The pragmatics of the be + after + V-ing construction in Irish English

Anne O'Keeffe 1  and Carolina P. Amador Moreno 2
  • 1 anne.okeeffe@mic.ul.ie
  • 2 camador@unex.es

Abstract

This paper looks at a well-documented form in Irish English, ‘be after + Verb-ing’ (e.g. ‘He's after forgetting to pay her’) which roughly equates to the present perfect aspect in Standard English. The structure, a calque on an Irish form, has been used in the past in literature and cartoons to both characterize and stigmatize Irish English. This paper tests the hypothesis that this structure is still widely used in Irish English today because it has acquired pragmatic specializations which do not have an equivalent in the Standard English form. This paper draws on one million words of Irish English recorded in different parts of Ireland to form the Limerick Corpus of Irish English, recorded between 2001 and 2005. All of the occurrences of the form in the corpus were isolated and analyzed in context. A number of pragmatically specialized functions were identified and discussed. The distribution of the form across gender and particularly across a range of age groups, especially among young adult speakers, suggests that the form is robustly placed within Irish English. It is concluded that because its pragmatically specialized functions do not have an adequate equivalent in Standard English, it has and will remain as part of the core grammar of Irish English.

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Intercultural Pragmatics is a fully peer-reviewed forum for theoretical and applied pragmatics research. The journal promotes the development and understanding of pragmatic theory and intercultural competence by publishing research that focuses on general theoretical issues, more than one language and culture, or varieties of one language, while making a special effort to cross disciplinary boundaries.

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