What does the a mean in the following sentences?

  • She is a do it like this.

  • Sam is a visit the new market today.

Does the word a represent a future action like :

Sam will visit the new market today. ?

  • 1
    I disagree that it is a duplicate. The syntax is different.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 26 '16 at 13:38
  • 1
    @Colin: I'm a cut you off right there. It's exactly the same syntax - TO BE + a + infinitive verb, signifying [will] verb immediately. Feb 26 '16 at 15:45
  • @FumbleFingers: yes, you're right, it is. Are you sure that that is the same question that you said it was a duplicate of when I made my comment? I don't remember it looking like that.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 26 '16 at 23:41
  • @Colin: Sorry - I can see now that was a bit confusing. The earlier link (under your answer) was to T.E.D.'s answer on the question I closevoted against. But that answer has only 7 votes (20 for Hugo's, which imho utterly fails to address the issue of the "interpolated" a indicating "first person future immediate"). This kind of stuff is really beyond my paygrade as an armchair dilettante linguist, but it seems to me there is an interpolated a which does have a bearing both here and on that Q. I'mma go now often reduces I'm a- gonna go, I think, not just I'm gonna go. Feb 27 '16 at 1:00

What I assume you to be referring to here, is the English "a" preposition. Though the way that you have written it in your OP is not in any recognisable syntax. It is not "slang", but an older form of the language.

It has largely fallen into disuse, except in some regional dialects in Britain. (My own family in Norfolk, when I was a child in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s used it extensively, especially my grandparents.)

It not only applies to verbs but to nouns too. There are a multiplicity of forms. All references are to the OED.

Category I refers to nouns:

"Expressing position within" - 1974 W. Leeds Herefordshire Speech 45 See you a church. i.e. "See you in church". (OED sense 1)

"In expressions of time" - 1996 S. Moylan Lang. Kilkenny 14 He was here a Sunday. (sense 3a)

"Expressing place or position in relation to something else" 1987
F. Graham New Geordie Dict. 5 A this side—on this side.(sense 7)

"Expressing partition into" - 1888 F. T. Elworthy W. Somerset Word-bk. (at cited word), They be all a pieces. (sense 9)

Category II. With a verbal noun or gerund, forming part of a verbal expression. (Now usually written with a hyphen or as one word with the verbal noun.)

"11. Expressing action, with a verbal noun or gerund taken actively. Now arch. and regional. a. After be (or occasionally another verb expressing state) and before a verbal noun: engaged in"

1895 T. Hardy Jude i. ii. 9 Just now he's a-scaring of birds for Farmer Troutham.

1928 A. E. Pease Dict. Dial. N. Riding Yorks. 1/1 He was a-gannin' ower t'mooer.

1960 in Dict. Amer. Regional English (1985) I. 2/1 That's the only way you knowed where you was a-goin'.

2003 Daily Tel. 18 Nov. 23/1 The invitation has been such a long time a-coming. (sense 11a)

"b. After a verb denoting or implying motion and before a verbal noun: to, into"

c1960 Wilson Coll. in Dict. Amer. Regional English (1985) I. 1/2 Pappy went a-visiting yesterday.

1972 Islander (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 2 Apr. 4/3 In England, the children until the recent past—and even, in some parts of the country today—still go a-shriving.

2005 Daily Tel. 20 June 9/1 Eligible bachelors..meet marriageable ladies..at a country pub to go a-courting in the Cotswolds. (sense 11b)

  • 1
    The trouble with this answer is that neither of the questioner's example sentences match either of these senses. Assuming they are not typos, they must represent a dialect which has an 'a' which, I suggest, has nothing to do with either of the meanings you have cites from the OED. (They are used before verbs, but not verbal nouns or gerunds)
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 26 '16 at 12:11
  • @ColinFine I took it that the OP was not a native speaker, and hence did say in my opening paragraph that I assumed it to be a reference to the a preposition, but reproduced inexactly. I still believe that to be the case.
    – WS2
    Feb 26 '16 at 22:35

These are not standard English, or any dialect that I recognise.

If they are not typos, they appear to represent a dialect I do not know; and it would appear that your conjecture as the the meaning is right. Where did you encounter them?

  • 1
    I'm a gonna suggest it is a dialect we're familiar with. Feb 26 '16 at 12:48
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: again, that is "a + gonna", which is derived from "a + going to" with an -ing. Form. That's not what we see in the question.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 26 '16 at 13:37
  • Well, I agree with It sounds to me like the AAVE dialect's first person future immediate in that answer to the question I linked to. Until I actually thought about it just now, I hadn't realised that things like I'm a fucka yo mama! specifically imply immediate future, but having noted it there, I'm convinced (not that I'm an expert on AAVE, but it rings true to me). Feb 26 '16 at 14:35

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