Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English

Volume 18 – Exploring Recent Diachrony: Corpus Studies of Lexicogrammar and Language Practices in Late Modern English

Article Contents

1. Introduction

2. Rationale and aims

3. Previous research on enough complementation

3.1 The resultative vs. explanative ADJ enough that construction

4. Material and method

5. ADJ enough that in COHA

5.1 Conditions of use of the resultative and explanative ADJ enough that constructions in COHA

6. Possible reasons for the increase

7. Concluding remarks and future research





ADJ + enough + resultative/explanative that-clause: Diachronic development and conditions of use

Signe Oksefjell Ebeling
University of Oslo


Drawing on diachronic data from the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA), this paper starts by testing the initial hypothesis that the resultative ADJ enough that construction is on the increase. One complicating factor for automatic extraction of this construction is the structurally similar explanative ADJ enough that construction, requiring manual scrutiny of around 700 instances of the sequence ADJ enough that in the corpus. Part of the analysis thus involves disambiguation of the two superficially similar constructions, calling for a discussion of the conditions of use of the resultative construction in terms of contextual co-occurrence patterns. The focus is on adjective selection and type of subject co-occurring with the two construction types. The analysis reveals that the resultative type is indeed on the increase in American English, while both similarities and differences are noted in their co-occurrence patterns. The major difference lies in the selection of adjective types and the number of adjective tokens in the resultative vs. explanative construction. While the resultative construction turns out to be much more flexible with regard to adjective selection, the explanative construction is more prone to recurrence of the same adjective types, resulting in a higher number of tokens. Finally, some potential reasons for the increase of the ADJ enough + resultative that-clause construction are discussed, of which two feasible candidates are colloquialisation and flexibility of use.

1. Introduction

This paper takes two superficially similar structures as its starting point: the resultative (1) and the explanative (2) uses of the ADJ + enough + that-clause construction. [1] Based on preliminary observations, the initial hypothesis is that the resultative type is on the increase, and the aim is to test this against diachronic corpus data.

(1) … we felt that <pause> the matter w-- was important enough that all members of this council should have an opportunity to debate it. (BNC/JT8 383; Mindt 2011: 139)
(2) It was bad enough that she’d fallen in love with the cold, glacial man she already knew him to be… (BNC/JY5 2744)

As a provisional illustration of how to distinguish between the two types of ADJ enough that-clause construction, we can paraphrase the resultative example in (1) as: … the matter was sufficiently important for all members of this council to have an opportunity to debate it, and the explanative example in (2) as: That she’d fallen in love with the cold, glacial man […] was bad enough [never mind the things she’d done that were even worse than that]. A fuller account of the differences between the two types will be given in Section 3.1.

The data for the study is culled from the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA). A search for “[jj] enough that” in COHA seems to initially confirm the hypothesis that the resultative sequence is on the rise, showing a relatively stable frequency of around 1–1.5 per million words (pmw) between the 1810s-1970s, and a steady increase from the 1980s onwards, from 2.65 pmw to 4.43 pmw in the 2000s.

These numbers can only give us a rough estimate and an analysis of all instances will be performed to confirm whether the increase applies to the resultative type, the explanative type, or both. After manual sorting and analysis of the results, it is revealed that resultative ADJ enough that is indeed on the increase. On the basis of such an analysis, more can also be said about the conditions of use of the resultative type, e.g. are there certain adjectives or subject types that show a particular preference for the resultative ADJ + enough + that-clause construction? These issues are also addressed by e.g. Mindt (2011) in her major study of adjective complementation in general, but not specifically for the construction including enough.

The structure of the paper is as follows: Section 2 presents the rationale and aims of the study in more detail, while Section 3 outlines some relevant previous research, including a discussion of the characteristics of the resultative construction seen in relation to the explanative type. In Section 4 a brief description is given of the material and method used. Section 5 offers a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the sequence ADJ enough that in the COHA material, before possible reasons for the increased use of the resultative construction are discussed in Section 6. The concluding Section 7 sums up the findings, offers some further observations and proposes some avenues for future research.

2. Rationale and aims

My interest in these constructions, and the resultative one in particular, was first piqued as I was reading a book by Tana French – The Likeness – where this particular construction seemed to be used a lot (French 2008.

The concordance lines in Figure 1 are taken from that book and illustrate the frequent use of this construction. There are in fact 21 instances in 212,000 words, i.e. 99 occurrences pmw.

Concordance lines showing the use of the resultative  ADJ <em>enough that</em> construction in Tana  French’s <em>The Likeness</em>

Figure 1. Concordance lines showing the use of the resultative ADJ enough that construction in Tana French’s The Likeness.

