, those who do not believe that we are born with innate ideas, and human universals then lean towards what Pinker described as a political stand point.

Empiricists believe that the mind, upon its creation, is a “blank slate” for which we fill up through our experiences and senses.

Likewise, the attitude and setting of males and females within television advertising contributes to the commercials with which they represent, as well as the frequency of viewing.

 I believe teleology is a vessel of which welcomes growth and limitless queries to understanding a World from a human stance.

Contingency – all things which exist in nature are contingent which means there must exist something of which is necessary.

If you explore this theory a bit deeper Empedocles explains that in the beginning of time there was a mix of species and sexes from which you could not tell apart.

You say that you want us to find insightful parts that we enjoy and then to find any parts by which we believe are weak.

How does one get others, whom of which are not deep thinkers, to see things in the same manner?

In a way the two relate because to form water there needs to be particles that of which make up the substance of water that then creates the other beings in Thales words.

The soul desires appetite for in which it has some type or form of satisfaction[:] [t]he appetite for in which we desire or are hungry for obtaining that certain thing.


[1] Mr Punch. “A zeugmatic crash blossom to torment Mets fans.” Language Log. 2014 April 2. Blog. 2014 April 15.

Can’t decide? Use both.

There is no point to reach for that of which is beyond us as humans.

Unnecessary Adornment of Infinitives

The alternative is to leave "in which" out:

My argument, primarily a posteriori, would be, without our existing design of our bodies scientists would not be able to replicate it and furthermore if our design was not perfect scientists would not duplicate organs but would be searching for more beneficial counter parts in which to replace them.

They mapped out a way in which to predict the revolutions of the planets and our sun, though the work involved was incredibly complicated.

Random P

In the following sentence, the first in which should be that, and the second one should be for whom.. It seems that the proper forms were just replaced with an formal-sounding string without regard to the meaning.

If there are morals in which are in forms of commands then there must be a commander in which not everything is permissible (existence-of-god).

Random Wh-Word

If in which is better than that, probably in where is even better than in which, right?

This idea is consistent with the cosmological argument in where everything that exists has a cause.

Random impossible P

Here someone is apparently aiming for that elusive note of dignity and austerity by expressing "which is impossible to do" as "to which is impossible":

To attain the EXACT amount of calories, you would have to weigh off each ingredient grain by grain, to which is impossible.

Conclusion

Since preposition+wh-word combinations are common in formal written English but rare in speech, many people apparently conclude that they should sprinkle quasi-random instances in their writing in order to make it seem more writerly. In some cases, the result is grammatical but unnecessarily formal; in many other cases, the result is an ungrammatical hypercorrection, or an echo of archaic usage that is no longer part of the standard language.


Above is a guest post by Glenn Bingham

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41 Comments »

  1. pj said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

    There's nothing wrong to my eye in

    I see a lot of uses like "a big, red house," in which my teachers 50-60 years ago would have circled the comma in red.

    Am I missing something?

    [(myl) I would agree that the cited sentence is fine, but perhaps we're both missing something. ]

  2. M.N. said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

    I'm not seeing anything wrong with it either, though I'm surprised by the proposition it expresses. In my somewhat limited experience, it's always seemed as though what the prescriptivists want is for you to always separate adjectives like that with a comma ("a big, red house"), though "a big red house" looks more natural to my eye.

  3. Francois Lang said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 2:33 pm

    I couldn't help recalling Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die", which contains the line

    "But if this ever changing world in which we live in"

    [(myl) Cited and discussed in the earlier linked posts.]

  4. AEM said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 2:37 pm

    "Writers who whom who’s"
    Took me a bit to figure out.

  5. dazeystarr said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

    I knew someone would mention the "Live and Let Die" line–it always comes up in these discussions. But yes, the correct lyric is "world in which we're livin'". McCartney can be a crap lyricist, but he's not that bad.

    [(myl) Again, this theory is raised and discussed in some of the linked posts.]

