Dialect differences:
Grammar
P Trudgill (1994) Dialects. London: Routledge.
A Hughes et al. (2005) English accents and dialects
(4th ed). London: Hodder Arnold. Chapter 2
J Cheshire (1982) Variation in an English dialect.
Cambridge: CUP.
Grammatical differences
• Rather like phonetic differences in that
– We are comparing with RP as a standard
– We will avoid making value judgments
– But note that nonstandard grammar is often
denegrated
• Less like phonetic differences in that we have
differences of
–
–
–
–
System
Distribution
Incidence
Realisation
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Grammar differences between
two dialects
1. Differences of grammar system
Additional distinctions (very rare); distinctions “missing”
2. Differences of distribution
equivalent morphemes/grammatical devices, but the
contexts in which they occur differ
3. Differences of incidence
equivalent morphemes, but in particular constructions, a
different morpheme is chosen
4. Differences of realisation
equivalent morphemes, but the realisation differs
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Grammatical systems
• “Grammar” can refer to everything from
morphology to syntax
• “Morphology” in English mostly refers to suffixes,
but there are a few cases of “ablaut” (strong
verbs, irregular plurals)
• Typical morphosyntactic phenomena in English
include: number (N and V), tense (V), agreement
(only in present tense verbs), case (only in
pronouns)
• “Syntax” refers to issues about word order
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1. The verb to be
RP:
am
is
are
was
were
am not
aren’t
isn’t
wasn’t
weren’t
being
have/has been
several
am
is
are
were
were
ain’t / amn’t
ain’t
ain’t
weren’t
weren’t
being
Ø been
several
is
is
is
was
was
in’t
in’t
in’t
wan’t
wan’t
being
been
SW
be
be
be
wor
wor
bain’t
bain’t
bain’t
wan’t
wan’t
bein’
been
no sg in past
no pl form
!!!
Examples of different distribution, different incidence, different realisation,
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2. Pronouns
• RP marks pronouns for case, number and gender
1S
I
•
2S MS FS NS 1P 2P
3P
you he she it we you they
me
you him her it
us you
Nominative
Accusative
them
Possessive adj
my
their
Several
dialects
usemine
us
Possessive
pronoun
theirs
break
your his her
its
our your
for
1S his
accusative:
eg yours
give us a
yours
hers its ours
• Some dialects still distinguish 2S and 2P, as in OE:
– thou, thee, thy, thine
– usually with 2P as a polite form for single addressee
• Or have an explicit plural form:
– y’all, youse, yiz, you-uns, ye (~you for 2S)
• me for ‘my’ is quite widespread
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2. Pronouns
• RP marks pronouns for case, number and gender
1S
I
•
•
2S MS FS NS 1P 2P
3P
you he she it we you they
me
you him her it
us you
Nominative
Accusative
them
Possessive adj
my
your his her its our your
their
Conflation
of pronoun
nom and
esphisin hers
pl: us,
Possessive
mineacc,
yours
its them
ours yours
theirs
Regularisation
of reflexive:
– accusative: meself, usselves; possessive: hisself, theirselves
• Alternate forms, especially of FS nominative
– her, oo, …
– Dorset: ee (MS, FS), er (NS), ie ±animate
– N Irish mine’s for mine
• Hypercorrection me → I, eg *between you and I
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2. Pronouns
1. Differences of system
2nd person sing~plural distinction
2. Differences of distribution
Use of me rather than my in meself
Both me and my are found, but not in the same contexts
3. Differences of incidence
Use of us where you’d expect me
Use of me where you’d expect my
Us and me are also used where you would expect them
4. Differences of realisation
Oo = she
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3. Past tense of strong verbs
• Weak verbs have a single past-tense form used
for both simple past and perfect (+ed)
– I worked, I have worked
• Strong verbs (mostly) have a different form for
these two (vowel ablaut, sometimes +en)
– swim/swam/swum, see/saw/seen, write/wrote/written
– come/came/come, get/got/got, have/had/had,
put/put/put
• Mixed verbs (+t/d) in this case are like weak
verbs
– buy/bought, lose/lost, leave/left, find/found, feed/fed
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3. Past tense of strong verbs
• In many dialects there is a strong tendency to bring the
strong verbs into line with the weak by
– collapsing the distinction between simple past and past participle
– merging one with the other, in either direction
• I seen him, I done it (using PP for simpe past)
• I have wrote, I have went, I have saw (vice versa)
– or using the present form, on the model of come, run
• I see him yesterday, I give him what for
– or using an anomalous variant form
• writ, thunk
– or using a form of “analogical levelling”
• drawed
– historical cases of this have found their way into RP
• dived (was dove), got (was gotten), behoved (was behoove)
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4. Negation
• Multiple negation is widely found in
nonstandard dialects:
– I didn’t have no dinner
• “Double negative” is an inaccurate term;
linguists prefer “negative concord”
– She never told no one nothing.
