There it’s!

A Linguistic Society of America news release summarizes a forthcoming article in Language, “Syntactic variation and auxiliary contraction: The surprising case of Scots” by Gary Thoms, David Adger, Caroline Heycock, and Jennifer Smith:

Contractions are widespread in English. However, there are certain rules about what can be contracted where–rules that speakers follow without ever having been taught them, and without being consciously aware of them. For example, speakers happily say It’s in the box but not I don’t know where it’s. Such rules seem to apply to every variety of English, whether it be spoken in Philadelphia, London or the Caribbean.

The starting point for the article is the rule that forbids contraction in examples like I don’t know where it’s, which is one of the most exceptionless rules of contraction in English varieties. […] In the article, the authors investigate what looks like a curiously specific exemption from this restriction found in some dialects of Scots: speakers readily allow contraction in examples like Here it’s! or There it’s!, which are used in the context of discoveries or sudden realizations (Where’s my book??? Ah, there it’s!). The authors seek to explain why contraction is possible just in these types of sentences, which they call locative discovery expressions, and only in one specific subpart of the English dialect continuum.

To investigate this, the authors analyzed data from the Scots Syntax Atlas, a new online digital resource for the study of Scots. The atlas provides original data on hundreds of grammatical phenomena from more than 140 locations across Scotland, gathered in face-to-face interviews by community-insider fieldworkers. The authors found out that many varieties of Scots also allow a kind of locative discovery expression where speakers repeat the word there (or here), so they say things like There it’s there!. And it turns out that all speakers who can say There it’s! can also say There it’s there!, but not vice versa.

I’ll spare you the implausible (to me) explanation involving “an unpronounced there after the verb,” but the phenomenon itself is interesting. Thanks, Terry!

Comments

  1. Unpronounced there after the verb was the first thing I thought of. It makes sense to me.

  2. Note that the other contraction of “it is” seems to be perfectly allowed in those final positions. If you use ’tis at all, then “There ’tis!” should be fine.

  3. David Marjanović says:

    “an unpronounced there after the verb,”

    Verb-initial declarative clauses in German: they all have an omitted demonstrative pronoun in the omitted first position. It’s not always possible for hearers to reconstruct which demonstrative it is, but it can’t be anything else.

  4. Bare ‘ll in “The Simpsons”:

    Some folk’ll never eat a skunk / But then again some folk’ll, / Like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.

  5. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I thought I couldn’t possibly say ‘there it’s’, and then said it out loud and found I easily could – I just couldn’t write it down. But I am amazed and baffled by the idea that there are people in the world who can’t say ‘there it’s there…’

    (And if you can do that, there’s no reason why you can’t say ‘there it’s under the table’, or whatever…)

  6. If you use ’tis at all, then “There ’tis!” should be fine.

    That’s struck a chord with me. My father used to say “There ’tis!” or “Here ’tis!”, but wouldn’t otherwise use “’tis”. And he said those stock phrases in a mock tone of glee, as if he was quoting something/it wasn’t actually his usage. He was mostly the worst sort of unreflective grammar/pronunciation peever.

    I do use ’tis, and (I suppose) “There ’tis!”, but not much.

    Contra @Jen I’ve never heard nor used “there it’s there”; nor “there it’s”.

  7. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    AntC: Oh, I believe you – it’s just I’ve lived nearly forty years without ever knowing that was markedly Scottish, never mind grammatically unusual! 🙂

  8. Unpronounced there after the verb was the first thing I thought of. It makes sense to me.

    Have you been indoctrinated into transformational grammar or its derivatives? To me, unpronounced words are a magic dust you can sprinkle ad libitum to save one’s precious theory from exceptions.

  9. “Unrealized” can be most of the time read as “not there, but we can reconstruct it having been there in an ancestor construction”.

  10. @Jen in Edinburgh: “There. It’s there,” is fine in all varieties of English. However, when spoken, there has to be either a pause or a drop in pitch after the first “there.” In writing, there generally needs to be some punctuation at that same point, although it could be a period, comma, semicolon, colon….

  11. Brett: agreed. Or “There, it’s there” (you could also say “there, there, it’s there” if you were trying to reassure someone). Or you could be using the two “theres” to mean different things. “Over here in Britain, cars have the steering wheel in a different place to America; here it’s here [gestures at right side of car] but there it’s there [gestures at left side of car]”.