The fact that I started to notice this construction in other writers as well made me formulate the initial hypothesis for this study, viz. the ADJ + enough + resultative that-clause construction is on the increase. One of the main aims of the study will be to confirm or reject this hypothesis. If it is the case that the resultative construction is indeed on the increase, does it increase by analogy with the presumably more frequent explanative construction; is it a signal of colloquialisation; or is the resultative construction used at the expense of other (resultative) constructions? If this is the case, which other constructions does it replace and why? These are quite challenging questions and the scope of this paper only allows for some tentative answers.

Connected to this, and another aim of this study, is to find out more about the conditions of use of the resultative construction. More specifically, are certain subject types or adjectives attracted to this construction when compared to other (formally) similar constructions? In this regard, the focus will in particular be directed at the crucial differences between the resultative and explanative constructions.

3. Previous research on enough complementation

In her article on finite and non-finite complementation of enough, Tottie (2000) draws attention to a potential difference between British and American English. [2] She provides a number of examples from American English, including (3a) below, and comments: “Based on my experience of British English, I would have expected either to- or for to-constructions” (Tottie 2000: 180), as in (3b).

(3a) “… the situation in Iran is now stable enough that the people fully adhere to all norms of conduct.” (The New York Times A8, Jan 8, 1998)
(3b) … the situation in Iran is now stable enough for the people to fully adhere to all norms of conduct.

Two pertinent questions emerge from Tottie’s initial observations: “First, could the finite subclauses after enough be typically American rather than British? And, secondly, what factors govern the choice of a finite rather than a non-finite construction?” (Tottie 2000: 180). With regard to the latter question, Tottie focuses on two factors: co-reference of the subject/object in the embedded clause, and negation in the embedded clause (Tottie 2000: 186). Drawing on spoken data from the BNC and the Longman Spoken American Corpus (LAM), she concludes that both lack of co-reference and negation are correlated with finite constructions with so… that or that. The former of these – lack of co-reference – is clearly more expressed in the American data than in the British data (see Tottie 2000: 188ff). Moreover, it is found that finite constructions are more frequent overall in American English, “especially constructions with simple that. However, when a finite construction is used, British English prefers so … that” (Tottie 2000: 191).

Tottie, speculating as to the reasons for these findings, suggests that the finite constructions “offer more elegant formulations and avoid the clumsiness inherent in forto-constructions” (Tottie 2000: 192). She calls for further research on the basis of “more written American data as well as more historical material” (Tottie 2000); these are both catered for in the current investigation albeit with a slightly different, as well as narrower, focus than that of Tottie. First, the current study is different from Tottie’s in that it has a diachronic dimension, and is mainly concerned with American English. Moreover, the question of conditions of use of the resultative construction is concerned with the type of subject in the matrix clause (rather than co-reference) and the type of adjective, as these seem to be crucial factors when comparing resultative and explanative types. This undivided focus on adjectives as part of the construction makes this study narrower in scope. It is also narrower in the sense that my search criteria require that the elements of the construction are immediately adjacent to each other (ADJ enough that), while Tottie searched for all instances of enough and that in the same sentence.

Tottie (2000: 181) refers to two sources that mention the possibility of finite complementation of enough, but neither – Curme (1947) and Ilson (1990) – provides any further discussion of the examples they present. In Tottie’s view this suggests that they find resultatives such as “They’re rich enough that they can retire” (Ilson 1990: 36) to be both natural and normal (in American English).

Tottie (2000: 181) also mentions that “Quirk et al. (1985: 1140) do not discuss the possibility of finite clauses following enough”, and she continues “[c]onstructions where enough is followed by (so) that are not mentioned by Quirk et al., but interestingly, they use them to paraphrase infinitive constructions, e.g.: ‘She is old enough to do some work (“She is old enough so that she can do some work.”)’ (1985: 1140)” (Tottie 2000: 181).

The fact that such clauses are hardly discussed in (corpus-based) grammars or previous studies of e.g. that-clauses may of course be related to their relatively infrequent use. In the Brown corpus, for example, there are only two instances of the sequence ADJ enough + that-clause. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the construction is not discussed separately by e.g. Elsness (1981) in his study of the syntactic and semantic functions of that-clauses in 64 out of the 500 texts in the Brown corpus.

