The Grammar of Irish English: Language in Hibernian Style

By Markku Filppula | Go to book overview

7

QUESTIONS, RESPONSES, AND NEGATION

7.1

Introduction

Questions, responses, and negation form a vast area because of the discoursal dimensions, and for this reason alone only selected aspects can be discussed within the bounds of this study. I have chosen to focus on three areas of HE usage which have clearly grammaticalised forms of manifestation. They are concerned with the use (or non-use, rather) of yes and no in responses to so-called Yes/No questions, word order in indirect or ‘embedded’ questions, and failure (or more neutrally, absence) of ‘negative attraction’ with certain kinds of indefinite and universal pronouns when they are in subject position and within the scope of negation. These will be discussed in detail in sections 7.2, 7.3, and 7.4, respectively. Some aspects of so-called WH-questions and their responses will be dealt with in connection with focusing devices in Chapter 10.

Other potentially interesting features not investigated here include, first, the oft-mentioned predilection for rhetorical questions and their possible Irish background (for discussion, see, e.g. Joyce 1910/1988: 33; Lunny 1981: 137- 8; Bliss 1984a: 148; see also the discussion on the conjunctions but and only in section 8.4 below). Another feature often associated with HE is the use of double or multiple negation - sometimes also referred to as ‘negative concord’. Though still used to some extent in HE dialects, this feature is best described as one of the ‘general vernacular’ forms commonly found in other dialectal and nonstandard varieties of English, too (for discussion of HE in this respect, see, e.g. Harris 1993: 168-70).


7.2

Responses to Yes/No questions

Responses to Yes/No questions form a potentially interesting area because Irish has no exact equivalents of the affirmative and negative particles yes and no. Indeed, there are observations in the literature on HE usages which are said to reflect the Irish system to a certain extent. Thus, Hayden and Hartog (1909: 934-5) claim that ‘the Irish use the particles “Yes” and “No” very sparingly, and even then add a short sentence of affirmation or denial’. According to the same authors, this is a constant source of trouble for English lawyers in courts whenever an Irish witness is in the box, as it is hard to extract a simple yes or no response from them (Hayden and Hartog 1909: 935). Another early writer commenting on the HE usage in responses is Joyce (1910/1988: 130), who, however, gives a slightly different description: for him, the special nature of HE responses manifests itself in the ‘redundant’ use of full statements besides the yes or no indicating the polar choice. He then illustrates this tendency by quoting examples from Donlevy’s Irish Catechism (but fails to notice the absence of yes from two out of the three examples!).

-160-

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The Grammar of Irish English: Language in Hibernian Style
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The English Language in Ireland 4
  • 3 - Major Issues in the Study of Hiberno-English 12
  • 4 - Databases and Methods 36
  • 5 - The Noun Phrase 55
  • 6 - The Verb Phrase 89
  • 7 - Questions, Responses, and Negation 160
  • 8 - The Complex Sentence 184
  • 9 - Prepositional Usage 218
  • 10 - Focusing Devices 242
  • 11 - Discussion and Conclusions 271
  • Notes 299
  • Bibliography 309
  • Index 322
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