    As for the "big, red house" example, it does bother me. I want it to read "I see a lot of uses like 'a big, red house,' the comma in which my teachers 50-60 years ago would have circled in red." This sounds slightly more stilted and awkward, but to me renders the meaning more clearly.

  6. Jerry Friedman said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

    Since those posts were written, Sir Paul has cleared up what he meant, sort of.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/29/AR2009072903542_2.html?sid=ST2009073001775

    The host of the opera show on the public radio station here in Santa Fe always (almost always) says "To whom are we listening to tonight?"

    A while back, some people doubted that many students wrote ungrammatical English. I hope they're reading this.

    [(myl) Thanks for the link to the McCartney interview, which I had not seen. Since few LLOG readers follow links ("Kids today... !"), here's the relevant part:

    What exactly is McCartney's maddening lyric in "Live and Let Die"? Is it, "In this ever-changing world in which we live in"? Or "in which we're living"?

    McCartney considers and seems genuinely puzzled. "Yeah, good question," he says. "It's kind of ambivalent, isn't it? . . . Um . . . I think it's 'in which we're living.'"

    He starts to sing to himself: "In this ever changing world. . . . ' It's funny. There's too many 'ins.' I'm not sure. I'd have to have actually look. I don't think about the lyric when I sing it. I think it's 'in which we're living.' 'In which we're living.' Or it could be 'in which we live in.' And that's kind of, sort of, wronger but cuter. That's kind of interesting. 'In which we live in.' In which we live in! I think it's 'In which we're living.'

    ]

  7. dazeystarr said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 2:53 pm

    I do understand that that still does not make the given sentence an example of the particular hypercorrection being discussed, by the way.

  8. michael malone said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

    Off topic this may be, and I apologise for that, but I am in desperate need of some linguistic assistance.

    Somebody I respect has posted this sentence from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language:

    "I have, notwithstanding this discouragement, attempted a dictionary of the English language, which, while it was employed in the cultivation of every species of literature, has itself been hitherto neglected, suffered to spread, under the direction of chance, into wild exuberance, resigned to the tyranny of time and fashion, and exposed to the corruptions of ignorance, and caprices of innovation."

    What does 'it' refer to here? The English language or a dictionary of the English language? If it is the English language Johnson is talking about then his claim that English is 'employed in the cultivation of every species of literature' is a magnificient example of circumlocution.

    The phrase 'under the direction of chance' also stands out. Was he trying to be funny? What makes chance chance is that is doesn't have direction.

    [(myl) In "... the English language, which, while it was employed in the cultivation of every species of literature ...", the pronoun it clearly refers to "the English language". And if you're in the market for magnificent circumlocution, Johnson has a ready supply. Here's a random sentence from A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland:

    The change of religion in Scotland, eager and vehement as it was, raised an epidemical enthusiasm, compounded of sullen scrupulousness and warlike ferocity, which, in a people whom idleness resigned to their own thoughts, and who, conversing only with each other, suffered no dilution of their zeal from the gradual influx of new opinions, was long transmitted in its full strength from the old to the young, but by trade and intercourse with England, is now visibly abating, and giving way too fast to their laxity of practice and indifference of opinion, in which men, not sufficiently instructed to find the middle point, too easily shelter themselves from rigour and constraint.

    As for "spreading, under the direction of chance, into wild exuberance", this is an accurate if playful description of a stochastic process, which modern mathematics defines precisely.]

  9. Mara K said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 6:27 pm

    "Writers who whom who’s…" This was a bit of a garden path. It took me a couple of readings to figure out that "whom" was a verb.

  10. Ralph Hickok said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 7:48 pm

    Alan Jay Lerner in "On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)":

    Hey, buds below, up is where to grow,
    Up with which below can't compare with ….

  11. Glenn Bingham said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

    @M.N.

