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I read a few pages (here for example) dealing with "anticipatory/dummy it" and "delayed subject" to try and satisfy my curiosity about an observation I'd made about a friend's speech. Often, when my friend is making a simple observation, she will pull the subject of her sentence to the end, and replace it with an "it"—thus, not

*The movie was good.

or even

*That/it was a good movie.

but

It was good the movie.

(I left out a comma after good because my friend doesn't noticeably pause there.)

The uses of "delayed subject" or "anticipatory/dummy it" that I've seen are all connected to a subject which is either an infinitive phrase or a noun clause; I haven't seen an example in which the subject is a simple noun phrase.

My friend grew up in northern New Jersey, USA; and her mother (who occasionally had the same trick of speech) grew up in Queens, New York, USA.

Is this mode of speech part of a recognized dialect there, or somewhere else? I don't recall ever having heard it before. Do other varieties of English have similar constructs?

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  • This also happens in other languages, such as French and Dutch. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Aug 1 '14 at 14:44
  • Is it a "standard" part of the language, dialectal, or simply "non-standard"? – Matt Gutting Aug 1 '14 at 14:51
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    This is known as Right-Dislocation. There is also, as you may expect, Left-Dislocation: The movie, it was good. Dislocation frequently applies to subject NPs, but it can work on others as well: His Aunt Hazel, he can't stand her ~ He can't stand her, his Aunt Hazel. They're fairly common, and only a couple of the possible ways of revising sentence order to get the words we want into the positions we want them in. – John Lawler Aug 1 '14 at 15:30
  • I've used left-dislocation myself - though more often with "that", and a reference to the subject: The movie, that was a good one. I didn't put it in the same category with this, though. Could you put this in an answer? – Matt Gutting Aug 1 '14 at 15:36
  • @MattGutting: It is fairly standard, but more often informal. And you would normally do it for some pragmatic reason related to focus. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Aug 1 '14 at 17:01
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The sentence 'It was good' is grammatically correct, if a little thin-sounding.

Adding the appositive 'the movie' after the sentence (with the standard comma to set off the parenthesis) is still quite acceptable, and sounds more idiomatic.

There is the hint of an afterthought here (because of the 'tagged on' construction), which conveys the impression that real thought has gone into the judgement being expressed. This in turn can convey an impression of a measure of reserve, unlike say with 'Wow! THAT was good!'

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  • I see what you're saying; the only reservation that I have is that if the appositive were truly "tagged on" as you say, I would expect a pause before the movie, with "the standard comma" that you mention. I don't hear that pause in this construction; that's the main difficulty I have which engendered the question. – Matt Gutting Aug 1 '14 at 15:25
  • I should think that she uses an intonation dip rather than a pause; a comma would be used by many to show either (or often both together). – Edwin Ashworth Aug 1 '14 at 15:31
  • Hm. That's possible, and I don't have a clear enough recollection to say whether she does or not. Which leads to another question which I may search or post: Under what circumstances are those two identical in function? – Matt Gutting Aug 1 '14 at 15:34
  • And I assume by "thin-sounding" you mean something like "not conveying a great deal of information"? – Matt Gutting Aug 1 '14 at 16:57
  • Yes. It would be fine as a sensible answer, but is bereft of context as it stands. On its own, it invites the response 'That it!?' – Edwin Ashworth Aug 1 '14 at 22:21

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