I've noticed a shift towards a form of speech that I would love to know more about. It first showed-up in US TV dramas I think, but now it's common to hear it used in everyday conversation.

Here are some examples:

"My sister, she came over for tea"

"My father, he drove the car"

"Her friends, they came to her birthday"

"The sun, it is bright"

and common in US TV crime dramas, something like:

"The murderer. He dropped the gun."

Why did people stop saying "my sister came over for coffee" and started including the pronoun ?

(also, questions ending in "how" or "why" -- why ?)

  • 2
    People have used this form for generations, but it is non-standard and not considered sophisticated, unless it is being used to achieve some sort of emphasis. In fact it sounds rather child like. I am sure my four-year-old granddaughter speaks in that way sometimes. – WS2 Apr 17 '16 at 16:05
  • @WS2 It's perfectly standard, and it's pretty much always used for emphasis. – curiousdannii Apr 18 '16 at 0:54
  • (also, questions ending in "how" or "why" -- why ?) Why not? :P – cat Apr 18 '16 at 2:13

This construction isn't anything new. It's just that once you notice a pattern, you keep noticing it.

This pattern is called Left-Dislocation. It consists in copying a full noun phrase (normally the subject) to the beginning of the sentence, while leaving a resumptive pronoun in the original place.

There is also Right-Dislocation, which moves the NP to the end of the sentence, for example:

  • She came over for tea, my sister.
  • He drove the car, my father.

These are examples of syntactic rules, or transformations.
There are lots more in English.

  • thanks, why though is it more commonly used in US crime dramas ? – Hendekagon Apr 17 '16 at 16:59
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    @Hendekagon Do you have numbers to back it up? It may very well be the case of you watching more crime dramas than other genres. Selection bias, it's called. – Sergio Tulentsev Apr 17 '16 at 19:17
  • 1
    Well, left-dislocation is one name for it. It's more generally called a topic-comment construction, and it's the norm in more topic-prominent languages (French being one notable example). – bye Apr 17 '16 at 19:41
  • @SergioTulentsev yes it's probably selection bias – Hendekagon Apr 17 '16 at 20:17
  • 2
    Jim Barnett, the Golden State Warriors TV announcer frequently uses right dislocation. For example, he'll say, "He just made another three point shot, Stephan Curry did." I suspect that what's happening is that midway through the sentence, he realizes that the pronoun was potentially ambiguous and so he adds the last clause to ensure listeners know who he's talking about. The pause between the clauses is often a bit longer than a typical pause. – David Schwartz Apr 17 '16 at 22:17

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