Some publications within more formal paradigms of linguistics deal with related issues, e.g. Meier (2003) and White (1997; 2005). However, their relevance for the current study seems to be marginal; the resultative construction dealt with by Meier (2003) is the so … that construction compared to the enough + to-inf. construction, and White (2005) discusses the position of result clauses in English sentences. Arguably, White’s 1997 paper appears to be more relevant in the present context, where he suggests that a “selection relationship exists between the degree word and the clause” (1997: 2). Thus, in (4a) the degree word so selects a finite clause rather than a non-finite clause (4b).

(4a) Mary was so sad that she cried.
(4b) *Mary was so sad to cry.

The same selection relationship does, however, not seem to apply to the construction under study here, since both (5a) and (5b) are equally acceptable.

(5a) Mary was sad enough that she cried.
(5b) Mary was so sad that she cried.

As becomes clear from Tottie’s study, (relevant) previous research on finite clauses following enough seems to be scarce. Apart from Tottie’s own study, a couple of additional sources are worth mentioning here. First of all, Francis et al. (1998), in their overview of “Patterns of graded adjectives”, list ADJ enough that as a separate pattern: “The adjective is followed by enough and a that-clause. This pattern is less frequent than ADJ enough to-inf […]. The that-clause indicates a consequence” (1998: 358). They offer three examples of this pattern, of which (6) is one:

(6) The captain was frightened enough that he took the route of least resistance.

Finally, in her study of adjectives complemented by that-clauses in general, Mindt (2011) found six instances of the resultative type in the British National Corpus (BNC), illustrated in example (1) above. A search for the sequence “_AJ0 enough that” in BNCweb (CQP edition) returns 72 hits. It is assumed that the remaining 66 instances not explicitly mentioned by Mindt are of the explanative type, and are not frequent enough in her material to be listed in her overview of adverbs occurring in both the explanative and resultative constructions (Mindt 2011: 138). Her discussion then continues by focusing on the types of adjectives that can occur in the two constructions, but no detailed breakdown into which adjective combines with which adverb is offered. However, Mindt draws attention to a highly relevant issue regarding the current study, namely how to distinguish between the two types of (ADJ enough that) constructions. This is essential since the search string used will yield results of both types.

3.1 The resultative vs. explanative ADJ enough that construction

The two types of ADJ enough that construction were juxtaposed in examples (1) and (2), but no further definition of what resultative and explanative entails was offered. In an attempt at outlining the characteristics of the two types, this section starts with a more detailed description of the resultative construction, before moving on to a direct comparison with the explanative construction. [3]

The resultative construction under study is illustrated in example (7), where the adjective hot is followed by enough and a resultative that-clause;

(7) The oil should be hot enough that the food sizzles when it hits the skillet. (COHA, MAG_2001)

It has been called “resultative” because “[…] the that-clause expresses a result of the state articulated in the matrix clause” (Mindt 2011: 138). Or as Zawadowski (1953: 6) puts it: “The subordinate clause [of result] is vaguely felt to express an effect of something expressed in the main clause”. Rather than a result or an effect, and as noted in Section 3, Francis et al. (1998: 358) call it a “consequence”, so in the case of example (7), we can say that the result, effect or consequence of the oil being hot enough is that the food will sizzle when it hits the skillet.

While the that-clause in a resultative construction, as in (7), reports a result, the that-clause in an explanative construction, as in (8) and (9), “provides an explanation in relation to the information given in the matrix clause” (Mindt 2011: 127).

(8) It is clear enough that he could not have done it without the assistance of Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson … (COHA, MAG_1960)
(9) I’m glad enough that this ridiculous idea of hers has been stopped before it went on any longer … (COHA, FIC_1922)

In both cases, the that-clause elaborates on the reason why something is the case. In traditional accounts of English grammar, (8) and (9) would typically be kept apart (formally), as (8) would usually be referred to as an instance of extraposition or anticipatory it, viz. the dummy element it holds the subject position for the notional subject, i.e. the that-clause, which is postponed in agreement with the principle of end weight. [4] Biber et al. (1999: 671) suggest the terms “extraposed that-clause” for cases similar to (8) and “post-predicate that-clause” for cases similar to (9). [5]

Mindt refrains from making such a distinction since extraposition would require re-analysis, i.e. the construction in (8) is derived from the “more basic structure” That he could not have done it […] is clear enough. Mindt argues that in an empirical (corpus-driven) study such as her own “this kind of re-analysis is highly questionable because the sentences are re-structured in order to fit a theoretical explanation” (2011: 41). Thus, she rather opts for a meaning-based analysis in which the main distinction lies in the meaning of the that-clause in relation to the matrix clause. Thus, the that-clauses in (8) and (9) are of the same meaning type, i.e. explanative, and differ from the that-clause in (7), which is resultative. Elaborating on this, she says:

[T]here are basically two differences between the constructions: the first is that the resultative construction comes with an obligatory adverb which is optional in the explanative one. However, the same set of adverbs can occur in both constructions. As a result, it is impossible to detect on the basis of formal criteria which construction is present. (Mindt 2011: 146)

Thus, in the current context, only the resultative type requires the adverb enough to be present and only the explanative type is found with impersonal it, as in (8). However, the fact remains that the explanative type also occurs with enough and without impersonal it, as in (9). Furthermore, the adjectives and subjects that are found in the two constructions are also shown to be similar in Mindt’s study. In the case of adjectives, they can be both experiential and evaluative, and in the case of subjects these can be both intentional or non-intentional in both constructions. Thus, in Mindt’s opinion, there is one formal pattern ADJ + that-clause that has one resultative branch and one explanative branch: ”The difference between the two constructions is brought about by the communicative function expressed in the that-clause in relation to the situation given in the matrix clause” (Mindt 2011). In addition, and as pointed out by one of the reviewers of the current paper, it could be argued that a distinguishing feature between the two types has to do with the scope of enough. When enough has scope over both the ADJ and the that-clause it contributes to a resultative reading (7), while when it only has scope over the ADJ, enough is optional and contributes to an explanative reading (8–9).

The present study follows Mindt in distinguishing between a resultative and an explanative construction, drawing on her findings to carry out a more detailed analysis of those instances where enough is also part of the ADJ + that-clause pattern. The conditions of use which apply to the resultative vs. explanative ADJ enough that constructions will be investigated in terms of adjective selection and type of subject, making possible a comparison between the ADJ enough that construction and the general ADJ + that-clause construction. This was a necessary step in order to find out whether the increased use of ADJ enough that applies to the resultative type, the explanative type, or both.

4. Material and method

The Corpus of Historical American English (COHA), compiled by Mark Davies, is a 400-million word corpus spanning 200 years, from 1810–2009. Four broad genres, balanced across the decades, are represented in COHA: Fiction, Magazines, Newspaper and Non-fiction books (see further Davies 2012 and http://corpus.byu.edu/coha/). Although the corpus allows for genre comparisons, the main concern here is the potential overall increase of the ADJ enough that construction over time. It is, however, important to note that the total number of words per decade varies – from around 1 million words in the 1810s to almost 30 million in the 2000s (Davies 2012: 123) – which calls for caution when reporting on, and interpreting, frequencies. Normalized frequencies per million words (pmw) will thus be used to trace diachronic development.

COHA is tagged for part-of-speech, enabling queries of uninterrupted sequences of adjective followed by enough that, using the search string “[jj] enough that”, in the BYU search interface, developed by Mark Davies. This string offers good recall of instances of the sequences under study.

COHA returns 693 hits for this sequence and the chart in Figure 2 seems to confirm the hypothesis that the construction is on the rise, showing an increase particularly from the 1950s onwards.

Distribution of [jj] <em>enough that</em> in COHA across decades

Figure 2. Distribution of [jj] enough that in COHA across decades.

There are, however, at least two complicating factors. First, false hits of the kind illustrated in example (10) need to be weeded out.

(10) You officers, the few among you who were sober enough that is, may have heard an explosion and seen a cloud of smoke … (COHA, FIC_1972)

In (10) the that following the adjective sober and enough does not introduce a that-clause, but is part of the expression that is, stressing which of the officers are referred to in the clarification or specification given in the few among you who were sober enough.

The second complicating factor is the, by now, familiar and superficially similar structure: ADJ + enough + explanative that-clause; see examples (8) and (9).

5. ADJ enough that in COHA

The first step in determining whether the resultative construction is on the increase or not was to remove false hits such as the one illustrated in (10). After having discarded 36 such instances, I was left with 657 occurrences for manual scrutiny in order to determine whether they were of the resultative or explanative type. Figure 3 offers a graphic representation of the distribution of these occurrences in COHA.

The distribution of the sequence ADJ <em>enough  that </em>in COHA, leaving out the 36 false hits

Figure 3. The distribution of the sequence ADJ enough that in COHA, leaving out the 36 false hits.

Figure 3 is very much the mirror image of the bar chart in Figure 2, the sequence [jj] enough that shows a sharp increase towards the end of the period covered by COHA. The disambiguation of the sequence resulted in the distribution illustrated in Figure 4.

The distribution of the resultative vs. explanative ADJ <em>enough that</em> construction in COHA

Figure 4. The distribution of the resultative vs. explanative ADJ enough that construction in COHA.