    But “there it’s” is something I’ve never heard anyone in Scotland or anywhere else say…

  12. @Jen in Edinburgh: “There. It’s there,” is fine in all varieties of English.

    Brett: agreed. Or “There, it’s there” (you could also say “there, there, it’s there” if you were trying to reassure someone).

    I don’t think either of you are grasping the construction. It can’t have a comma or a period because it’s unitary, with no pause; the first “there” is an unstressed introductory particle, parallel to Russian а.

  13. the first “there” is an unstressed introductory particle, parallel to Russian а.

    Do you mean (a) the first “there” in Jen and Brett’s non-examples, or (b) the first [and sometimes only] “there” in the actual examples “There it’s!” and “There it’s there!” ?

    In case (b) I assumed the “there” would be stressed, as in the uncontracted “There it is!” and “There it is there!”

  14. I’m inclined to think that “there it’s” etymologically derives from “there it’s there”, but not that there’s an unpronounced 2nd “there” still there.

    I also wonder what it means. Yes, I assume it means the same thing as “it’s there” and/or “there it is” or even “it’s over there”, but those phrases themselves have different meanings, different times when they’d be used.

  15. AJP Crown says:

    there it’s there [gestures at left side of car]

    This is just the construction “it’s there” with a word in front. That could be “In America” or “Oddly enough,” or anything else. The point is that you don’t ever say just “There it’s.” only “There it is.”

  16. Do you mean (a) the first “there” in Jen and Brett’s non-examples, or (b) the first [and sometimes only] “there” in the actual examples “There it’s!” and “There it’s there!” ?

    The last (“There it’s there!”).

  17. The last (“There it’s there!”).

    Is there audio of a Scot saying this in the wild? I still expect the “it’s” would be unstressed and both “there”s stressed.

  18. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I don’t *think* I’m a non-example – I have it in exactly the places the article describes it (something that once was lost but now is found, or e.g. a heron which flew off somewhere else after being pointed out).

    I’m only rather surprised, because a) I’m far more SSE than Scots, and b) I had no idea ‘there it’s there’ in that context was unusual.

    Yes, first ‘there’ stressed.

  19. Trond Engen says:

    What about “There she’s!”?

  20. “There it’s” sounds very familiar because my mother, born just over 100 years ago and brought up in Fife, always said it, though she lived most of her life in England. It went with a lot of other words which I gradually discovered nobody in London understood and spellcheck still doesn’t like – shoogly, flype, decht, blether, footer, havers, swither, sweir, trauchled, dunt, ashet, clarty, dreich – and a tendency to use compass points instead of left and right, as in “the North side of the cupboard” – is this a Scots thing?
    “There it’s there” still sounds weird, but maybe now I’ll start hearing it.

  21. Trond Engen says:

    Can it take equal stress or contrastive stress on “it’s”?

    I’m trying to test if “it’s” a verb form.

  22. Is there audio of a Scot saying this in the wild? I still expect the “it’s” would be unstressed and both “there”s stressed.

    I’m going by what it says in the press release:

    But – if in There it’s there! the word conveying the location is that second there, that gets the accent, then what’s the purpose of that first there? In Scots, the initial there has become simply a kind of particle, serving to introduce this kind of discovery expression but not conveying any actual meaning itself – it’s a butler of sorts.

  23. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Trond Engen: maybe, but it would come out as something like ‘thershies’, which makes it quite difficult for me to tell whether the ‘is’ is contracted separately

  24. AJP Crown says:

    What about “There she’s!”?

    That’s just “There she is” in a Norwegian accent.

  25. Trond Engen says:

    So you think it’s good Scottish then?

  26. @languagehat: I guess I wasn’t clear with what I was trying to say about, “There. That’s it.” Jen in Edinburgh seemed surprised that, “There it’s there,” was distinctively Scottish; however, her comment about it being just as acceptable as, “There it’s under the table,” suggested that she may have been thinking of a different construction—the one (with unstressed “it’s”) that is used in all varieties of English. From her comments so far, I cannot actually tell whether she really uses the unusual Scottish version at all.

