3

At least in the US, many, maybe most, native English speakers spell "a lot" as one word until taught otherwise. Why is this such a common phenomenon?

There are several pieces of (non-written based) evidence that it should be analyzed as two words, including most significantly that it can be interrupted by "whole," or, less commonly, "great, (n) awful." The same phenomenon doesn't seem to happen for parallel constructions, e.g. nobody seems to analyze "abunch, afew" as single words.

8
  • 3
    It is a life view of language change. BTW, you probably love the alot, see hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.de/2010/04/… – jk - Reinstate Monica Aug 14 '16 at 12:27
  • 1
    A lot has gone farther toward fusion than a bunch. We still use the word bunch, but when was the last time you heard lot used to mean 'a large number' without a in front of it? The same thing happened -- in one direction or another -- to nickname, adder, and orange. – jlawler Aug 14 '16 at 13:24
  • 1
    Lotta is eye dialect representing the ordinary pronunciation of lot of. The article in a whole lot of is often dropped at the beginning of spoken sentences--Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On wrote Williams and Hall in 1955; I imagine Prof. Lawler will confirm that this is attributable to conversational deletion. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 14 '16 at 21:03
  • 4
    "Another" is written together even though we can say "a whole other" or "a whole nother." – brass tacks Aug 15 '16 at 1:27
  • 2
    Here's a relevant question on ELU; I hope the answers are somewhat useful: Why is writing “alot” such a common mistake? – brass tacks Aug 17 '16 at 22:59
3

The problem starts not with the noun phrase "a lot of ...", but with the adverbial phrase "a lot [of the time]" (meaning 'often'). It is unusual for an adverbial phrase to begin with a determiner (article), so the learner assumes that 'a lot' is one word ('alot'), since the temporal cue 'of the time' is often elided.

1

'lot' is a common noun and the plural is 'lots' - both are commonly used in auctions, but also to refer to indeterminate quantities of something. Similar to 'a bunch of flowers', 'a gaggle of geese' or 'a cup of tea'. Spelling is arbitrary say the knowing linguists!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.