    "The big, red house" was part of the quote, but not the part of focus of this article. Actually, in that quote, the writer was pointing out that the comma was not standard, so your intuition is on the mark.

  12. Roger Lustig said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 8:13 pm

    The first time I heard it, I thought that Aretha Franklin song was "Who's whomin' who?"

  13. Mr Punch said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 10:23 pm

    Thanks to those who defended my sentence – the "ins" are not in fact redundant. What has always driven me crazy about "Live and Let Die" is that "in which we're living" would have scanned and even sounded the same, and been grammatical.

  14. Levantine said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 11:04 pm

    Regarding "a big, red house" vs. "a big red house", the two seem equally standard to me and carry slightly different meanings:

    "A big, red house" = a house that is big and red.
    "A big red house" = a red house that is big.

  15. Jerry Friedman said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 11:56 pm

    michael malone: Two places to ask questions like yours are alt.usage.english (a Usenet newsgroup) and the Language Reference Desk at Wikipedia. I'm sure there are many others.

  16. Mar Rojo said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 12:55 am

    I don't find anything odd about many of his "in which"; examples. BrE user.

  17. GeorgeW said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 5:14 am

    Does the poetry in "Live and Let Die" call for (and therefore excuse) the extra "in?"

  18. Brian said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 7:27 am

    Any comments on "wherein" ?

  19. Pflaumbaum said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 8:44 am

    @ Mar Rojo

    Same here.

    They mapped out a way in which to predict the revolutions of the planets and our sun, though the work involved was incredibly complicated

    and

    As audience members, we tend to follow the direction in which our speaker is looking.

    …seem standard. Have we missed the point?

  20. Toma said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 9:12 am

    @ GeorgeW
    No, that sort of thing just makes it bad poetry.

  21. Paul Clarke said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 11:48 am

    Pflaumbaum: I'm also a British English speaker and I agree that those two sound fine. I'd add:

    He believed that air was the main source behind the way in which fire is created as well as water and earth.

    and

    Scientific data and enlightenment have paved the way in which we think about the world in which we live.

    though the repeated "in which" in the second example is annoying. I didn't spot any others that I'd accept.

  22. Shannon said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 11:51 am

    One thing that I've wondered about is how actually to tell that some non-standard usage is actually a hypercorrection rather than just another "mistake".

    It seems like hypercorrection implies something about the mental state of the speaker or the writer, where they are trying to overcompensate by adding unnecessary things to their language to try and sound "formal", but how does one distinguish that from making a non-standard usage, without any intent, conscious, or subconscious, to go out of one's way to sound formal.

    What if, for instance, the person adding the extra preposition isn't really trying to sound high-falutin', but just slipped in one by accident, or didn't proofread or actually just assumed it was a standard usage, formal or not.

    I'd imagine, perhaps one way to test this would be to see if a person or people generally increase usage of the hypercorrect forms in more formal contexts than informal ones. Or if more formal situations stimulate hypercorrect forms to come out of the woodwork where they weren't used before.

    Lastly, I find the term hypercorrect kind of funny. Even if you subscribe to a prescriptivist worldview, something is either correct or incorrect. Hypercorrect forms that are "wrong" (under the prescriptivist view) would be simply incorrect rather than correct since you can't get "more than correct". It reminds me of terms like "overqualified", as in for a job (how can you be more than qualified, if you are qualified, you made it!) or "too perfect", which seem like euphemisms for ways to reject something but still make it sound good.

  23. Jerry Friedman said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

    In some of the examples that Pflaumbaum and Paul Clarke have questioned, "in which" can be deleted or change to something shorter (in my English), but I agree with them that the examples are grammatical. If there's a criticism, it's on the grounds of style.

    They mapped out a way in which to predict the revolutions of the planets and our sun, though the work involved was incredibly complicated.

    "In which" can be deleted, to the great improvement of the sentence, in my opinion.

    As audience members, we tend to follow the direction in which our speaker is looking.