  27. I’m not clear what you mean. The unusual Scottish version has unstressed “it’s,” and she says outright that she uses it. I think you’re misunderstanding her example of “there it’s under the table”; that is not “there, it’s under the table,” with a stressed “there” and a pause, it’s got the same unstressed initial “there” with no following pause as in “there it’s there” (assuming I’m understanding her correctly).

  28. shoogly, flype, decht, blether, footer, havers, swither, sweir, trauchled, dunt, ashet, clarty, dreich

    Are you going to tell us what they mean or are we going to have to trawl the Internet for the next hour and a half?

  29. January First-of-May says:

    and a tendency to use compass points instead of left and right, as in “the North side of the cupboard” – is this a Scots thing?

    Last time I checked it was an Australian Aboriginal thing. I had no idea there were ever any people in Europe who did that.

  30. Flype! Now there’s a word I’ve encountered only once before — in Cundy & Rollett, who write of a “flyped” sock, with quotation marks. (‘Take a piece of rubber tubing — an old piece of cycle inner-tube will do — and turn one end outside in, like a ‘flyped’ sock, or a non-spill ink-well.’)

  31. @LH: I like the idea of “underlying forms” as little as you do when they’re not attested, but I think talking about “unpronounced there” is, in this case, just a clumsy way of saying that the variant “there it’s” is a truncated form of the also attested “there it’s there”, similar to how “Morning” as a greeting is a truncated variant of “Good Morning”.

  32. @ Bathrobe, here it’s, I hope not too late. These are the senses that were in my mind. Many more in the Dictionary of the Scots Language and the Online Scots Dictionary.

    shoogly – yes – wobbly, shaky, insecure – related to ‘schaukeln’?

    flype: turn inside out, as with socks or sleeves. DSL: ‘[O.Sc. flype, to fold back, from c.1538, Mid.Eng. flype, to peel off, c.1400. The immediate origin is uncertain but the word is to be associated with L.Ger. flīp, a broad drooping lip, flīpen, to look surly, and Scand. derivs. as Dan. flip, a flap, Norw. dial. flipe, id., Icel. flipi, a horse’s lip, a shred of skin, all with the basic notion of curling downwards.’

    decht/dicht: a quick wipe with a cloth (cat’s dicht: a quick wash.) But originally, to array with armour, to make ready, put in good shape, prepare, dress. DSL: ‘ME. dyghte, dighte, diȝte, early dihten, OE. dihtan. The p.t. and p.p. are usually dicht, dycht, etc., in later use also dichtit.’

    blether: gossip, chatter, talk nonsense. DSL: ‘O.Sc. bladder (1540), to stammer; to talk nonsense; pr.p. bletherand (a.1440) (D.O.S.T.). O.N. blaðra, to utter inarticulately (Zoëga), Norw. bladra, to babble, speak imperfectly, Icel. blaðra, to twaddle (Torp).’

    footer, fouter: to work in a fiddling, careless or unskilled manner, to potter, to trifle, to engage in annoyingly futile activity. DSL: ‘The word occurs earlier and still survives in slang usage. Cf. Shakespeare 2 Hen. IV. v. iii. 103. Ad. O.Fr. foutre, to lecher, Lat. futuere, to have sexual intercourse (of a man).’

    havers/haivers: nonsense; haver = babble. DSL says: “Orig. very doubtful. The word may be simply imit. of quick or rambling speech (cf. Habber), or phs. (as Sh. usage seems to attest, if it is the same word), from obs. Eng. hav(i)our, O.Fr. avoir, deportment, behaviour, in pl., manners, extended to mean specif. foolish or trivial behaviour, fuss, “carry-on,” and mainly restricted to talk. The v. usage would then be derived from the n. Cf. Haivins.]

    swither: to be in a state of uncertainty of purpose; dither, be hesitant/indecisive. But also, which I didn’t know, ‘a rushing movement, a swirl, a flurry (of rain or snow), a gust of wind’. DSL: ‘There appears to be no immediate orig. but the word is prob. to be connected with Norw. dial. svidra, svid(d)a, to move about restlessly, to rush to and fro, Icel. sviðra, to swirl, as of snow, from which the Sh. meanings appear directly to derive, and ultimately with a root *swei-, to be in motion, which appears in swim, prob. also in sweep, Swirl.]

