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We were taught in high school that to say 'my mother she' or 'the dog he' or 'the men they' is incorrect. But I hear this all the time with local news anchors. Is this grammatical?

For the life of me I can't recall what that's called. Please help. Thanks.

  • Meant to say that these phrases in my question above are incorrect. Please excuse omission. – Joanne Nov 5 '15 at 4:51
  • I edited it to add the omitted text. Hope that's okay? Is the word you are looking for "anthropomorphism"? – Mamta D Nov 5 '15 at 5:08
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    It was called "left dislocation" by John R. Ross, a renowned contemporary grammarian. You put a noun phrase at the beginning of a sentence, then use a pronoun to mark its original position. I can't tell you about "correctness" -- people do it. – Greg Lee Nov 5 '15 at 5:13
  • Please include any reference/research based on which you think they are incorrect. – user140086 Nov 5 '15 at 5:35
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    In what country are these local news anchors? Can you give an example of a full sentence where they do this? – DJClayworth Nov 5 '15 at 5:57
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As suggested in the comments, the construction is called 'left dislocation'. The term stems from Haj Ross's 1967 dissertation, Constraints on Variables in Syntax (warning: large file, slow to load). An article detailing the history and present-day use of the construction is available at Language Log. From that article:

Executive summary: This construction goes back to Old English, and is still widely used in spoken English and in some regional varieties ; but its use in formal written English has been decreasing since about 1500, and is now either informal or archaic.

In the conclusion of that article, these more detailed observations are made:

Left dislocation is certainly grammatical in English. Up to 1500 or so, roughly one in every 100 or 200 sentences had this form, even in formal writing, and a similar frequency of use continues in spoken English to this day. Over the past few centuries, the frequency of this construction in standard written English has been declining, and it's now quite rare except in archaic styles, in representations of speech, or in informal styles that use spoken-language norms. Therefore Jim's claim that the issue is one of style rather than grammaticality is correct, ....

(Emphasis mine. Excerpts from "Left Dislocation", Language Log entry dated September 24, 2008, retrieved 4 Nov 2015.)

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