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We reserve all our other rights in and to the Information and the Web site, including all copyrights and other proprietary rights. Daily Writing Tips , Grammarphobia , Johnson , Motivated Grammar , reason why , redundancy , relative adverbs , relatives , why 21 Comments. Critics generally argue that why essentially means reason , so saying reason why is like saying reason twice. Saying something twice is redundant, and redundancy is bad; ergo, reason why is bad. This is really a rather bizarre argument. Reason is a noun; why is usually an interrogative adverb.
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They do cover some of the same semantic space, but not the same syntactic space. Does this really make the construction redundant? However, that defense can be strengthened with the addition of something that has been missing from the discussion: As I mentioned in my previous post on relative pronouns and adverbs , why functions as a relative adverb, but it appears almost exclusively after the word reason.
To be clear, all relative pronouns and adverbs can be considered conjunctions because they connect a subordinate clause—the relative clause—to a main one. In a phrase like the reason why this is correct , why connects the relative clause this is correct to the noun it modifies, reason. Relative pronouns refer to a noun phrase, while relative adverbs refer to some kind of adverbial phrase.
This is pretty obvious when you think about it. A phrase like the reason why this is correct contains another clause— this is correct. There has to be something to connect it syntactically to the rest of the phrase. In defending the construction, Gabe Doyle at Motivated Grammar compares it to the redundancy in The person who left their wet swimsuit on my books is going to pay. This is actually a more apt comparison than Mr.
He argues that it is just as redundant as reason why and therefore not a problem , because who means person in a sense. Who is a relative pronoun connecting a clause to a noun phrase. Pronouns are supposed to refer to other things in the sentence, and thus they mean the same thing.
Why works much the same way. Why means the same thing as reason only because it refers to it. So what about reason that or just plain reason?
The Reason Why This Is Correct
Again, as I discussed in my last post on relative pronouns and adverbs , English has two systems of relativization: Thus we have the option of saying the reason why this is correct , the reason that this is correct though that sounds awkward in some instances , or just plain the reason this is correct again, this is occasionally awkward. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language also mentions the possibility the reason for which , though this also sounds awkward and stilted in most cases.
But I suspect that many awkward plain reason s are the result of editorial intervention, as in this case I found in the research for my thesis: As Robert Lane Greene noted on the Johnson blog , sometimes why is used after reason without a following relative clause. Greene calls it a complement clause. In essence, the why is serving as a placeholder for the full relative clause: But this is by no means a blanket injunction against reason why.
I think the rule forbidding reason why probably arose out of simple grammatical misanalysis of this relative construction, or perhaps by broadening a ban on elliptical reason why into a ban on all instances of reason why. Calling something harmlessly redundant can be damning with faint praise. Redundancy is a perfectly acceptable feature of language and even, in many cases, necessary. Jonathon Owen has it. Using this analysis, the construction makes perfect sense.
The difference is purely one of style. Why would they use a completely different analysis in a different book?
Why Not Quotes
Either way, though, the key point is that why is filling a grammatical role and is not redundant. Reason is a noun, so a clause or phrase modifying a noun must be adjectival. I think the first sentence here is where your analysis goes wrong. In the reason why I did it , why I did it is a relative clause, not an adverbial clause, and relative clauses do in fact function adjectivally. Some relative clauses are introduced by the pronouns that , who , and which ; others are introduced by the adverbs where , when , and why. It is interesting that the way how is apparently not allowed in Standard English, though I have heard it in speech.
But the fact that one possible construction is ungrammatical does not necessarily mean that all similar constructions are also ungrammatical. And I want to reiterate, in case you missed the point in my post, that these words are not useless or redundant.