    sweir: OSD: ‘Of people: unwilling, reluctant, loath. Mean, niggardly. Of things: difficult to produce. Not forthcoming, in short supply.’ DSL: ‘O.Sc. swere, lazy, reluctant. a.1400, swereness, indolence, a.1456, reluctance, 1533, O. North. swr, lazy, oppressive, O.E. swrnes, sloth, cogn. with Ger. schwer, heavy, difficult.’

    trauchled: OSD says: ‘trauchelt adj. Bedraggled, dishevelled, tangled, knocked about, slovenly, untidy, dirty. Of crops: beaten down by wind and rain. Weary, over-worked, harassed with care and toil.’ DSL: ‘Gael. treachailte, Ir. treacailte, trocailte loosed, spent, tired. Cf. Flem. tragelen to go with difficulty.’

    dunt: ‘A heavy, dull-sounding blow or stroke, a knock. The wound caused by such a blow. A dent. A throb, thump, quickened beat of the heart.’ DSL: ‘O.Sc. has dunt, dont, a heavy blow, from a.1522, v., to deal heavy blows; to stamp heavily, from a.1500; of the heart: to beat violently, c.1540. Prob. imit. in origin: cf. dent, dint, and Norw. dial. dunt, a blow, bump, thump.’

    ashet: serving dish. DSL: ‘Fr. assiette, a plate, vbl.n. from asseoir, taken from 3rd per. sing. pres. indic. in O.Fr. assiet (Hatzfeld and Darmesteter). From Lat. assidēre, sit beside.’

    clarty: clumsy, messy. DOST: ‘Cf. ME. biclarten to defile; mod. Sc. and N. Eng. dial. clart (sticky) dirt, filth.’

    dreich: bleak, dreary (weather, in particular). DSL: ‘O.Sc. has dreich, dr(e)igh, tedious, slow, extensive, from c.1450 (also dreichlie, steadily, c.1475); Mid.Eng. drē(i)ȝ, O.E. *drēoȝ, cogn. with O.N. drjúgr, lasting, substantial. Cf. Dree, v.1, n.1, of similar origin.’

  33. @Michael

    What about ‘kibbled with’?

    To his left stood a concrete bench, its surface kibbled with small brown stones.

    The horse was thin as a slice of toast, kibbled with botfly bites and missing one shoe.

    I picked up a fist-sized lump of rock, gritty, zebra-striped, kibbled with crystals. Lewisian gneiss.

  34. a tendency to use compass points instead of left and right, as in “the North side of the cupboard” – is this a Scots thing?

    I’ve never heard this use from anyone in Scotland. North side of the street, the park, etc, but never something like a cupboard.

  35. AJP Crown says:

    Michael, thanks very much for all these words and for going to the trouble of providing definitions.

    Blether is one my mother, an ancient Londoner, uses all the time in combination with idiot (“You must think I’m a blithering idiot”).

  36. David Marjanović says:

    So blather and blithering are a doublet?

  37. @LH: I like the idea of “underlying forms” as little as you do when they’re not attested, but I think talking about “unpronounced there” is, in this case, just a clumsy way of saying that the variant “there it’s” is a truncated form of the also attested “there it’s there”, similar to how “Morning” as a greeting is a truncated variant of “Good Morning”.

    Oh, OK, that makes sense. I’m so allergic to transformationalism I balk even at innocent ideas that remind me of it.

  38. AJP Crown says:

    And blether. I guess.

  39. “footling”<"footle"<"footer"

  40. @juha
    I don’t think I can help with ‘kibbled’ in that sense – it usually seems to mean coarsely ground, as in kibbled wheat, or dog food. I did find an unrelated Scots “kibble” – I’ve never heard it, but then most of the time I’m in England.

    @ajay
    I’m sure you’re right, it was probably just a family tic, certainly nothing on the scale of Australia or New Guinea. Perhaps something military, or as running joke, or both? I heard somewhere there is a tendency in Egypt to do this, which made me wonder if Scotland had a similarly strong sense of North and South.

    @AJP
    Thank you – I enjoyed finding them, particularly ‘swither’. It was a relief to find they really did mean more or less what I thought. (At one point there seemed to be a connection between blether/blather/blither and blether/bladder/bladdered, but no.)

  41. John Cowan says:

    decht/dicht: […] But originally, to array with armour, to make ready, put in good shape, prepare, dress.

