Fronting with Question Words

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andre 3001
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Joined: Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:50 pm

Fronting with Question Words

Post by andre 3001 » Wed Aug 20, 2014 2:07 pm

I've just done a lesson on 'fronting'. The students were required to transform the given phrases by adding 'what, do, and is'.
Thus, the sentence 'I'm going to talk about motivation' becomes 'What I'm going to do is talk about motivation'.
We were OK until we came to the sentence 'I'm going to be looking at the arguments against networking'.
I came up with these sentences, but I'm not sure that numbers 2 and 3 are standard:
1. What I'm going to be doing is looking at the arguments against networking.(the answer given in the book)
2. What I'm going to do is be looking at the arguments against networking.
3. What I'm going to do is to be looking at the arguments against networking.
I've googled these patterns without joy, and now I'm stuck in some sort of mental loop. Have I just spouted nonsense to the students?

fluffyhamster
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Joined: Tue Oct 26, 2004 6:57 pm
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

Post by fluffyhamster » Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:38 pm

Hi Andre. When searching for specific strings (i.e. those words and only those words, and in that precise word order), you need to enclose them in double speech marks (like an exact quotation) in the Google search box. Doing so produces the following surface results (but I've not given numbers of results except for the third string, as they seem to be varying wildly for the other two strings each time I re-load the results!? The number of pages seems to be remaining constant though, which is good!):

"what I'm going to be doing is" = dozens and dozens of pages ( https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=%2 ... oing+is%22 )

"what I'm going to do is be" = only 4 pages ( https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=%2 ... o+is+be%22 )

"what I'm going to do is to be" = only 6 results on just 1 page ( https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=%2 ... s+to+be%22 ) - vanishingly rare!

Note however that VERY FEW of the search results for the second string exhibit the structure of your (made-up) transformation; that is, it doesn't (or rather, wouldn't) make much sense to cleave, interrupt and delay/dislocate/"push rightwards" any progressive/dynamic ('be doing') structure-part (of 1, that is); thus, the primary items that follow the copula ('is') + MOSTLY NON-PROGRESSIVE non-finite 'be...' parts (remember that the earlier 'am going to' meanwhile isn't progressive, but rather, "imminence"! See next sentence) in the results for the second string are: nouns, adjectives, prepositional phrases, and potentially, past participles (let's call all of these "statives"). Just be clear, I analyze string 1's structure as being: periphrastic modal 'am going to' + progressive 'be doing' + copula ('is') + gerund ("noun") etc, while 2's is: periphrastic modal 'am going to' + bare infinitive/base form 'do' + copula ('is') + non-finite clause ('be...'). That is,

1 = am going to + progressive + copula + gerund etc
2 = am going to + base form + copula + non-finite, "stative" clause

Regarding the clear loser (3), there is something almost passive-like hovering into it to my mind (replace the non-finite, to-infinitive clause's nouns and adjectives with a past participle to see what I mean, e.g. discussed, decided, delayed, etc). That is, the to-infinitive form (of 'be', i.e. 'to be') coming so soon after the copula ('is') seems so redundant that it probably invites the mind to start being naughty and play tricks. Thus 2 (that particular search string and resulting examples) is certainly preferable to 3 (in fact, I would simply consider 3 of very questionable acceptability if not ungrammatical and utterly redundant for all practical purposes (or am I missing an actually useful function for it?!)). 1 meanwhile has a differing function and structure to 2, as explained earlier.

I have to say though that if your eyes were crossing (and mine too! Many edits!! ROFL) doing or tackling these sorts of transformations, imagine how the students must feel! What kind and level of students are you teaching, if you don't mind me asking? :cool:

andre 3001
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Joined: Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:50 pm

Post by andre 3001 » Thu Aug 21, 2014 3:21 pm

Hi, Fluffy. Thanks for your prompt and detailed reply. Yes, the second example (the one I came up with in class) does tend to take the pattern that you have described. Before reading your reply I used http://www.phraseup.com/
and it said as much.
I think this is a case of my everyday speech tripping me up in class when it comes to proposing a model - I'm sure I would say example 2.
As for the students? Well, they're Russian, and they're Upper-Intermediates (at least they were before this lesson began, I fear they may have regressed).
I see them again on Friday, so I'll have the opportunity to bring clarity to this topic, or maybe just dig myself a bigger hole!

fluffyhamster
Posts: 3030
Joined: Tue Oct 26, 2004 6:57 pm
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

Post by fluffyhamster » Sat Aug 23, 2014 3:46 am

Heh, you're welcome, Andre. :wink: Thanks for posting the link to phraseup, could come in handy. :P Oh, and good luck with your lessons! :D

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