When we compare the diachronic development of the two constructions (Figure 4), there are interesting tendencies to observe. The explanative construction is more frequently attested in the 1800s than in the 2000s, and it seems to have stabilized in the early 1900s at around 0.7–0.8 pmw.

More interesting perhaps is the development of the resultative construction which is virtually non-existent up until the 1940s–50s before a sharp increase is noted from the 1970s-80s onwards. Thus, the initial hypothesis triggering this study is substantiated, at least on the basis of the COHA material. From Figures 3 and 4 combined it becomes clear that the increased use of ADJ enough that in general is linked to the increase of the resultative construction.

In the early stages of the 1800s up until the mid-1900s, ADJ enough that could almost exclusively be equated with the explanative construction. From then onwards, there is a shift in which the explanative type remains stable at around 1 pmw, while the popularity of the resultative type gains ground and is responsible for the overall increase of the sequence. It should, however, be noted that the raw frequencies of the sequence are relatively low, particularly in the earliest decades covered by COHA.

These observations are in agreement with the diachronic development of other resultative constructions, albeit spanning a different time period than COHA, in becoming much more frequent in the course of the history of English (Broccias 2008: 39ff.). [6] In his corpus-based study of the history of adjectival resultative constructions of the type He wiped the table clean, Broccias (Broccias 2008: 43) finds that these “are seldom found in Old English texts”, but that “one can observe an increase […] in the Middle English (ME) period”. As for the Early Modern English period, Broccias reports that adjectival resultative constructions “are found regularly from the sixteenth century onwards” (Broccias 2008: 51). The history of the resultative construction under study here is not investigated to the same extent; it lies outside the scope of this study to go beyond the period covered by COHA in order to trace the origins, and the full diachronic development, of the resultative ADJ enough that construction. However, the fact that it is hardly attested at all in the 1800s in COHA suggests that there is little evidence to be found from an earlier date.

5.1 Conditions of use of the resultative and explanative ADJ enough that constructions in COHA

An underlying assumption of the current study, and of many corpus-inspired studies, is that language is highly recurrent and that frequency of use and co-occurrence patterns play a central role in the creation of meaning. It has been shown that there is an “association of pattern and meaning” (Hunston 2002: 139) and that meaning is not necessarily a property of the word, but of the phrase/sequence (cf. Sinclair 1991).

In this context, and in order to shed more light on potential differences between the resultative and explanative constructions, it is crucial to map the immediate co-text of, and elements co-occurring with, the two construction. The conditions of use of the resultative ADJ enough that construction are very much in line with Mindt’s observations for ADJ + that-clause constructions in general. In the COHA material, it occurs with both intentional and non-intentional subjects, as in examples (11) and (12), respectively. In (11) I is the intentional subject in the matrix clause, while An island like this is the non-intentional subject in (12).

(11) … but I ain’t sorry enough that I'm goin' to stand for her droppin' herself into the place … (COHA, FIC_1921)
(12) An island like this is small enough that maybe we’ll see it if everything isn’t like last night. (COHA, MAG_1965)

In her study, Mindt carried out a hiarchical cluster analysis, which led to a classification of adjectives into two classes “distinct in terms of their lexical characteristics” (Mindt 2011: 58), viz. those conveying experiences, such as feelings and confidence [= experiential] and those conveying a judgement, an assessment or an evaluation [= evaluative]. She further notes that the experiential type typically co-occurs with intentional subjects, while the evaluative type is more likely to co-occur with non-intentional subjects. In the present context, it can be observed that although the resultative ADJ enough that construction co-occurs with both experiential adjectives, as in example (13), and evaluative adjectives, as in example (14), it most typically co-occurs with evaluative ones.

(13) He was proud enough that when he met people whom he wanted to like him, and who would have disapproved of his idleness if they’d known of it, he had saved their feelings (and his) by inventing purposeful projects which supposedly occupied him. (COHA, FIC_1954)
(14) Certainly the subject is important enough that this country should not spurn opportunities which might lead to some safe alleviation of … (COHA, NEWS_1957)

In addition, we can note that in the 261 instances of the resultative construction, 138 different adjectives are used. For comparison, the explanative construction occurs with 48 different adjectives in 396 occurrences. [7] There is an overlap of only seven adjectives in the two constructions. Moreover, the top six adjectives used in the resultative construction only account for around 26% of the occurrences, while the top six adjectives in the explanative construction account for 72% of the occurrences. These last two points regarding adjectives in the two constructions are illustrated in Table 1.

