It is well known that Irish English, like some traditional British English dialects, uses specific forms to denote habitual action in the present. In the north of the country the marker in question tends to be inflected be, whereas do + be is used in southern dialects (compare Filppula 1999 and Fiess 2003). While habitual marking by do has extended from the British Isles to various parts of the English-speaking world, habitual be is rarer (cf. Kortmann 2004). In addition to Ireland, it is used in Newfoundland (cf. Clark 2004) as well as in varieties of African American Vernacular English, South Eastern American Vernaculars, Gullah, Chicago English and Bahamian English (cf. e.g. Kortmann et al. (ed.) 2004). Recently, Hickey (2006) has asserted that the mechanisms at work in the genesis of this phenomenon in Irish English are still ill-understood, and he also points to the lack of the phenomenon in Scottish varieties of English. This paper proposes to re-examine evidence from the dialects of the ‘Inner Colonies’ in question from a language contact point of view. The guiding research question is whether differences in the Gaelic and British contact languages may play a role in the further development of their contact varieties.
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Fiess, A. (2003) ‘Do Be or Not Do Be. Generic and Habitual Forms in East Galway English’. Celtic Englishes III, ed. H.L.C. Tristram. Heidelberg: Winter. 169-182.
Filppula, M. (1999) A Grammar of Irish English. London: Routledge.
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Hickey, R. (2006) ‘Contact, Shift and Language Change. Irish English and South African English’. Celtic Englishes IV, ed. H.L.C. Tristram. Postdam: Universitätsverlag Potsdam. 234- 258.
Kortmann, B. (2004) ‘Do as a tense and aspect marker in varieties of English’. Dialectology meets Typology, ed. Kortmann, B. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 244-276.
Kortmann, B. et al., eds. (2004) A Handbook of Varieties of English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.