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I found that climbed up over is used in the following sentence of the 'excerpt' “The Amber Spyglass” in The New York Times.

“Ama and her daemon climbed up over the rock shelves and around the little cataracts, past the whirlpools and through the spectrum-tinted spray, until her hair and her eyelids and his squirrel fur were beaded all over with a million tiny pearls of moisture.”

As climbed up over does not have many hits in Google nGRAM, I am wondering, why should we prefer climbed over? To be clear, what is the grammatical rule that we should consider to choice between climbed up over and climbed over?

See the following nGRAM:

enter image description here

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I'm unsure what question you're asking. "Why should we prefer climbed over?". This presupposes that climbed over is to be preferred, which is not true. It happens to occur more often in print, for one reason or another, but both are grammatical and neither is to be preferred over the other in general. In some cases one may be more appropriate than the other, depending on what the writer wants to do. In speech -- i.e, real English -- I would suggest that this is not the correct distribution. – John Lawler Apr 29 '12 at 19:55
@JohnLawler - Climbed up seems (to me) redundant there. – user19148 Apr 29 '12 at 20:02
Most writing manuals will probably tell you this that this has a missing comma and misplaced "and", better written: "climbed up, over ..., around ..., past ... and through ..., until <other clause>". – Kaz Apr 29 '12 at 21:10
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Ama and her daemon climbed up over the rock shelves and around the little cataracts, past the whirlpools and through the spectrum-tinted spray...

says that Ama and her daemon climbed up, and then in nice parallelism tells where they went or what they encountered on the way:

  • over the rock shelves
  • around the little cataracts
  • past the whirlpools
  • through the spectrum-tinted spray

Thus, while up over may be slightly pleonastic, it is useful as part of a rhetorical device to better evoke an emotional response in readers.

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To climb up something is to ascend along some face or surface of that thing. If I climb up the rocks, my action finishes with me on top of the rocks.

To climb over something is to pass an obstacle by climbing up one side of it and then down the other. If I climb over a fence, my action finishes with me on the other side of the fence, at ground level.

To climb up over something, then, is a combination of the two actions; it involves overcoming an obstacle to my upward progress. In this case, Ama's goal was to scale some object (a mountain, perhaps?) and presumably get to the top of it. Along the way, there were some rock shelves that presented a challenge to her climb, but she was able to successfully pass them and continue upwards.

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The parsing here is
(climbed up) (over the rock shelves)
rather than
(climbed) (up over) (the rock shelves)

It does not mean the same as
climbed over the rock shelves
so the up is not redundant as you seem to argue.

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@Jasper... the first sentence has the action "to climb up". Some rocks happened to be on the way and those were climber over while the person was climbing up. The second sentence has the action "to climb over"... so here surpassing the rocks is the main goal of the action. Once this is done, the climbing is done, while in the first version it may go on... – Emanuel Apr 29 '12 at 20:34
@Carlo_R.: Isn't your comment clarifying your question? I don't see anything wrong with this answer. – J.R. Apr 30 '12 at 9:42
@JR: Carlo and myself were typing in at the same time. We didn't notice each other's entries until much later. I ignored Carlo's comment above. In fact, misplaced concern as it is, he may as well delete his comment under my answer. – Kris Apr 30 '12 at 10:14
@J.R. - It is as Kris says. – user19148 Apr 30 '12 at 11:06

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