ADJ in the resultative construction Raw # / % of total ADJ in the explanative construction Raw # / % of total
small 17 =26.4% of total bad 82 =72% of total
big 12 clear 54
good 12 natural 53
strong 11 true 40
large 9 evident 35
important 8 obvious 21
132 ADJs occurring 7 times or less 192 42 ADJs occurring 12 times or less 111
TOTAL 261 396

Table 1. Adjectives used with enough + resultative that-clause vs. explanative that-clause in COHA.

What can be concluded from this is that the resultative construction is very flexible in terms of which adjective occurs in the pattern, and no adjective stands out as being particularly recurrent: the most frequent one – small – occurs only 17 times. Nevertheless, since there is little overlap between the adjectives used in the resultative and the explanative construction, what is it about the adjectives that typically occur in the explanative construction that seems to block them from the otherwise flexible resultative construction?

Of the top six adjectives in the explanative construction, three are also found in the resultative construction, but note that bad only occurs seven times and clear and obvious are merely found to co-occur once each with a resultative that-clause. What characterises these six adjectives, perhaps with the exception of bad, is that they seem to be associated with impersonal it and speaker stance to such an extent that they do not easily lend themselves to constructions not including these two features. These are constructions in which the writer reveals her attitude towards the proposition at the same time as hiding the self behind a non-personal projecting clause (cf. e.g. Biber et al. 1999; Hyland 2005; Ebeling & Wickens 2012). Admittedly, the adjectives are in themselves evaluative, as are most of the adjectives in the resultative construction as well, but the association between pattern and meaning seems to be so strong, at least in the case of these very frequent adjectives in the explanative construction, that they can be said to constitute almost fixed extended units of meaning, in Sinclair’s (1996) terms. Nonetheless, counter-examples can be found, and a Google search gives several examples of true used in a resultative construction, e.g. Yet the life he lived was true enough that God endorsed it by raising him from the dead (Hoffacker 2006). Such evidence further underlines the flexible nature of the resultative construction regarding adjective selection.

Although Biber et al. (1999) do not seem to discuss finite complementation of adjectives followed by enough, nor distinguish between resultative and explanative that-clauses, they do distinguish between post-predicate and extraposed that-clauses, as was noted in Section 3. Relevant to the present discussion, albeit a digression, is Biber et al.’s observation that “[f]or the most part, the adjectives that control post-predicate that-clauses are different from those that control extraposed that-clauses. […] However, a few adjectives (e.g. certain, sad) can control both post-predicate and extraposed that-clauses” (1999: 671). The same trend can be observed in the COHA material, although it should be noted that the explanative construction with ADJ enough that in COHA has a strong preference for impersonal it and thereby an extraposed that-clause in Biber et al.’s terms; in fact, impersonal it is recorded in almost 92% of the cases (363 out of 396) in COHA.

6. Possible reasons for the increase

On the basis of the observations in the previous sections the initial hypothesis that the resultative ADJ enough that construction is on the increase has been substantiated. It has also been demonstrated that this is a relatively flexible construction in terms of co-occurrence patterns, which, in my view, seems to be a contributing factor towards its increased use. Other potential reasons for this increased use are harder to determine. In Section 2, the following questions were asked in this respect: does it increase by analogy with the more frequent explanative construction; is it a signal of colloquialisation; or is the resultative construction used at the expense of other (resultative) constructions? To pursue these systematically and in detail lies outside the scope of this study. However, some preliminary and tentative answers will be offered.

With reference to the first suggestion – increase by analogy – this is not fully substantiated in the present material. In the COHA material it took more than 150 years for the resultative construction to surpass the explanative one in frequency, and the explanative construction is no longer more frequent than the resultative construction. There seems to be no correlation between the relatively stable use of the explanative construction across the whole COHA period and the increase of the resultative one from the 1970s onwards. Moreover, the resultative construction was found to be much more flexible in terms of adjective selection.

Whether the increased use of resultative ADJ enough that is a sign of colloquialisation is a question that is difficult to answer on the basis of the COHA material, since it does not contain any spoken data. Colloquialisation has been defined as “a narrowing of the gap between spoken and written norms” (Hundt & Mair 1999: 221), or “[t]he trend of written language acquiring habits of spoken language” (Leech & Smith 2009: 179), viz. features typical of the written mode decrease in writing and features typical of the spoken mode increase. As to the question of whether the resultative construction is a “habit” or feature of spoken language, this seems feasible:

Finite complement clauses, i.e. that-clauses and wh-clauses, are most common in conversation, followed by fiction […]. In contrast, non-finite complement clauses, i.e. to-clauses and ing-clauses, are most common in fiction, followed by news and academic prose. They are relatively rare in conversation. (Biber et al. 1999: 754)

Finally, the third potential reason put forward is whether the use of the resultative ADJ enough that construction increases at the expense of other resultative constructions? A search in COHA for a couple of potentially competing constructions shows somewhat conflicting results. First, I searched for the non-finite version of the enough that construction: ADJ enough to-inf. both with and without the preposition for; see examples (15) and (16), and Figures 5 and 6 for an overview of their distribution across the decades in COHA. It turns out that these sequences are also on the increase; it can also be observed that the construction without for (Figure 6) is far more frequent overall than the ADJ enough that construction.