    "In which" can be deleted, though the result strikes me as somewhat informal. Some people might replace "in which" with "that".

    He believed that air was the main source behind the way in which fire is created as well as water and earth.

    "In which" can be replaced by "that" or deleted.

    Scientific data and enlightenment have paved the way in which we think about the world in which we live.

    "In which" can be replaced by "that" or deleted.

    I get an odd mental dissonance from the concrete metaphor of "paved the way" and the abstract "the way we think", by the way. I mean "incidentally".

  24. errorr said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

    To reiterate the McCartney "Live and Let Die" controversy he claims to not remember what the original lyric is and I have heard good examples of live recordings where it seems he has sung it both ways.

  25. hector said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

    @ M.N.: There's prescriptivists, then there's people who just like commas.

    @ Levantine: Exactly! A different emphasis if you add the comma.

  26. errorr said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

    "Thales believed that the substance out of which all living things came from was water"

    The non-hypercorrected version of this sentence seems less evocative or something. I can't quite articulate why I prefer the original. It may have to do with some type of added sense of time or wholeness. Water pre-existed the creation or something like that.

  27. Alon Lischinsky said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 3:27 pm

    @Shannon:

    One thing that I've wondered about is how actually to tell that some non-standard usage is actually a hypercorrection rather than just another "mistake".

    Probability. If, in a given population, the non-standard usage occurs more frequently as the formality of the genre increases, then the most likely explanation is an attempt to (mistakenly) meet these genre requirements.

    A similar logic was behind Labov's work on g-dropping, for example.

  28. Mar Rojo said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

    Prof. Crystal: http://david-crystal.blogspot.com.es/2009/08/on-world-in-which-we-live-in.html

  29. Catherine Rudin said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

    20 years ago I collected dozens of examples very similar to those Glenn Bingham presents, mostly from the writing of college freshmen (collecting helped me survive teaching composition), with a few from situations like radio interviews where it seemed like the speaker might be striving for a more than usually elevated tone. When I first started seeing things like "the town in which I grew up in" in student essays I assumed they were just errors — the writer waffled between "in which I grew up" and "(which/that) I grew up in" and didn't proofread well enough to notice the resulting extra preposition. But some had apparently random prepositions, and a fair number had "inwhich" written as a single word in situations with no reasonable source for "in". Eventually I got curious enough to interview a bunch of the student writers, and it turned out they didn't see these as errors at all. Almost none of them saw anything wrong with the sentences they'd written and a surprising number commented that the sentences with "inwhich" or doubled prepositions sounded better (more sophisticated, literary, educated) than the corrected versions I proposed. It may not always be the case, but I'm convinced these constructions are very often a hypercorrection – an attempt to sound erudite.

  30. Ted said,

    April 16, 2014 @ 6:01 pm

    I agree with Jerry Friedman et al. that several of Bingham's cited examples, though perhaps inelegant, aren't cases of hypercorrection. Since none of the earlier commenters turned the sentences around to illustrate the analysis, I thought it might be useful to do so.

    The one in which i felt i understood the most was The Universe is like a Vegetable.

    Translation, with context: Philo proposed several analogies to illustrate some of his philosophical concepts, and he wrote tracts to explain the ideas behind each analogy. I did not understand anything he said in most of these tracts, but I understood some of what he said in a few of them. The one in which I felt I understood the most was the one in which he likened the universe to a vegetable.

    This is not necessarily true, and in any case "understood the most" might not be a particularly high standard. But "in which" is grammatical.

    He believed that air was the main source behind the way in which fire is created as well as water and earth.

    Translation: He believed that there is one specific way in which fire is created, and that air was the main source behind this way of creating fire.

    Here source behind is redundant (it should be source of), and a better writer would refer to a way to create fire rather than a way in which fire is created. (Even a way of creating fire would be less awkward.) And the statement makes no sense regardless of how it's written. But "in which" is grammatical.

