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Is placing a pronoun immediately after its antecedent in a sentence valid grammar?

Is there a term for this construction?

Some examples are:

  • President Obama, he gave a speech last night.
  • The speech, it was about the financial system.

I hear this on the Planet Money podcast at least once per episode.

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It's not really grammatically valid. It's just a device commonly used in (primarily informal) speech, where that all-important noun is given added emphasis by being immediately re-referenced using a superfluous pronoun. You might hear it more on radio/tv/podcasts because it's a bit like saying, for example, *"President Obama! President Obama gave a speech last night." Mostly just a cheap trick to catch the listener's attention, IMHO. – FumbleFingers Sep 21 '11 at 21:57
@Fumble: Those comment-votes could be real votes, you know! – Daniel Sep 21 '11 at 22:22
@drɱ65: Altruism to the fore! You have my permission to cut/paste/answer with my deathless prose. I'll even upvote you for it! – FumbleFingers Sep 21 '11 at 22:37
@Fumble: I can find no fault with it. It is a rhetorical trope, not at all objectionable. – Robusto Sep 22 '11 at 0:26
@Robusto: It's certainly a rhetorical device, though I don't think I'd call it a trope. It's just repetition, for emphasis. Not that I object to it, but it isn't really grammatical. But it is very much a speech device, so it doesn't have to be. I think it's used to give the impression the hearer has just asked the question "What interesting thing are you going to tell me about?". This device just allows you to baldly name your subject first to grab attention, then make a grammatical statement. – FumbleFingers Sep 22 '11 at 1:14
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Huddleston and Pullum (authors of ‘The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language’) call it ‘dislocation’, of which they distinguish two types, ‘left dislocation’, where the Noun Phrase is postioned to the left of the clause nucleus, and ‘right dislocation’, which describes the opposite. As an example of left dislocation, they give ‘One of my cousins, she has triplets.’ This construction seems to match exactly the OP’s examples.

Huddleston and Pullum further comment, ‘Dislocated constructions can be easier to understand than their basic counterpart.’

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This is topic fronting followed by a resumptive pronoun.

The pronoun does not always immediately follow its antecedent:

  • President Obama, we heard him give a speech last night.

Whether it is valid grammar or not is an open question. It is not unusual to hear this type of construction in verbal communication. But it isn't often seen in writing. Then again, even when written, it's perfectly understandable.

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When I was learning "proper" English grammar in the '50s, '60s and '70s, this so-called rhetorical device was taught to be a grammatical error, with the explanation that the pronoun was redundant.

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Interesting! This might work better as a comment on one of the other posts, rather than an answer in and of itself. – Hannele Jan 13 '12 at 14:39

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