3

In which part of the world do people use sentences like "I be doing this" (missing out the 'will' after the 'I')? Sounds like some of the 'street-ghetto' to me. What is it exactly?

  • Sounds like something a Pirate would say. – StuR Dec 4 '12 at 15:26
  • 3
    There is no "will" omitted. This is a non-standard form of the present (I am doing) – Colin Fine Dec 4 '12 at 17:09
  • @StuR: that is because the stereotypical pirate speech is basically West Country speech – Colin Fine Dec 5 '12 at 11:49
11

It is not an accent, but a feature of some nonstandard dialects. As Peter Trudgill has written:

Standard English has irregular forms of the verb to be both in the present tense (am, is, are) and in the past (was, were). Many nonstandard dialects have the same form for all persons, such as I be, you be, he be, we be, they be, and I were, you were, he were, we were, they were.

In the United Kingdom, the use of be throughout the present tense is associated with the West Country.

  • I have also seen be instead of inflected forms used in Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno to mark the speech of fairies, though that's probably derived from a local dialect. – user86291 Apr 23 '15 at 9:32
7

This is an example of African American Vernacular dialect, not an accent. It expresses habitual behavior, as in "I be doing this every day" = "I do this every day" in standard American English.

  • 1
    It might be this, but see Barrie England's reply for another possibility – Colin Fine Dec 4 '12 at 17:09
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American_Vernacular_English Also see: Ebonics – Zoot Dec 4 '12 at 17:34
  • @Colin: I was interested in Barrie's answer because I don't know much about the grammar of non-standard BrE dialects. It's nice to know that BEV/AAV/Ebonics isn't the only English dialect with this feature. I read the Labov essay a long time ago, but I know a bit about this form from everyday experience, especially from my time in the U of Iowa's Afro-American Studies classes back in the 1970s, my first wife's two years of teaching at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, & other things. An isolated He knocked her up could mean two totally different things depending upon who said it & where. – user21497 Dec 4 '12 at 21:42
  • @Zoot: I looked for specific documentation of this form on the Net but found none. I looked at both those articles before posting & was disappointed in them. – user21497 Dec 4 '12 at 21:45
0

Sounds like south-western Brit. Eng. to me. This explains why it reminded one person of pirate's speech, pirates generally being given the accent of Long John Silver, who, I think, was from Devon or Cornwall, although it is not clear from Treasure Island.

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