    I see a lot of uses like "a big, red house," in which my teachers 50-60 years ago would have circled the comma in red.

    Translation: I see a lot of instances of uses of noun phrases such as the following: "a big, red house." In uses of this type, the writer puts a comma between the adjectives that modify the head noun. I believe my teachers 50-60 years ago would have considered the comma in this type of use incorrect, and would have circled it in red ink to mark it as an error.

    In this case, "in which" refers to the comma in the use, and it's grammatical. (I might prefer usage or construction rather than use as the noun here, but that's quibbling.)

    Scientific data and enlightenment have paved the way in which we think about the world in which we live.

    Translation: We think about the world in a particular way, which was paved by scientific data and enlightenment.

    As audience members, we tend to follow the direction in which our speaker is looking.

    Translation: Our speaker is looking in a particular direction. As audience members, we tend to look in that direction too, because we follow the speaker.

    In today’s society, it seems as though there has been a large difference in the moral standards of the future generations compared to those in which many of us were raised with ourselves.

    This isn't grammatical, but I don't think "in which" is necessarily the problem. There are three possible nouns to which in which many of us were raised might refer: 1. today's society, 2. moral standards, and 3. future generations.

    In case 1, the author would be comparing the moral standards of the future generations in today's society against the moral standards of the future generations in those societies in which many of us were raised with ourselves. The grammar implies that it's permissible to use in to describe the relationship between moral standards and societies (i.e., moral standards occur in a society). This seems reasonable as a matter of syntax, although the resulting sentence doesn't make any sense unless you think it's possible to evaluate the moral standards of a society's future generations. (Don't ask me how.)

    In this case, "societies . . . in which many of us were raised" would be correct, and the grammatical problems would be, first, that "in today's society" appears to coordinate with the next NP ("a large difference") rather than the distal "moral standards," and second, the stray "with" and awkward "ourselves" at the end of the sentence. (And the latter wouldn't be ungrammatical if the author thinks a person might be raised either with or without himself and wants to specify the former.)

    In case 2, the author would be comparing the moral standards of the future generations in today's society with the moral standards in which many of us were raised with ourselves. Here the problem is a failure of parallelism: in the first term of the comparison, the grammar implies that standards belong to people ("generations") and occur in societies. In the second term, the grammar implies that people ("many of us") are raised in standards and raised with standards; there's no mention of societies.

    The phrase "in which many of us were raised with" is clearly at the crux of the problem. Raised could conceivably relate to standards using either in or with (although with certainly sounds more natural to my ear), but it doesn't work with both. This looks a lot like the examples of hypercorrection, for several reasons. First, it's written with two prepositions, one before the noun and one after. Second, if we assume that raised with standards is grammatical and raised in standards is not, both plain "which" and "with" are grammatical where they appear, but "in which" is wrong. And, finally, if raised can take either in or with, we can fix the sentence by choosing either preposition and using it in either placement (i.e., all of the following would be grammatical: 1. "those in which many of us were raised," 2. "those with which many of us were raised," 3. "those many of us were raised in," and 4. "those many of us were raised with"), but using any combination of prepositions in both positions is ungrammatical.

    All of these are also true in the hypercorrection cases. But the problems with parallelism in the two terms of the comparison seem to run deeper than that, especially with the baffling "ourselves" thrown into the sentence. It may be nothing more than hypercorrection, but I think the grammar problems here are the result of a more general incoherence.

    In case 3, in today's society would modify either both terms of the comparison or the comparison itself, and the comparison would be between the moral standards of future generations and the moral standards in which many of us were raised with ourselves. I'm not sure there's anything to be gained by a detailed analysis of this possibility. Again, though, the problem seems to be general incoherence, not mere hypercorrection.

    Selsberg's argument is that although teachers have taught their students to write lengthy papers with MLA style works cited pages, students would be much more efficient and interested in writing shorter assignments in which grab their attention and stay in tune to the world's conversation.

