3

Here's a British news report:

And this is what I've transcribed:

Well, last August when it was found that Neil and Yvette Hartley had...had been growing almost 90 cannabis plants, little did their neighbours know that in this quiet corner -- this quiet pretty little corner in the Kent countryside, at the cottage just over my shoulder is where they had been growing cannabis.

I do hear at before the cottage, but in that case, I don't know how to figure out the structure of the that-clause.

Is this some kind of inversion?

  • The same structure as in I know that you are right. – Michael Rybkin Dec 29 '18 at 12:19
  • I think it's just a mistake by the speaker. The clip is not from a broadcaster, it's from the Daily Mail (a right wing newspaper, not noted for its high English standards). – Michael Harvey Dec 29 '18 at 13:04
  • 2
    @MichaelHarvey The words are fine, but the punctuation is poor. Insert another dash and it makes good sense: "... in this quiet corner - this quiet pretty little corner in the Kent countryside, at the cottage just over my shoulder - is where …". It would be better to delete the "in" before "this corner," IMO. – alephzero Dec 29 '18 at 14:01
  • @alephzero - Agreed about the punctuation, but remember, this is the OP's transcription of an (probably) unprepared spoken commentary. – Michael Harvey Dec 29 '18 at 14:07
  • @alephzero I don't know if you've listened to the clip, but as far as I can tell, the speaker seems to initially utter in this quiet corner and then quickly reutter this quiet corner with this quiet pretty little corner. So I think what he's intended to say is like this: ...that in this quiet pretty little corner in the Kent countryside, at the cottage just over my shoulder is where they had been growing cannabis. – listeneva Dec 29 '18 at 14:19
6
 Little did their neighbors know
     that 
       in this quiet corner
           —this quiet pretty little corner in the Kent countryside—
       at the cottage just over my shoulder
       is where they had been growing cannabis

You can understand at the cottage just over my shoulder as a locative phrase paralleling in this quiet corner and —this quiet pretty little corner in the Kent countryside— as standing in apposition to this quiet corner.

It may seem a little odd to have a prepositional phrase stand as the subject of is, but it is quite frequent in colloquial speech when the predicate complement is a phrase headed by where:

At the barbershop down on Main Street is where I got this lightning bolt shaved on my head.

In this corner is where the disobedient child is told to sit. We call it the "time out corner".

So:

... in this quiet corner ... at the cottage over my shoulder is where ...

P.S. The same can occur with temporal phrases:

On the fourth Thursday of November is when we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US.

Locative and temporal phrases can be chained together in order to "zero in" on the specific place or time.

In Philadelphia, in the old section of the city down near the river, on Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th, stands Independence Hall.

  • Thanks. I believe this quiet corner has been replaced with this quiet pretty little corner in the Kent countryside. If so, is it correct to say that the that-clause starts with the adjunct (in this quiet pretty little corner in the Kent countryside) followed by the subject (at the cottage just over my shoulder) and then by the predicate (is where they had been growing cannabis)? – listeneva Dec 29 '18 at 14:03
  • Also, is it correct to say that the OP's sentence and all your examples (except for the last one) are not cases of inversion? (I'm sure your last example displays inversion.) – listeneva Dec 29 '18 at 14:09
  • @listeneva: I think the that-clause starts with in. A constituent of the prepositional phrase has been "replaced", not the prepositional phrase in its entirety. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 29 '18 at 14:57
  • @listeneva: Correct. Only the last sentence ...stands Independence Hall shows inversion of the normal subject-verb word-order. I'm not sure what grammarians would call switching the order of where and a locative prepositional phrase: Where I got this lightning bolt shaved on my head is at the barbershop down on Main Street. versus At the barbershop...is where... – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 29 '18 at 15:03

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