"Is it" appended to questions

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon May 14 13:16:48 UTC 2007

Lynne, thanks for the article, the references, and the possible
support for Wales.

Perhaps the following tale will help you distinguish Welsh
speakers  :-)  A Welsh- (and English) speaking computer industry
colleague of mine had worked for several years in Italy.  I asked him
how he got along speaking Italian.  He replied that he just had to
remember that in Welsh what was important was the consonants, in
Italian the vowels.  (I was reminded of a story of my
mother's.  Asking for directions to the Piazza Garibaldi in Naples,
she was not understood until a local said "Ah!  'GariBAAAHLdi!'" and
pointed the way.)


At 5/14/2007 09:39 AM, you wrote:
>>Lynne, do you exclude everyone else when you say "Is it?" is South
>>African?  (Please ignore speakers of 'izzit' or 'innit'; they're not
>>what I'm looking for.)
>I can't exclude everyone else, because I don't know everyone else, but 'is
>it' is a stereotypical feature of SAfr E.  I haven't heard of it in Wales,
>but then I'm pretty far from Wales, never been to Wales, and have a very
>hard time picking out Welsh-English speakers. (The English find my
>inability to distinguish Welsh accents rather amusing.  I can tell that
>they're different, but always guess them as being something else.)
>I found this article:
>Which says:
>"Moreover, invariant  tags have been found to occur in South Africa, Papua
>New Guinea, Singapore, and in  Wales (cf Kachru 1982; Platt 1982; Todd &
>Hancock 1986)."
>It doesn't say which invariant tag that is, though.  (The article covers
>'innit' and 'is it'.)
>Also, in talking about invariant tags, I think one might want to
>distinguish those that are invariant in person from uses that are only
>invariant in polarity, like Wilson's example:
>>>Not at all, dear fellow! My pleasure! (It's) Wilson Gray, is it?
>I believe that you can use the wrong-polarity ones in many dialects, given
>the right pragmatic situation--but perhaps some dialects are more prone to
>taking advantage of this.  (Maybe Larry knows something about this, or
>thinks I'm completely wrong!)  But not varying the person (i.e. saying
>"You're Wilson Gray, is it?") is, I believe, more dialect-specific.
>Dr M Lynne Murphy
>Senior Lecturer and Head of Department
>Linguistics and English Language
>Arts B135
>University of Sussex
>Brighton BN1 9QN
>phone: +44-(0)1273-678844
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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