    Gaily bedight,
    A gallant knight,
    In sunshine and in shadow,
    Had journeyed long,
    Singing a song,
    In search of Eldorado.

    Edgar Allan Poe, “Eldorado” (1849)

  42. I had assumed that dight, coming to English from Latin dictare was a doublet with deck. However, the OED says that is not the case. The latter was adopted ca. 1500 from Frisian or Low German (the native Anglo-Saxon cognate having died out long before).

    On the other hand, dight was apparently a very common word in Middle English. Per the OED:

    From the senses of literary dictation and composition in which it was originally used, this verb received in Middle English an extraordinary sense-development, so as to be one of the most widely used words in the language. Special representatives of these Middle English senses, survive dialectally, especially in the north; the modern literary language knows the past participle dight, which after being nearly obsolete in the 18th cent., has been largely taken up again by poets and romantic writers of the 19th cent. in senses 10, 14 (In Middle High German dichten had also a much greater development of meaning than in modern German.)

    However, I am not the only one to conflate dight with deck:

    10. a. To clothe, dress, array, deck, adorn (literal and figurative). to dight naked, to undress, strip.
    In this sense the past participle dight is used by Sir Walter Scott, and in later poetic and romantic language: it appears to be often taken as an archaic form of decked.

  43. From the senses of literary dictation and composition in which it was originally used, this verb received in Middle English an extraordinary sense-development, so as to be one of the most widely used words in the language.

    And yet it vanished almost utterly. Language is odd!

  44. David Marjanović says:

    (In Middle High German dichten had also a much greater development of meaning than in modern German.)

    The modern sense is “to compose poetry”; “poetry” is Dichtung, “male poet(s)” is Dichter, and people occasionally wonder what dicht (“dense”; “tight” as in “airtight”, “watertight”) might have to do with it. Coming to think of it, “gasket” is also Dichtung.

  45. Stu Clayton says:

    Dichtung und Leckfreiheit.

  46. David Marjanović says:

    Ingenious.

  47. Stu Clayton says:

    As I understand it, Dichter are expected to say the most in the fewest words. They compress sense into luminous pellets. Whereas Denker are expected to say the least in the most words. Dichter und Denker are the endpoints of the spectrum of word production.

  48. Thanks Michael. Wonderful words. I’ll add them to the thousands of Mongolian words I am struggling to learn…

    I was looking up the expression “come a gutser” yesterday (I hadn’t realised it was an antipodeanism) and found this:

    Gutser (also spelled gutzer ) is explained in Fraser and Gibbons’ Soldier and Sailor Words ( 1925 ) as ‘pre-war slang, and an old term among Scottish boys for falling flat on the water in diving, instead of making a clean header’.

    Does ‘gutser’ still mean ‘belly-flop’ among Scottish boys?

  49. Hudson Valley says:

    @Brett
    If the knight seeking Eldorado was “bedight,” many writers use the term “decked (out)” in reference to the Sir Gawain poem…And they mean, Decked = “Decht.” Just prompt Google, “Sir Gawain decked.”

    As far as “it’s” and “’tis,” I have difficulty getting my head around “it’s” used that way, but my Hudson-Valley-mostly-Dutch grandmother was still using “’tis” in the 1980s.

    How I got to Gawain is this: I was looking for an introduction to European literature broadly speaking, stumbled upon you-all while looking for something Russian, and wound up with Nabokov’s Igor. And a lot of other interesting stuff; thanks! Meanwhile, I’d recently read Beowulf – and immediately thereafter, somebody coincidentally happened to ask me to proofread her new translation. This summer, I was reading Gawain, and before I finished, somebody coincidentally asked me to proofread his new translation. Yikes. I’d better read Chanson de Roland; anybody care to recommend a bi-lingual version?

  50. Bathrobe, I’ve never heard it, but I live a long way south of the border. Nothing recent here and no mention here, which suggests it’s died out – I’ll consult though and post if I get a yes.

  51. “Does ‘gutser’ still mean ‘belly-flop’ among Scottish boys?”

    Not to this one, but Scots varies widely across the country; it could be Glasgow slang and I’d never have heard it.

  52. Trond Engen says:

    I was going to say, without bothering to check any references, that Ger. dicht and Eng. tight make for a nice pair of non-cognates, but something nagged me about Old Norse, so I checked anyway and discovered that Eng, tight is irregular.

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