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Re: THEORY: etymology of English habitual "be"

From:Lars Henrik Mathiesen <thorinn@...>
Date:Tuesday, July 11, 2000, 11:07
> Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 03:55:31 EDT > From: Joe Mondello <Rugpretzel@...>
> A while back there was a discussion on this list about the present tense > habitual use of the word "be" in English dialects both in England (Penzance, > IIRC?) and America (AAVE). I was given a set of books and tapes on learning > Irish Gaeilge yesterday and I was reminded of this thread when I read that > the Irish verb bí has both a present and "present habitual" tense, and that > the conjugation of the habitual "tense" is "bí". Is it possible that the > existence of "be" in all persons as a present habitual in some English > dialects is a result of borrowing from Gaeilge or other Celtic languages? is > there any corresponding form in other Germanic languages?
Tolkien has an essay suggesting, IIRC, that some dialects of Middle English borrowed this variant habitual present of "to be" from Welsh, at a stage when it actually had different forms for different persons and numbers. This could explain invariant "be" in modern dialects. On the other hand, the usual explanation for the AAVE situation is creole influence. Lars Mathiesen (U of Copenhagen CS Dep) <thorinn@...> (Humour NOT marked)