Northern Subject Rule

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The Northern Subject Rule is a grammatical pattern that occurs in Northern English and Scots dialects.[1] Present-tense verbs may take the verbal ‑s suffix, except when they are directly adjacent to one of the personal pronouns I, you, we, or they as their subject. As a result, they sing contrasts with the birds sings; they sing and dances; it's you that sings; I only sings.[2] Various core areas for the rule have been proposed, including Yorkshire[3] and southern Scotland.[4]

In several other dialects across England, occasional variations in agreement between subjects and verbs can be found.[5]

The origin of the Northern Subject Rule is debated. Some linguists have proposed that it arose, in part, from contact with the British Celtic languages in the early phase of Anglo-Saxon settlement, or Old Norse during the Danelaw period.[6] Others have argued that it was a language-internal development that became common during the Middle English period.[7][8] The late attestation of the rule and the paucity of northern texts in Old English means that dating its formation, and explaining its origin, with any degree of certainty is difficult.[9]

Graham Shorrocks notes that a similar use of the historic present occurs in some dialects of north Germany, citing Gordon (1966) and Wakernagel-Jolles (1971).[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Benskin, Michael (2011), Present Indicative Plural Concord in Brittonic and Early English
  2. ^ de Haas, Nynke; van Kemenade, Ans (2014), The origin of the Northern Subject Rule: subject positions and verbal morphosyntax in older English
  3. ^ de Haas, Nynke; van Kemenade, Ans (2014), The origin of the Northern Subject Rule: subject positions and verbal morphosyntax in older English
  4. ^ Rodríguez Ledesma, María Nieves (2017), The Northern Subject Rule in the Breadalbane Collection
  5. ^ Robinson, Jonnie. "Grammatical Variation Across the UK".
  6. ^ de Haas, Nynke; van Kemenade, Ans (2014), The origin of the Northern Subject Rule: subject positions and verbal morphosyntax in older English
  7. ^ Isaac, Graham (2003), Diagnosing the Symptoms of Contact: Some Celtic-English Case Histories
  8. ^ Piestch, Lukas, "Some do and some doesn't": Verbal concord variation in the north of the British Isles
  9. ^ Benskin, Michael (2011), Present Indicative Plural Concord in Brittonic and Early English
  10. ^ Shorrocks, Graham (1999). A Grammar of the Dialect of the Bolton Area, Part 2. Berlin: Peter Lang. p. 118. ISBN 9783631346617.

Fernández Cuesta, Julia. 2011. ‘The Northern Subject Rule in First-person-singular Contexts in Early Modern English.’ Folia Linguistica Historica 32: 89–114.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Isaac, Graham R. (2003), "Diagnosing the Symptoms of Contact: Some Celtic-English Case Histories", in Tristram, Hildegard L. C. (ed.), The Celtic Englishes III, Heidelberg: Winter, pp. 46–64