Volume 28, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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This article discusses possible reasons for the (near-)absence of a feature from Newfoundland Vernacular English (NVE) that was present in both of its major donor dialects, namely the varieties of Southwest (SW) England and Ireland. Unstressed periphrastic do, the feature under investigation, is used as a tense carrier and marker of habituality in Southwestern dialects and — in a more restricted context — in Irish English (IrE). Modern NVE shows only traces of periphrastic do. All of these uses are (a) of IrE origin and (b) recessive (cf. e.g. Clarke 2004b: 305). If all settlers had used the feature at the time they emigrated to Newfoundland, it is extremely unlikely that it should have been lost in NVE, one of the most conservative varieties of English, but maintained, at least to a certain extent, in the much less conservative modern varieties of SW English and IrE. This paper suggests possible stages of the life of periphrastic do in Newfoundland. With the help of evidence from literature on SW English dialects from the 19th and 20th centuries, it is argued that it is unlikely that all settlers were do users when arriving in Newfoundland. Moreover, a competing variant, generalized verbal ‑s, a pattern typical of NVE to the present day, existed in some of the settlers’ grammars (both SW English and IrE). It is assumed that periphrastic do, if it ever existed in NVE in those uses typical of SW English dialects, has been eradicated through contact with dialects that either used generalized ‑s or a more standard system.


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