    Although "in which" is ungrammatical here, I suspect it's a case of "avoid passive voice," combined with the sort of editing error that Janelle B describes, rather than hypercorrection. Imagine a first draft that read "students would be more efficient and interested in writing assignments in which they are interested" etc. (I often find myself writing things like this, because students is the primary subject of the sentence and assignments the object of the primary verb. Immediately after I write "assignments," I'm much more likely to try to modify it by adding a prepositional phrase than by making in the subject of a dependent clause, because I'm still thinking of it as an object, not a subject.)

    An author revising that draft might well have identified the passive voice (not to mention the repetition of the word "interested") as undesirable and changed the grammatical structure to a dependent clause with a strong active verb — "grab" being a textbook example. Virtually all of the revisions needed to make this change take place after "which" – i.e., interested in writing assignments in which they are interested and can stay in tune etc. becomes interested in writing assignments which grab their attention and stay in tune etc.

    With all the interesting changes happening after which, it's easy to imagine the author overlooking the orphaned in.

  31. Pete said,

    April 17, 2014 @ 4:32 am

    I don't think It is an entity in which all things came from and will come from creates a problem for the fixing algorithm.

    To me,
    - It is an entity that all things came from and will come from
    and
    - It is an entity from which all things came and will come
    are both fine.
    But
    - *It is an entity from which all things came and will come from sounds completely wrong.

  32. Barbara Partee said,

    April 17, 2014 @ 9:00 am

    @Catherine Rudin, that's fascinating. I wish there were more followup studies like that, done seriously enough to publish. Maybe there are somewhere — I don't follow dialectology blogs, but these things are interesting signs of language change in progress, and I really enjoy them. I have anecdotal accounts of similar things from my undergraduates from when I taught a course on descriptive and prescriptive grammar. (Many of them found the subjunctive "I insist that he leave right now" to be just a number agreement error, for instance.)

    Off topic: the quote in those student essay extracts that gave me the biggest smile was "I believe we are all born with innateness."

  33. Alyssa said,

    April 17, 2014 @ 11:01 am

    I don't think "where" is random in:

    This idea is consistent with the cosmological argument in where everything that exists has a cause.

    because "the argument where everything that exists has a cause" sounds… not right, exactly, but not totally wrong either. I think I'd find it unremarkable in speech.

    I also agree with Pete that "It is an entity from which all things came and will come" sounds fine to me.

  34. Xmun said,

    April 17, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

    @Brian (comment of April 16, 2014 @ 7:27 am):
    Any comments on "wherein" ?

    Only this. Long live "wherein"! Likewise "whereto", "whereof", "whereunder", "wherewith", etc. Likewise "therein", etc.

    Parallel word formations are alive and kicking in modern German, but sadly have largely fallen out of use in modern English.

  35. the other Mark P said,

    April 17, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

    Even if you subscribe to a prescriptivist worldview, something is either correct or incorrect. Hypercorrect forms that are "wrong" (under the prescriptivist view) would be simply incorrect rather than correct since you can't get "more than correct".

    No. There are definitely gradings to "correct", at least when trying to write or speak in a particular register.

    You start with intelligible, work up through grammatical, through standard usage, then formal usage, and finally hit the correct register for the intended audience. And each stage of that is a gradient.

    There's a very common tendency to use overly formal language structures and words when speaking to an audience. In an attempt to move "up" a register, people overshoot. Hypercorrection is linked to that.

    My peeve is "please be up-standing for the national anthem" when "please stand for the national anthem" is in no need of embellishment.

  36. Shannon said,

    April 18, 2014 @ 1:36 am

    "No. There are definitely gradings to "correct", at least when trying to write or speak in a particular register."

    Right, I get there's a gradient of getting closer to "correct" as the target being the "right usage" under the prescriptivist worldview, but overshooting in an attempt to become more than correct becomes no longer correct again and thus incorrect, right?

