The be-perfect in transitive constructions in Orkney and Shetland Scots: Influenced by Norn or not?

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Abstract

Whereas Standard English allows I’m done, or I’m changed since I converted to Buddhism, or I’m not seen behind this curtain, but not for example *I’m done the dishes, or *I’m changed the tyres, or *I’m not seen Jenny for a long time, these structures are all considered to be grammatical in the Orkney and Shetland varieties of Scots. As observed my Melchers, it is not clear whether the use of to be as an auxiliary in transitive constructions in Orkney and Shetland is a relic or an innovation. Attempting to explain it as influenced by late Norn, Alexander Pavlenko (in Scottish Language 16, 1997) examines late Norn fragments collected by Jakob Jakobsen in 1893-95, and observes along with Jakobsen that a range of Old Norse grammatical endings have been conflated as “-a”, for example in the fragment “Jarta, bodena komena rontena Komba” glossed as ‘My heart (my dear), the boat has come round de Kaim [a hill in Foula near the coast]’. He further demonstrates such a-levelling by analysing a Norn fragment known as The Troll’s Message, and suggests that the Norn words for ‘to be’ and ‘to have’ were homophonous as a result of the a-levelling. In this paper, I will show that an alternative translation of The Troll’s Message weakens Pavlenko’s case. I will further discuss the idea of a-levelling in Norn, consider alternative explanations for the be-perfect in transitive constructions, and offer a tentative alternative explanation based on the grammar of Orkney and Shetland Scots alone.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBefore the storm. Selected Papers from the FRLSU Conference, Ayr 2016.
EditorsRobert McColl Millar, Janet Cruickshank
Place of PublicationAberdeen
PublisherForum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster
Pages107-127
Number of pages21
Volume5
ISBN (Electronic)9780956654946
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2016
EventForum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster 2015 - University of Western Scotland, Ayr, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Aug 201514 Aug 2015

Publication series

NamePublications of the Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster

Conference

ConferenceForum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster 2015
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityAyr
Period11/08/1514/08/15

Keywords

  • Norn
  • Scots
  • Orkney dialect
  • Shetland dialect
  • Syntax

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    Ljosland, R. (2016). The be-perfect in transitive constructions in Orkney and Shetland Scots: Influenced by Norn or not? In R. M. Millar, & J. Cruickshank (Eds.), Before the storm. Selected Papers from the FRLSU Conference, Ayr 2016. (Vol. 5, pp. 107-127). (Publications of the Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster). Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster. https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pfrlsu/documents/PFRLSU/Ljosland_be-perfect.pdf