On beyond Preserved Killick

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Back in 2003, I wrote about "Linking 'which' in Patrick O'Brian"; now Colin Morris has an interesting blog post about recent extensions, "Conjunctive 'which' — a discourse marker on the rise?", 7/22/2016.



  1. Simon Fodden said,

    July 22, 2016 @ 3:07 pm

    Hmm. I missed those posts. Whatever was I doing in 2003 that could have distracted me: I'm a staunch O'Brian fan – and, of course, a fan of LL.

    I've done my best to hunt down the posts Mark refers to and have listed them below (along with a few relevant others) in case there are more people like me who missed them first time around. Don't know how the comments code handles HTML, so I'm offering up text:

    Linking "which" in Patrick O'Brian (nov. 14, 2003): http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000118.html

    Words, foods, characters (nov. 15, 2003): http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000121.html

    Any Gate (nov. 15, 2003): http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000120.html

    Hic merus est Thyonianus (nov. 17, 2003): http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000123.html

    More words and foods from O'Brian (nov. 18, 2003): http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000126.html

    The mysterious marthambles (feb.27, 2004): http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000503.html

    Dr. Tufts and the Marthambles (mar. 8, 2004): http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/%7Emyl/languagelog/archives/000556.html

    Dorothy Dunnett cleared of anachronism (mar. 20, 2004): "http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000935.html

    Scouse is getting scouser (jun. 28, 2004): http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001129.html

    Howmsoever (aug. 8, 2007): http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004807.html

  2. peterv said,

    July 22, 2016 @ 5:31 pm

    A common connective in educated Australian English is "apropos which". I wonder if this usage is a shorter version of something similar.

    Is this usage an attempt to turn English into a topic-comment language?

  3. Tim Leonard said,

    July 22, 2016 @ 6:38 pm

    Here are five examples from How to Build a Tin Canoe, by Robb White, who was from southern Georgia. (And whose accent is a marvelous addition to the CD version of his utterly delightful book.)
    1.) Which, those prams were built without the benefit of electricity. (p. 112)
    2.) Since the dream was fading, I was just about to pull up and leave to go back to Georgia in time to shoot a few squirrels—which, don’t let the degenerate nature of your dependence on store-bought goods fool you: Squirrels, either boiled, fried… (p. 141)
    3.) Which, that’s another peculiarity… the tiller. For one thing, it has an extension that screws on with a take-down pool cue joint. (p. 204)
    4.) An offer to get me to build almost any kind of small sailboat is more tempting than anything else (which, as an aside, I think a sailboat is certainly the most wonderful invention of mankind), but there is a time when these big deal exercise boats… (p. 216)
    5.) Power tools will do a little more if you force them, but after a while, they’ll get hot and start stinking. Which, I believe I smell hair burning right now. (p. 226)
    And here is an example on video from a young woman in NYC whose accent has no trace of Georgia I can hear.
    That is like eating cake for breakfast, which, like, who doesn’t want that?

  4. Philip Youngholm said,

    July 22, 2016 @ 7:55 pm

    This immediately reminded me of Dickens's Sarah Gamp.

    From Martin Chuzzlewit, chapter 49:

    'I have know'd that sweetest and best of women,' said Mrs. Gamp, shaking her head, and shedding tears, 'ever since afore her First, which Mr. Harris who was dreadful timid went and stopped his ears in a empty dogkennel, and never took his hands away or come out once till he was showed the baby … '

    Which "which" this is, or whether it's yet another "which", is something I will leave to wiser heads.

  5. Jim Breen said,

    July 22, 2016 @ 8:39 pm

    What I hear is "apropos of which, …..". Not sure I've heard it without the "of". (But then I've only lived in Australia for nearly 70 years.)

    [Apropos of O'Brian, at Monash we used to have a Patrick O'Brian lunching club, where we ate lobscouse and spotted dick, drank madiera and claret (from the bottles with the long corks) and had readings from the works of The Master. The club no longer functions, but some of its members have moved on to the local chapter of the Joseph Crabtree Foundation (http://www.crabtreemelbourne.org/)]

  6. Jon said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 12:42 am

    When I was reading the examples in the blog, it seemed to me that each 'which' could be replaced with 'regarding which'. That fits with the Australian 'apropos (of) which'. And makes it more than a discourse marker.

  7. Jonathan said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 10:50 am

    This usage of 'which' reminded me of when I was trying to learn ASL, briefly and long ago. We students were taught that ASL often worked as a topic-comment language, where you described something or someone (the topic), thus bringing it into your conversational space, and then could talk about it (the comment). My thought was "'which' is acting as a topicalizer" here. [I can't remember if we used that term, and quick internet searches for it mostly turn up its use in the Perl programming language, whose creator is/was a linguist I believe.]

    It seems like Morris notices this: "… could be described as giving the speaker’s reaction to or commentary on the clause or sentence that immediately precedes." I'm not a linguist, so I don't know how likely it is for linguists to use the topic-comment idea when describing/analyzing English.

  8. peterv said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 2:43 pm

    @Jim Breen:

    You are correct. I unintentionally omitted the "of".

  9. Robert said,

    July 25, 2016 @ 1:32 am

    My first thought was that this comes from 'speaking of which', but the other suggestions with 'regarding' or 'apropos', could also plausibly contribute.

  10. Breffni said,

    July 26, 2016 @ 3:54 am

    For anyone further investigating Preserved Killick's utterance-initial "which" and looking for data, there's a 1950 novel called "Which I never" referenced in the OED's entry for "never", sense 2a:

    1950 L. A. G. Strong Which I Never i. 12 ‘You've invented him.’ ‘Which I never, sir.’

    That's the only time I've ever come this outside O'Brian. Presumably it's a catch-phrase in the book, given the title. No preview in Google Books, alas.

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