(15) The light wasn’t quite good enough for me to tell for sure. (COHA, FIC_1976)
(16) “My leg isn’t good enough to walk on yet,” said the doctor. (COHA, FIC_1935)

[jj] enough for * to (COHA)

Distribution of ADJ <em>enough for * to</em>-infinitive in COHA

Figure 5. Distribution of ADJ enough for * to-infinitive in COHA.

[jj] enough to (COHA)

Distribution of ADJ <em>enough to</em>-infinitive in COHA

Figure 6. Distribution of ADJ enough to-infinitive in COHA.

How does the ADJ enough that construction compare with other resultative constructions of the same form, i.e. resultatives that include an adjective, an adverb and a that-clause? The four possibilities identified by Mindt (2011: 146) are restricted to four adverbs: enough, sufficiently, that and so. And the resultative that-clause construction par excellence is the so … that construction; in Mindt’s BNC material, so was found in 1,005 cases while enough was found six times, sufficiently four times, and that three times. Examples of so, sufficiently and that include (17)-(19). (An example from her material of enough was given in (1).)

(17) The picture of her in his head was so clear that he actually smiled. (BNC/AC4 3359; Mindt 2011: 139)
(18) The argument is sufficiently clear that it can be formulated mathematically, and the equilibrial balance calculated. (BNC/GU8 1610; Mindt 2011: 139)
(19) You do need a mouse to run this program but it is that good it is worth buying one just to play. (BNC/ HAC 7777; ; Mindt 2011: 139) [8]

I searched for the most frequent of these formally similar “competing” patterns – so [jj] that – in COHA, and although there may be some noise in the form of false hits, it does in fact seem to be decreasing (see Figure 7), but possibly not to such an extent that we can claim that the enough that construction is used at the expense of the so … that construction; its frequency is well above the resultative ADJ enough that construction. These observations do, however, call for further research.

so [jj] that (COHA)

Distribution of <em>so</em> ADJ <em>that</em> in COHA

Figure 7. Distribution of so ADJ that in COHA.

7. Concluding remarks and future research

Before I sum up the findings of this small-scale study, there are also a couple of other observations worth commenting on. First, there seems to be a general trend for enough constructions to be on the increase, and secondly, as we shall see, the ADJ enough + resultative that-clause construction seems to be typically American, as already hinted at by Tottie (2000: 180; see also Section 3 above), and seems to be spreading to other varieties of English (see Figure 8 below).

When it comes to the first observation, we have seen that ADJ enough that, ADJ enough to-inf. and ADJ enough for * to-infinitive are all on the increase in COHA; in addition sequences such as enough N that and ADV enough that show the same tendency. Examples of the latter two are given in (20) and (21) to illustrate their similarity to the resultative ADJ enough that construction; the that-clauses are resultative and enough cannot be left out.

(20) These pills kill enough hunger that I found myself wanting to eat a small, healthy meal ... (COHA, MAG_2000)
(21) “Got it!” he said, loudly enough that everyone in the room looked back up at the screens. (COHA, FIC_1996)

More research into the uses of enough and constructions with enough is thus called for in order to shed more light on enough + clause constructions in general, as well as their diachronic development and conditions of use (in relation to each other).

With regard to the second observation that ADJ enough that is an American construction that is now spreading, some preliminary data are included from the GloWbE corpus, comprising 1.9 billion words of web texts from 20 varieties of English. The GloWbE chart (Figure 8) shows that the US is leading the way in the use of ADJ enough that with 5.6 instances pmw. The fact that this is higher than the 4.43 instances pmw recorded in COHA may suggest that colloquialisation contributes to increased use, as the texts contained within GloWbE are likely to be of a less formal nature than those in COHA.

Distribution of the sequence [jj] <em>enough that</em> across varieties of English  (GloWbE corpus)

Figure 8. Distribution of the sequence [jj] enough that across varieties of English (GloWbE corpus).

