As someone who has used the phrase "in light of" his whole life, I was a little surprised to come across the variant "in the light of" the other day. I think it was in one of my students' papers, so I didn't really give it much thought, just corrected it and moved on. However, I found another instance of it today in Geoffrey Poole's Syntactic Theory. He, too, uses "in the light of," and I reasonably sure he's a native speaker (I would imagine writing a book on syntax in English would be rather difficult otherwise). So obviously it's not just a mistake; people say this.
What I'm puzzling over is whether they're way is "correct" or not. Obviously we don't talk much about what is "correct" in descriptive linguistics, so by correct I mean the original historical phrase. Where is this phantom article coming from? For me this is an idiomatic phrase. While I can understand what it means by looking at its constituents, really I don't break it down linguistically when I use it. I'm not thinking of knowledge shedding light on some topic, I'm just thinking "in light of" = "given this evidence." It could be that for some people who do a little less reanalysis, the article makes more sense, whether it was there to begin with or not. Wiktionary lists "in light of" but not "in the light of," though I can't really say that proves anything. Still, we could theoretically take that as showing the statistical preponderance of the version without the article: the fact that someone took the time to make a page for that version and not the arthrous one means its likely that more people use that anarthrous version.
Jerome Stueart interview (pt. 3)
4 years ago