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I came across sentences similar to the following in a cricket commentary.

  • He is a superb timer of the ball, is Cook.
  • He is a great ambassador of the game, is Tendulkar.

Are these sentences grammatically correct or do they belong only to informal English? Is it stylish to use the pronoun before introducing the noun? Is the usage archaic or poetic?

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marked as duplicate by aedia λ, Kristina Lopez, kiamlaluno, MετάEd, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Apr 15 '13 at 0:41

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Seems like an awkward construction. – Mohit Apr 11 '13 at 10:06
Temba, his arms wide.... – mplungjan Apr 11 '13 at 12:40
They sound very peculiar. A direct reading of them sounds ungrammatical. But they might work as regionalisms. To me it sounds slightly less unnatural to say 'He is a great player, that Tendulkar' or differently ''He is a great player, Tendulkar is'. – Mitch Apr 11 '13 at 13:20
Thanks @TylerJamesYoung. Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/81717/… – Bravo Apr 11 '13 at 16:22
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Words that occur at the end of a clause in this way in speech are known as tails. Their function is to reinforce what is being said.

They are the opposite of heads, which occur at the beginning of a clause in speech to help the listener to prepare for what is coming next. Using your first sentence, an example would be ‘Cook, he’s a superb timer of the ball.’

These devices are not normally found in written English, but they are frequent in informal speech.

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Is that construct a UK thing? I don't recall ever hearing it in the US. – Dan Neely Apr 11 '13 at 13:05
to my mind they sound particularly Yorkshire? but that might be me guessing who said this. – jk. Apr 11 '13 at 13:46
@ jk. Inversion is incidental to the concept of tails, but it may well be a regional variant of ‘He is a superb timer of the ball, Cook is.’ – Barrie England Apr 11 '13 at 14:17
@Dan Neely. Is it just the inversion that you haven’t heard in the US, or do you mean that you haven’t heard words placed at the end of the clauses in this way at all? – Barrie England Apr 11 '13 at 14:18
I agree with @DanNeely this is not common to speech in the US. I would actually say that this is more common in written language then in informal speech. Even your example of a head sounds slightly off. If I were to say something in that way, I would construct it as: 'That Cook, man is he one superb ball timer'. That is much closer to how it would be used in informal speech in the US. – ryan Apr 11 '13 at 15:40

There are two different constructions merged in this example. Shifting the subject of the sentence to the right is perfectly normal both in speech and in writing, putting more emphasis on the description than the usual, and dull, Tendulkar is a great ambassador for the game.

The redundant is, on the other hand, is strictly incorrect but not uncommon in spoken English. It may be to improve the rhythm: it may be that the speaker is momentarily confused between the two (equally acceptable) choices He's a great ambassador, Tendulkar or A great ambassador for the game, is Tendulkar; it may be simple inattention, as in The thing is, is that...

Bear in mind also that cricket commentators have to hold the audience's attention for several hours discussing a single game, so are usually accorded some latitude both in use of language and in relevance of topic (Test Match Special had a famously long-running discussion on cake, between balls, overs, or even sessions).

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It's not incorrect; it's just a variety of Right Dislocation (He's a great player, Tendulkar) that dislocates is along with the NP, producing an emphatic tag statement (note reversed order). – John Lawler Apr 11 '13 at 15:48
@JohnLawler: I thought that was what I said. Using the same main verb twice, however, cannot be strictly correct however common it is in spoken dialect. – TimLymington Apr 11 '13 at 17:56
That is not entirely true, is it? (P.S. All forms of be are always treated as auxiliaries, even when it's the only verb in the sentence. See Syntax Topics) – John Lawler Apr 11 '13 at 18:14
@John Lawler: According to the AHD, 'treat as' implies 'regard as' : (2) To regard and handle in a certain way. I certainly don't regard main verb be as an auxiliary. At ling.upenn.edu/~beatrice/syntax-textbook/box-modals.html is: Be (auxiliary and main verb) Main verb be differs from main verb have and main verb do in behaving exactly like auxiliary be. In other words, main verb be is the only main verb in modern English that moves from V to I. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 12 '13 at 9:03
I.e, all forms of be are always treated as auxiliaries. So there's no point in calling it a main verb and then making an exception out of it. Be has been totally bleached of any meaning and is simply a part of the grammar. – John Lawler Apr 12 '13 at 14:18

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