Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm quite surprised there doesn't seem to be a question about this yet. Depending on where you hail from, you've probably heard the word innit, an abbreviation of isn't it or ain't it. You may also have heard it used as a placeholder for any negative tag question, such as isn't he or don't you, much like the French n'est-ce pas.

I get how innit could be understood as something like isn't that so, but I can't quite bring myself to use it that way. So what to do instead? I inflect it:

  • Aren't I → areni ['ar(ɛ)naɪ]
  • Aren't you → arencha* ['ar(ɛ)nʧə]
  • Aren't we → arenwe* ['ar(ɛ)nwɪ]
  • Isn't he → innhe* [ɪni]
  • Isn't she → innshe [ɪnʃi]
  • Aren't they → arenthey* [ar(ɛ)n(ð)ɛɪ]
  • Don't I → dunni ['dʌnaɪ]
  • Don't you → doncha* ['dəʊnʧə]
  • Don't we → donwe ['dəʊ(n)wɪ]
  • Doesn't he → dunnhe* ['dʌni]
  • Doesn't she → dunnshe ['dʌnʃi]
  • Don't they → dunney ['dʌnɛɪ]

Those marked with asterisks are those for which I can find references via Google. I found it interesting that third-person female forms (-she) haven't shown up at all, though I excluded spellings such as dontshe for obvious reasons.

Granted, I don't actually use these all that often, and I'm quite uncertain of how to spell some of them (I keep thinking that the -i ones should end in -igh), so I don't really have a perfect way to search for usage. I don't really know which modals to exclude, either, as pronunciation changes in running speech are commonplace.

So where might I find pronunciation, usage, and spelling information on these words?

share|improve this question
    
The spellings of these words are what appear on the lefthand side of each list item. The "official" spelling of innit would also be "isn't it". (The thing that is special about UK innit is when it is used.) None of these others are considered standard by anyone. They reflect normal phonological reduction that occurs in high frequency phrases like this. Other examples include "whatcha doin (what are you doing)", "c'mere (come here)", "gimme that (give me that)", "put'm-up (put them up)", and so on. Are you looking for a guide on how the more common reductions work? –  Kosmonaut Jan 8 '11 at 17:13
1  
@Jon Purdy: My point is that, as nonstandard processes, there is no place to find, say, spelling information on these words. –  Kosmonaut Jan 8 '11 at 18:43
1  
@Kosmonaut: With the modern prevalence of written language in colloquial form, complete with contractions, pronunciation alterations, et al. I think that spelling information for these sort of words should start coming in, to standardise what exists. –  Orbling Jan 8 '11 at 18:52
1  
@RegDwight: Same here. Or the Japanese ne (ね) or na (な). –  Robusto Jan 8 '11 at 19:58
1  
@RegDwight, @Robusto - or the American "right?" –  John Satta Jan 10 '11 at 15:42
show 5 more comments

1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In Britain, 'innit' is now used in street language as a catch-all tag question, exactly like n'est-ce pas. The whole point of it is that is not inflected, but used for everything, and that's what raises some people's hackles so much. The fact that it is regularly parodied on a couple of TV comedies has probably only increased its popularity with the young.

It was in the news lately when actress Emma Thompson told a group of school kids that using slang words like ‘innit?’ and ‘like’ made them sound stupid.

Professor David Crystal has a short piece about it on the BBC Learning English website, and I think Michael Quinion has something at World Wide Words, but I can't seem to find it.

What you've done really is simply to slur standard question tags, that's another matter - but the point of innit (in the UK at least) is that it has taken on an uninflected life of its own.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.