Figure 8 further shows that British English (GB) and other varieties are lagging behind the US in the use of this sequence, although Canadian (CA) comes relatively close. On the other hand, while the sequence ADJ enough that is attested only 0.7 times pmw in the BNC, the GB bar in GloWbE shows a frequency of 2.53 pmw, which suggests a surge also in British English. Of course a more thorough investigation is needed to disambiguate between the explanative and resultative construction in this material, but it seems likely that the resultative construction is on the increase in BrE as well. However, as pointed out by Leech & Smith (2009), ‘Americanisation’ as a possible determinant of change should be treated with caution, as “a finding that AmE is ahead of BrE in a given frequency change does not necessarily imply direct transatlantic influence – it could simply be an ongoing change in both varieties where AmE is more advanced” (Leech & Smith 2009: 176). This brief discussion of quantitative differences between varieties of English is far from decisive, but provides food for thought for future research that may go further in establishing the nature of the sequence ADJ enough that in a global synchronic perspective.

This study focused on a construction that was found to have gained ground in American English over the past 30–40 years. Although resultative ADJ enough that was also attested in the earliest decades covered by COHA, it was not until the 1970s that it started to enter into common use. However, it is not as frequently used as other, similar, resultative constructions with a finite or non-finite clause.

Compared to the superficially similar explanative construction, resultative ADJ enough that was seen to be more flexible in that it combines with a wider and less fixed range of adjective types. Although both the explanative and resultative constructions combine with both intentional and non-intentional subjects, they were also seen to differ in this respect, as only the explanative type is used with impersonal it, and overwhelmingly so.

Possible reasons for the attested increase of resultative ADJ enough that in COHA were explored in the study, and although the exact reasons proved hard to determine with any certainty, colloquialisation and flexibility of use, in the sense of co-occuring with a wide selection of adjectives, seem to be good candidates. Moreover, diachronic developments in English that may play a role include an increased use of enough + clause constructions as well as an increased use of resultative constructions in general.

Avenues for further research abound, some of which have been outlined above. Thus, the present study has only scratched the surface of the life and loves of the resultative enough that construction.


I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their thorough reading of, and highly relevant comments and suggestions on, a previous version of this article.


[1] “Construction” is used as a neutral term and simply refers to a sequence of words consisting of ADJ + enough + that(-clause); it does not refer to “construction” in the Construction Grammar sense (e.g. Goldberg 2006). [Go back up]

[2] I would like to thank Gunnel Tottie for kindly making me aware of her study on enough and for providing me with the reference for it. [Go back up]

[3] Note that other accounts of resultatives often deal with constructions of the type [NP V NP XP] rather than resultative that-clauses, where XP is in a subject-predicative relation with the second NP, e.g. Jack considers Flora intelligent (cf. Boas 2003: 2). [Go back up]

[4] Three reference grammars of English would refer to example (8) as exactly that: Quirk et al. (1985: 1391); Biber et al. (1999: 155); Huddleston & Pullum (2002: 241–243; 1481–1482). [Go back up]

[5] The examples used by Biber et al. (1999: 671) are:
a) It’s nice that people say it to you unprompted. (conv)
b) I’m glad that I found you again. (fict) [Go back up]

[6] I am grateful to Teresa Fanego for pointing this out to me, as well as for drawing my attention to Broccias (2008). [Go back up]

[7] The difference is statistically significant (LL=90.97; p<0.0001; Df=1). [Go back up]

[8] Mindt’s example of resultative that ADJ + resultative that-clause has a zero that-clause (19); I therefore include an example from the BNC with an overt that: Life got that bad that I just used to sleep with the kids. (BNC/EG0 465). [Go back up]


BNC = British National Corpus, version 3 (BNC XML Edition). 2007. Distributed by Oxford University Computing Services on behalf of the BNC Consortium. http://www.natcorp.ox.ac.uk/

BNCweb = BNCweb version 4.0. The CQP-edition of BNCweb (Versions 3 and 4) was developed by Sebastian Hoffmann and Stefan Evert. The original BNCweb interface (versions 1 and 2) was a joint project of three people: Hans-Martin Lehmann, Sebastian Hoffmann and Peter Schneider. Available online at http://www.natcorp.ox.ac.uk/

COHA = The Corpus of Historical American English: 400 million words, 1810–2009. 2010–. Compiled by Mark Davies. Available online at http://corpus.byu.edu/coha/

GloWbE = Corpus of Global Web-Based English: 1.9 billion words from speakers in 20 countries. 2013. Compiled by Mark Davies. Available online at http://corpus.byu.edu/glowbe/


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