Friday, 19 October 2012

Invariant tags – we need one, innit?


Say I say “you like that, don’t you?”, or “we could go to Mauritius, couldn’t we?”, or “I already said so, didn’t I?”  These are all ‘statement tags’, which fulfil an important function in conversation: to request confirmation whilst not demanding it.

In English, being proper and rule-bound, we do this grammatically, as the few examples above show.  Hence our sentence tags are variant, being entirely dependent on the structure of the preceding statement.

Others manage it differently.  “n’est ce pas?”  “non é vero?”  ¿verdad?”, “nicht war?” and so on.  They’re all invariant, independent of what they’re asking us to confirm.  I could compare them to a shrug, a quizzical smile, a raised eyebrow.  Perhaps we British are not so good at body language either.

So welcome ‘innit’.  Let’s de-yobbify it, make it respectable and draw it into the language.  You can always pronounce it “isn’t it?” if it makes you feel safer.

Right?

10 comments :

  1. Further proof that (our) language is in constant flux.And this is what makes it so interesting, innit?

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  2. I don't understand your differentiation between variant and invariant.

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  3. I'm sorry, I'm not convinced you could replace the tags in the first paragraph with 'innit' or even 'isn't it', could you?

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  4. You get the message, yes? Job done.

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  5. The Welsh, when speaking English, already do this, isn't it?

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  6. You could with n'est ce pas or the others though, AQ, so why not innit?

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  7. I rather prefer "is it not so?".
    How about the techies just set up autospeech macros, so that when someone says "innit" everyone hears it as "is it not so?". Could have other uses also.
    If people like other people electronically surely this is a doddle?

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  8. Thank you for your meaningful contributions. And the less meaningful ones too. On reflection I have decided after all not to reconstruct the English language, at least not from this direction. So you'll just have to sort it out amongst yourselves. Hmm?

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