The syntax below is grammatical in colloquial American English and I'm wondering how the sentence is analyzed grammatically.
What's going on at work these days that you're always on the phone?
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
Huddleston & Pullum (2002) discuss this, describing it as a case where a declarative content clause functions as an adjunct in clause structure (pp. 969-970).
They give the example:
What has happened, that you are looking so worried?
They have this to say about the construction:
The type of content clause we have in [i] functions as adjunct to interrogative clauses. Semantically the adjunct can be regarded as resultative: the presupposition of the question can be glossed as "Something has happened with the result that you are looking worried."
First of all, it's important to address the possibility of that being used here as a relative pronoun. I'd say this is unlikely here, and some would say an 'on' is missing (though this would sound clumsy), but it is not impossible:
The other reading is formal and heading for archaic, using that as a conjunction, a variant of 'in that':
Compare the well-known verse Psalm 8:4:
- What is man, that thou art mindful of him? [[KJV; BibleHub]
(https://biblehub.com/psalms/8-4.htm)] [NKJV drops the comma]
The Message explains by paraphrasing:
- ... Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?
The fuller version is 'in that':
in that ... [or in so far as] (conjunction):
because or to the extent that; inasmuch as
- I regret my remark in that it upset you
#As TimR points out, the sentence uses 'that / in that / inasmuch as' to focus the query on the work-related reason why the addressee is having to spend so much time on the phone:
Merriam-Webster gives the shorter version:
that [2 0f 5] [conjunction]
2 (2) —used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause expressing a reason or cause
- rejoice that you are lightened of a load —Robert Browning
Note that 'you are lightened of a load' is a main clause, but '[in] that' is classed as a subordinating conjunction (like 'because') as there is a semantic dependency on the principal clause ('Rejoice[!]).