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Auteur: Diane MASSAM

Varieties of 'be' in spoken English

Abstract/Résumé: It has been observed that there are uses of the verb ‘be’ in speech that do not form part of the standard or prescriptive language, indeed, in some cases they do not seem to even form part of conscious knowledge of language. Examples include constructions that have been termed ‘double be’ and ‘free be’: “The thing is is he is really nice.”; “My kids are great on vacation but when they come home is they really need to play.”. There has been a fair amount of discussion of these constructions in websites on language, but few formal treatments have been proposed. In this paper I will first present a descriptive catalogue of non-canonical uses of ‘be’ in spoken English, and based on their varying characteristics I will then present three different structural analyses for the different uses. For each, I will discuss why the structure arises in speech rather than in writing, making reference to grammatical and functional aspects of fluent speech as a type of register. Comparisons with other structural claims about register (left peripheral, telegraphic, etc.) will be drawn. (References are not included in Abstract)