Features discussed in this chapter include some of the most prominent features of the HE tense and aspect systems and what will here be called ‘plural subject- verb concord’. As before, I have had to limit the discussion to those features which I have considered the most interesting from the contact-linguistic point of view. Therefore, and also because of space limitations, I will not be able to discuss various other aspects of VPs which are also known to be characteristic of the Irish dialects of English, e.g. certain uses of modal auxiliaries, special ways of expressing the imperative mood, or nonstandard verb forms (for discussion see, e.g. Harris 1993). Note also that (some aspects of) negation will be treated in the next chapter (section 7.4).
It is common knowledge that tense and aspect are among those areas of grammar in which HE dialects clearly distinguish themselves from other dialects of English. This is not surprising in view of the centrality of tense and aspect distinctions in any grammar, and considering also evidence from other contact varieties which underlines the importance of especially aspectual categorisation (for a general discussion, see, e.g. Holm 1988: 148-68). In the research on HE, problems of tense and aspect have long occupied a special place, and this is also reflected in the substratum-superstratum-universals debate: HE perfects, in particular, belong to the most widely debated topics in the field.
My discussion will focus on HE perfects and on the use of so-called ‘periphrastic do and related constructions for marking habitual aspect. I have again had to exclude certain other typical features of the HE tense-aspect systems such as the use of the progressive form with certain types of stative verbs, such as think, believe, want, know, or belong. On the other hand, this feature was not so much in evidence in the HE corpus as one could have expected on the basis of the literature. The examples in (1) and (2) from the corpus should suffice to illustrate the usage (for further discussion see, e.g. Bliss 1984a: 144; Harris 1993: 164):
(1) There was a lot about fairies long ago [. . . ] but I’m thinkin’ that most of ’em are vanished. (Clare: M. R. )