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“innit” etymologically started as a contraction of “isn't it?” and can obviously always replace it. I also know it can now replace any negative tag interrogative such as “wasn't he?” or “can't they?” in sentences such as “He's eaten that, innit?” where it replaces “hasn't he?”, but what I wonder about is whether it can also replace positive tags that follow a negative sentence such as:

He hasn't eaten yet, innit? [<- has he?]

That can't be right, innit? [<- can it?]

Would these sentence and other similar ones actually be used in informal English English around London by younger speakers stereotyped to use “innit”?

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    When you say obviously always replace it, you mean in the slangiest of texting? Aug 11, 2022 at 14:06
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    @YosefBaskin: No, not just texting, in (very informal) spoken language too.
    – psmears
    Aug 11, 2022 at 14:08
  • Munna look into it. Aug 11, 2022 at 14:10
  • @YosefBaskin It's in the dictionary and everything :)
    – psmears
    Aug 11, 2022 at 14:13
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    @David Well, it actually does not sound just the same in French... :) I understand grammar or orthography can be stifling sometimes, but I still like them.
    – fev
    Aug 11, 2022 at 19:25

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Most dictionaries still record innit as an invariant tag (from isn't it), as you mention, but it is very true that its use is currently spreading, though it is still considered non-standard, and therefore should not be used in formal cotnexts. I have found a dictionary that already mentions that:

a way of saying any question tag, such as ‘don’t you?’ or ‘haven’t you?

Ignacio Palacios Martinez, in his article Variation, development and pragmatic uses of innit in the language of British adults and teenagers published in 2014 in Cambridge's English Language & Linguistics speaks precisely of that:

Findings confirm that innit is typical of the language of London teenagers and has not gone out of use; on the contrary, its frequency has increased over the last few years. In contrast, the proportion of tokens found in the language of their adult counterparts is rather marginal.

At present, innit conserves syntactic features of its own: it does not follow the regular question tag formation rules and can represent not only the verb BE but also DO, HAVE and most of the modal verbs.

  • She love her chocolate innit?
  • It was good innit?

Furthermore, it continues to show a high degree of flexibility in the sentence, occurring not only in final but also in initial and medial positions.

It appears that innit should no longer be regarded as a simple invariant tag. It tends to behave more and more like a pragmatic marker serving to express the speaker's attitude to the content of the message, thus often reflecting the relationship between the participants in the interaction, and also contributing to the organisation of the discourse. In this respect, two new discourse functions of innit are identified and described: emphatic and text organiser.

This other interesting post defends its legitimacy saying:

Innit is a real word (it’s in the OED), just as valid as isn’t, ain’t or shan’t. Why is there debate about this? Innit is often used in a grammatically “wrong” manner. But people fill their sentences with far more illogical word uses: for example, the extraneous uses of “like,” “right?” and “you know?” None of these words or phrases are invalidated because of it. Just because the word is used “incorrectly” doesn’t mean it is incorrect in and of itself.

The examples it gives however do not include negative verbs as in your examples:

  • We’re British, innit.
  • She’s well out of order, innit?
  • I was just joking, innit!

Although, listed examples of this particular "ungrammatical" use of this tag at the end of negative sentences are scarce, I would not be surprised if it were used in this way since:

In Britain and among American Indians, among others, this “invariant isn’t it” is reduced to “innit,” and may be used even more broadly as a general emphatic exclamation at the end of almost any statement. (Prof. Paul Brians, Wahshington State University)

I managed to find one example in Discourse-Pragmatic Variation and Change in English, p. 61:

I dunno what’s gonna happen if she’s not back. Innit, it shouldn’t be like this. (Tina, 18 y.o.)

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  • A nice piece of research but, despite all that, I have yet to hear it used by even one of my reasonably well-educated acquaintance. Its use, other than as facetious take-off of lower register speakers, is a marker of lack of, or insensitivity to, formal education. A non-native speaker should use it with great care, preferably only in the company of those who speak in this argot. I know this may sound elitist but it is also realistic.
    – Anton
    Aug 11, 2022 at 18:16
  • @Anton That's what all these articles say basically, that it is dialectal, used mainly by teenagers, and still considered non-standard, so should not be used in formal contexts. Yet the fact that it made it to the dictionaries does say something about the current pulse of the language.
    – fev
    Aug 11, 2022 at 19:00
  • Here's a link to Catherine Tate performing very chavvy teenager Lauren Cooper on Royal Variety Performance for the Queen, who is in attendance. You'll hear her use 'innit' three times (none happening to actually stand for 'isn't it') at 0:28 ('innit' follows her saying, 'It would be a laugh', making 'innit' stand for 'wouldn't it'), 0:45 ('innit' follows another saying, 'She is big time', making 'innit' stand for 'isn't she'), and 1:36 ('innit' follows another saying, 'She is dripping with diamonds', making 'innit' stand for 'isn't she'): youtube.com/watch?v=HUzPontl0pU . Aug 12, 2022 at 3:54

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