I GOES YOU HANG IT UP IN YOUR SHOWER, INNIT? HE GOES YEAH. THE USE AND DEVELOPMENT OF INVARIANT TAGS IN LONDON TEENAGE SPEECH
Gisle Andersen, Department of English, University of Bergen
This paper investigates what seems to be a fairly recent innovation in the London teenage vernacular - the invariant use of the constructions ‘innit?’ and ‘is it?’. Originally canonical questions requiring person-, tense- and number agreement, these constructions frequently occur as invariant tags in present-day adolescent speech. Such a development has previously been attested in the Englishes of Papua New Guinea, Singapore, South Africa etc, and a likely hypothesis is that we are dealing with an aspect of language crossing (cf Rampton 1995) in an ethnically diverse urban London.
In my presentation, I intend to outline the various syntactic and pragmatic functions of the tags ‘innit?’ and ‘is it?’, and correlate these linguistic findings with non-linguistic parameters such as socioeconomic class, age and location, thus determining whether sociological factors have a bearing on their distribution. Moreover, I will attempt to characterise the processes of reanalysis involved with reference to the theoretical framework of grammaticalisation. Finally, I want to suggest certain other constructions which are possible candidates for a similar development.
My study draws on data from The Bergen Corpus of London Teenage Language (COLT), a 500,000-word corpus collected in 1993.
From the FIRST UK LANGUAGE VARIATION WORKSHOP: READING, 3-5 APRIL 1997: ABSTRACTS. University of Reading. Available online at:
http://nora.hd.uib.no/~gisle/pdf/READING.pdf (Caution: some usage examples are obscene by ordinary definitions of discourse.)