• Negative concord was part of standard
dialect, but RP has diverged (not v.v.)
– cf other languages, eg French ne … pas
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4. Negation
Other aspects of negation vary across dialects:
• ain’t as negative form of all forms of both be and have
– I ain’t coming, I ain’t seen him, they ain’t eaten
• other idiosyncratic negative forms
– divn’t, amn’t, bain’t
• never as simple negative instead of not or didn’t
– He said I skipped school but I never
– Even though he was unmarked, he never hit the target
– I put the key in the lock but it never turned
• but restricted with non-past-tense verbs:
– That’s never my brother
– * I never smoke (≠ I don’t smoke)
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4. Negation
• no (or nae) rather than not
– He’ll no do that again in a hurry
• use of not after the pronoun, rather than n’t,
especially in questions
– I told you did I not? Are you not coming? Did he not
tell you?
– She’ll not go, I’ve not got one
• some non-modal/auxiliary verbs have a negative
form with n’t
– ???
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5. Participle forms
• Use of progressive or past partciple with
verbs like want, need
• Southern England, RP
– I want it washed, it wants washing
• Midlands, Northern England
– I want it washing, it wants washing
• Scotland, Ireland
– I want it washed, it wants washed
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6. Have
Have acts as both an auxiliary verb, and a full verb meaning ‘possess’
As an auxiliary verb
• it has a negative form
As an full verb it needs auxiliary do
• to form the negative
– hasn’t, haven’t, hadn’t
•
it can form interrogatives by
simple inversion when an
auxiliary, but not as a modal
– Have you seen it? Has the man
gone?
•
it can be emphasised simply by
the addition of stress
– He has eaten. The man has gone.
•
it can participate in tag questions
– he has eaten, hasn’t he? they
haven’t arrived yet, have they?
– He doesn’t have a car.
– * He hasn’t a car
•
to form an interrogative
– Does he have a car?
– * Has he a car?
•
to show emphasis
– He does have / *has a car
– He doesn’t have / *hasn’t a car
•
in tag questions
– He has a car, doesn’t he/ *hasn’t
he ?
– He doesn’t have a car, does he ?
– * He hasn’t a car, has he ?
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6. Have
• Some dialects use the auxiliary properties even with the
full-verb have
– ie the * examples on previous slide are OK
• It also has a modal use (=‘must’) with mixed behaviour
– Do you have to go ~ ? Have you to go?
– I don’t have to go ~ ? I haven’t to go.
• Other differences surround use of phrases like
– Do you have ~ Have you got
– Did you have ~ Had you
• In some dialects, be also can take or requires auxiliary
do
– He do be a funny chap
– Do you be living here?
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7. Word order differences
•
Order of direct and indirect objects
– Standard English has IO>DO
•
•
•
She gave the man a book
She gave him a book
She gave him it
– Several dialects also allow:
•
•
•
•
•
She gave it him (quite common)
She gave it the man (common in North, * in South)
She gave a book him (not common, but possible in North, esp with
contrastive stress)
She gave a book the man (ditto)
Alternate forms of particle verb constructions
(a) He turned out the light. Put on your coat. She took off her shoes.
(b) He turned the light out. Put your coat on. She took her shoes off.
– Both acceptable, but southerners prefer (b), northerners prefer (a)
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8. Relative pronouns
• Who ~ which ~ that as in
– That is the man… who did it; who(m) I saw
–
that did it; that I saw
– That is the brick… which did it; which I saw
–
that did it; that I saw; I saw
• Various dialects allow
– That is the man what done it
–
which done it
–
as done it
–
at done it
–
done it
• Whose often replaced by what’s or that’s
– That’s the man what’s son did it
– That’s the man what his son did it
– That’s the man that’s son did it
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Conclusion
• There are many other examples
• Many nonstandard features are common to
many dialects, though some other things are still
very particular
• Some could be analysed as lexical or even
phonetic examples
– no for not, ain’t for aren’t
• “Grammar” covers everything from morphology
to word order
• Not quite so easy to categorise
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Dialect differences: Grammar