Wednesday, 10 February 2016

You never got in the market

I was watching a programme about Spitalfields market. A man, aged probably in his early 60s, who had worked there his whole life, was talking about how you got a job there in the early days:
If you never knew anyone, you never got in the market. 
This illustrates a characteristic of many non-standard varieties of English: the use of never as a past tense negator instead of as a negative temporal adverb. Jenny Cheshire describes this as a difference between referring to universal time (the not ever meaning) versus a particular point in time (the not meaning). I'll not say more about this here because if I start trying to summarise it all, that's my day gone, as I find it so interesting. But suffice it to say that if you look it up there's a ton of research on it, and much of it pretty accessible to a non-linguist.

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