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So I'm thinking about how "insofar" became a word. This slightly unfair comparison shows that it happened relatively recently.

in so far vs insofar

Now, whenever I've seen it written, "insofar" is followed by "as". So I did some more digging.

insofar vs insofar as

in so far vs in so far as

This is terribly unscientific, I know. But it seems like the majority of uses of "insofar" are followed by "as". So here's the question:

Why did "insofar" become a word, and not "insofaras"?

Put differently (from a comment below): Long and regular association of these words in this order: "in so far" led to them being written as one word. Why didn't the same process produce "insofaras" given that almost all case of the former are cases of the latter?

A similar question could be asked of "inasmuch"…

I'm not looking for a historical explanation, rather a (possibly speculative) linguistic answer that explains why this happened as it did.

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possible duplicate of Merging words into one. When is it allowed?, where the OP specifically asks about insofar as. –  FumbleFingers Dec 7 '11 at 18:48
@FumbleFingers I don't think this is a duplicate. I am specifically asking about why "insofar" is a word and "insofaras" is not. It is certainly a related question, but it is not the same question. –  Seamus Dec 8 '11 at 12:38
I admit the previous question doesn't actually kick things around as much as perhaps it should have, but both are really just the same phenomenon. Interesting that inasmuch as underwent the same process nearly a century earlier, but we seem to be changing our minds about that one! –  FumbleFingers Dec 8 '11 at 18:04

4 Answers 4

Merriam-Webster cites that insofar can also be found with that apart from as. In both cases insofar is listed as a conjunction. Maybe that could answer your question: as isn't the only word following insofar.

...cooperated fully insofar that many of their projects were jointly conducted.

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Well sure, but "in" "so" and "far" are words that are used in other contexts too. The point is that the majority or uses of "insofar" are "insofar as" uses. –  Seamus Dec 7 '11 at 15:08
@Seamus: You said it yourself: the majority of uses, not all the uses. –  Irene Dec 7 '11 at 15:19
The point is this: long and regular association of these words in this order: "in so far" led to them being written as one word. Why didn't the same process produce "insofaras" given that almost all case of the former are cases of the latter? –  Seamus Dec 7 '11 at 15:39
+1, There are also other possibilities (from coca). Frequencies are: as - 1685, that - 4, it - 2, there - 1 and 7 instances of comma in use such as "Insofar, therefore, as ...". –  Unreason Dec 7 '11 at 15:41

For the same reason, I would imagine, that we don't write asgreatas.

The OED states that in so far appears frequently as a single word or with hyphens, but that conventionally it follows ‘Hart's Rules’ in being written as three separate words.

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Your argument would be pertinent if asgreat was a word, OP is specifically asking why insofar became a word and not insofaras, though it seems to follow in 90 something percent of cases. -1 –  Unreason Dec 7 '11 at 15:27

In-so-far or insofar is a problematic word. Here is what Henry Watson Fowler says in his "Dictionary of Modern English Usage" (1926)

The safest way of dealing with in so far is to keep clear of it. The dangers range from mere feebleness or wordiness, through pleonasm or confusion of forms, & inaccuracy of meaning, to false grammar.

(For examples follow the link provided)

So, examining the examples it is obvious that even the word insofar has a problem with both usage and the meaning (also evident in dictionary definitions).

I believe that adding a suffix as would even worsen the situation and that it would be really hard to see what is meant by the term insofaras and that this is the principal reason for not having that as a word.

(note: Also notice one more thing very nicely shown on your 3rd ngram - the gap between "in so far" and "in so far as" had steadily diminished ever since insofar had been established as a term)

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I think the question would be, how many words can we put into one word and not go crazy trying to decipher what it means. It seems like the max is three. Can you think of a word with four? Nothing comes to my mind right now.

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