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Which of these two sentences is better article-wise? Maybe they are equivalent?

The Taliban's spreading influence in the North is no longer a speculation.

The Taliban's spreading influence in the North is no longer speculation.

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    What does "∅" mean?!? Nov 26 '13 at 5:00
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    @user2844787: zero article sign Nov 26 '13 at 5:21
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Both of these sentences are acceptable. I prefer it without the indefinite article though. I don't see these two uses of speculation as being used differently.

To my ear, they're both elliptical. They both express the following: The Taliban's spreading influence in the North is no longer [a matter of] speculation. The latter example could also express: The Taliban's spreading influence in the North [can/is no longer be(ing) speculated about].

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Just FYI, I want to remark that the sentence has a somewhat advanced structure, because, on the surface, "influence" isn't "speculation". A proposition can be speculation, or not. But of course, the sentence isn't literally equating "influence" and "speculation" as being the same kind of thing, which is nonsense. What is going on here is a form of metonymy which requires the reader to recognize and accept that the noun phrase "spreading influence" actually denotes the proposition "the influence is spreading". This proposition is then the right kind of thing which can be properly considered to be speculation or not to be speculation.

A simpler version of this sentence which avoids metonymy is this:

That the Taliban's influence is spreading in the North is no longer {a|∅} speculation.

What is "no longer speculation" is the proposition "the Taliban's influence is spreading in the North". That entire clause is the now the subject of the second "is".

Speculation is both uncountable (the activity or concept of speculation as such) or it can be countable (a specific instance or piece of speculation). Treating it as an uncountable concept is better style, but it's not wrong to refer to "a" speculation since the sentence is about a single conjecture.

You will run into slight trouble if you have two or more conjectures and you refer to them as "a speculation".

It is still a? speculation who that man was, what was in his briefcase, and how he entered the high security area in the building. [This looks like three separate strands of speculation, not "a speculation".]

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I would say that neither of those sentences are correct, the first one seems to be slightly better...

A better way to phrase it would be:

The Taliban's spreading influence in the North is no longer under speculation.

or even

There is no speculation as to the Taliban's spreading influence in the north.

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  • Thanks for the answer, but google-search seems to imply that "no longer speculation" is a common expression. Maybe I'm wrong, I'm not a native speaker. Nov 26 '13 at 5:25
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    @CopperKettle It seems fine to me. (I am a native speaker, though of course native speakers are not by definition correct.)
    – user230
    Nov 26 '13 at 5:40
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    Personally, I don't like "no longer speculation." Maybe it's a Canadian thing, but it doesn't feel right. Nov 27 '13 at 5:32
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    @CopperKettle you're not wrong. They are very close in meaning, and both are grammatically correct. Nov 30 '13 at 18:07

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