The Grammar of Irish English: Language in Hibernian Style

By Markku Filppula | Go to book overview

5

THE NOUN PHRASE

5.1

Introduction

As compared with the verb phrase, HE noun phrases do not display particularly salient departures from their counterparts in other dialects of English. Indeed, some of the most often mentioned features are attested in other nonstandard varieties, too. These include, first, the use of them as a determiner or ‘demonstrative adjective’, as in (1) from my HE corpus, or on its own as subject, as in (2) (cf. Harris 1993: 145; Cheshire et al. 1989: 195-6). Another generally occurring feature is the use of the singular form with plural quantity nouns, as in (3) from the HE corpus (cf. Harris 1993: 146; Edwards and Weltens 1985: 114; Cheshire et al. 1989: 197-8). The distinction between singular you and plural yous (sometimes spelt youse or yez/yiz) is yet another characteristic of some varieties of HE (Hayden and Hartog 1909: 781; Harris 1993: 146) which is also found in other varieties like Tyneside English, Scots, and Liverpool dialect (Beal 1993: 205-6).

(1) [... ] that time the people were rich that used to live in them houses. (Dublin: J. O’B. )

(2) But them were the old letters. (Kerry: M. C. )

(3) Now a hundred mile was as much as I, or little better maybe, as much as I ever went round from where I’m now. (Wicklow: J. F. )

Two features have been selected for closer examination in this chapter: nonstandard usages of the definite article and ‘absolute’ - or ‘unbound’ as I prefer to call them - uses of the reflexive pronouns. Both stand out in the HE corpus as features which possibly reflect the corresponding systems of the Irish language. Furthermore, though frequently commented on in the literature on HE, neither of these, nor especially their historical backgrounds, have hitherto been systematically investigated.

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