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The Amn't Gap Revisited

Judith Broadbent (Roehampton University) on why we don't say 'I amn't. . .' in English dialects. is there really an 'amn't gap'?

The absence of amn’t for the first person singular present tense negative form of BE is taken to indicate that there is a gap in the paradigm: the *amn’t gap. Recent accounts (e.g. Hudson 2000; Anderwald 2002) take a morphosyntactic approach and phonological considerations are largely ignored. Such accounts typically focus on contemporary forms of Standard British English (SBE). In this paper, I will focus instead on a non-standard variety: West Yorkshire English. I will compare nineteenth century and contemporary West Yorkshire (WY) auxn’t forms and argue that WY has never had a *amn’t gap. WY exhibits a phenomenon called secondary contraction, whereby shouldn’t, for example, may be pronounced so that it is homophonous with shunt. I will explore the role that so-called secondary contraction has played in the *amn’t gap saga. Although the focus will be on WY, I will explore the possibility that secondary contraction applied to certain auxn’t forms in Standard British English at a much earlier date. As a result, there is evidence to suggest that there is no grammatical *amn’t gap in SBE.


Dr Judith Broadbent | talks | www


Date and Time:

21 February 2011 at 5:30 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



English, Middlesex University
The Burroughs
+44 20 84 11 65 55

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All welcome. Talks take place in Room M218, Mansion building, Trent Park Campus. Free and open to all. Contact Billy Clark for further details:

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