    I mean, I get that hypercorrection is the name for the phenomenon of "incorrectly" trying to sound more formal, I just find it funny as a term, because I think of correction as a thing where it's either you reach your target and the fit is right, and trying to either undershoot or overshoot both misses the mark.

    I was thinking of "correctness", with an analogy like fit for an item of clothing. I'd imagine it's like if you start off with a shirt that's too big and then work your way to smaller sizes, until it's only a little too big and then finally it fits very well, and that's what you call the correct fit. If you try to squeeze into a shirt that's even too small, I wouldn't think of that as even more fit or hyper-fit or anything like that, only wrong in the other direction.

    But yeah, I must admit, I only have a hobby interest in linguistics and really have no right to question how these terms are used. I just find the term hypercorrection interesting as a term because it reminds me of terms like overqualified or too-perfect or "so bad that it's good", that sound funny if taken "literally".

  37. Shannon said,

    April 18, 2014 @ 1:39 am

    Sorry, I should have said:

    "I just find it funny as a term, because I think of correction as a thing where it's either you reach your target and the fit is right, or you don't, and the fit is wrong"

    Trying to either undershoot or overshoot both misses the mark.

  38. GeorgeW said,

    April 18, 2014 @ 5:14 am

    @Shannon: I think "overqualified" is a good way to express, with a single word, the idea that the person has qualifications that exceed the requirements or needs of the position in question.

    I have seen movies that are "so bad that they are good," that is, they could be enjoyed on the basis of how they are performed, maybe unintended parody.

  39. Glenn Bingham said,

    April 18, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

    @Mr Punch and several others with similar judgments about grammaticality

    Your sentence does not need defending. I am thankful for your insight.

    The composition instructor in me would tell students that these are not Standard English, and I would draw attention to them. However, the linguist in me–the stronger force–is curious about to what extent any of these categories of variances from the standard pattern have become part of people's internalized grammars, and having several of you agree that it sounds just right and not over-formalized is instructive to me. It points out a possible innovation in the language.

    Thanks for the input!

  40. Glenn Bingham said,

    April 18, 2014 @ 1:48 pm

    @Catherine Rudin

    I have seen "inwhich" written as a word, but I don't think I preserved any of those examples. It might be evidence of hypercorrection if it is mostly restricted to cases where it is substituted for "that" in more standard writing; it would be a one-for-one exchange.

    Some students I interviewed claimed that the form sounded more erudite, so that is why they used it. In fact, there are some YouTubes floating around with "good grammar" advice to use "in which" in more formal situations and "where" in less formal situations. But the examples can cause problems. The first pair have no entailment problems.

    (1) Philadelphia is the city where he was born.
    (2) Philadelphia is the city in which he was born.

    The second pair are not synonymous: "where" does not share a full semantics with "in which" as suggested in these videos. Consider this pair:

    (3) Karney lives in a house in the Poconos where bear are often found.
    (4) Karney lives in a house in the Poconos in which bear are often found.

    These sentences, typical of the grammar advice, are not semantically equivalent, with the first co-locating bear with a house and the latter claiming that the house contains the bear. So far, (4) is not true, whereas (3) is.

  41. Glenn Bingham said,

    April 18, 2014 @ 2:54 pm

    @Shannon

    I think that "hypercorrection" is akin to "semi-boneless" semantically. If a cut of meat is semi-boneless, it is NOT boneless; it has bones. However, the chef will only find about half as many as normal. Likewise, if some sentence is hypercorrected, it is NOT corrected. However, to quote you, "It seems like [it] implies something about the mental state of the speaker or the writer, where they are trying to overcompensate by adding unnecessary things to their language to try and sound 'formal.'"

    The discussants are doing a great job–thanks especially to Ted for all the detail–of trying to sort out what might be hypercorrection, what might be just mistakes (ungrammatical), what might be innovatively grammatical, or what might be just plain grammatical.

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