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Certain types of preposition-stranding are considered by some linguists to be "ungrammatical" in English, even though they do not seem remotely strange to me (an English speaker). I'm not talking about prescriptive prohibitions on all preposition stranding, but about allegedly ungrammatical subtypes of stranding.

For example, I recall hearing that the following kind of sentence with "of" is seen as ungrammatical:

He knows what country Brazzaville is the capital of.

I have also seen it claimed that you cannot strand prepositions after an indirect object:

What did you talk to John about?

Am I right that many linguists see these types of constructions as questionable? If so, why are they seen as such, when they seem so completely unexceptional to me and (I would venture to say) a great many of my English-speaking peers?

Thanks for any help

marked as duplicate by tchrist, oerkelens, Misti, phenry, Hellion Feb 6 '15 at 21:49

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migrated from linguistics.stackexchange.com Jan 25 '15 at 12:12

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  • 4
    I agree with the acceptability judgments in the question. Those cases are fine. – Tim Osborne Jan 25 '15 at 8:23
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    Agreed, I can't see why any linguist would consider those ungrammatical. Are you able to point us to any publication/website where any linguist says this? – Gaston Ümlaut Jan 25 '15 at 11:56
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    Please don’t confuse linguists, who simply study and document language, with meddlesome copyeditors and related scolds who routinely tut and tsk and nag and wag their fingers at whatever other people are doing which they don’t like to see done as though it were some breach of moral propriety. – tchrist Jan 25 '15 at 15:02
  • Style versus substance, indeed. – SrJoven Jan 25 '15 at 21:30
  • You are not "right that many linguists see these types of constructions as questionable". In fact, as has been pointed out repeatedly, NO linguists, and no grammarians, see anything wrong with those constructions. I have no idea where you got that idea; perhaps you can't tell a grammarian from somebody who claims that "grammarians say". – John Lawler Jan 25 '15 at 23:15

Working grammarians ordinarily have gotten a better appreciation for how different our individual language capacities are, through bitter experience. Personally, I agree with you that the two examples you give are perfectly acceptable. But it doesn't shock me that someone or other said they were bad. There isn't just one single uniform English language out there. You don't have to agree about the facts with other analysts; they don't have to agree with you. That's life.

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