7. Pronouns

7.3 Demonstrative Pronouns

7.3.1 Forms and functions  

The principal singular demonstratives are this and that. In addition, the material for the present study include the form yon (and the variant form yin) which, according to Hughes & Trudgill (1979: 19), refers to objects more distant than those referred to by that. The plural forms are these and them. The latter is used as a demonstrative for distant reference with a plural noun. In such cases, StE would have those, which, with few exceptions, is not used by Cambridgeshire informants. According to Wright (EDD 1898-1905, them. dem. pron, dem. adj.; EDG 1905: 76), the form them (for StE those) is common in all dialects of England, Ireland and Scotland. Wright’s EDD, which covers a time span of two hundred years, namely from 1700 to 1900, includes examples such as Them's the very ones I wants (G.O.) for Herefordshire and Oxfordshire and Whose are them books? for East Anglia. The use of them for those is still frequent in dialects (e.g. Hughes & Trudgill 1979: 19). [16]

The forms this, that and these are used in the same independent and determinative functions as in present-day StE. The uses of the determinative them correspond to the uses of StE those. Thus, demonstratives are used in various functions. For instance, they are used anaphorically, i.e. to refer to something mentioned before, as illustrated by examples 7.24 (a-b)

7.24 (a) I found a pritchel the other day. Do you know what that is? (Rampton HP)
  (b) I couldn’t set his 'tatoes right ... I tried my hardest to =set them 'tatoes. (Willingham ES)

Demonstratives are also used cataphorically, that is, to refer to a thing/things or person/persons mentioned in the following context. This usage is illustrated by examples 7.25 (a-c).

7.25 (a)
HP: Well, that- there were a German.
MH: Mm
HP: He uh = he worked at this place = a re- sugar refinery (Rampton)
  (b) Then this man come to me and ask me if I’d = brother to that man I lived with = whether I’d drive the car for him, do you see (Waterbeach BB)
TR: You don't remember them two mares = getting stuck up in the field near * on Saturday?
MH: No, no.
TR: Oh, had two lovely mares. They laid feet to feet. (Rampton)

(In example 7.25 (c), as in the transcriptions of this study in general, an asterisk is used instead of a person’s name.) As can be seen, the expression with a demonstrative is followed by an explanatory phrase or clause (a sugar refinery; brother to that man I lived with; had two lovely mares. They laid feet to feet). Cf. right dislocation in 7.1.1.

Demonstratives also occur in deictic function, as illustrated by examples 7.26 (a-b);

7.26 (a) but now you got this (Willingham ET) (The speaker points to a television set.)
  (b) We had these. (Burwell GW) (The speaker points to candles)

Reliance on situational reference (as illustrated by examples 7.26 (a-b)), typical of conversation, is often seen in the use of this, that, these and them.

Like personal pronouns, the demonstrative that is used redundantly after an NP and after a relative clause inserted after the governing NP, as in examples 7.27 (a-b).

7.27 (a) The milk, that used to be sold round villages. (Fulbourn CM)
  (b) They’re made of = all wood. Same as the breast what turned over, that were wood (Harlton MP)

The demonstrative them is used as an antecedent of a relative. The reference is to persons, them what corresponding to StE those who/those that, as in example 7.28 (a), and to things, them what corresponding to StE those which/those that, as in example 7.28 (b).

7.28 (a) Then them what kept the shop = sort them (i.e. letters) out (Harlton MP)
  (b) Them what would soak through water were like milk. (Rampton TR)
(The speaker is telling about how they soaked maize)

Wright (EDG 1905: 76) regards this usage as a characteristic feature in Scotland in particular, and illustrates the usage by the example them at did it.

Similarly, that is used as an antecedent of a relative, that what corresponding to the Standard English that which, as in example 7.29.

7.29     And was it interesting that what I told about father? (Waterbeach BB)

For what as a relative, see 7.5.1.

The demonstrative that forms part of the expression and that (‘and so forth, et cetera’). Typical of this frequent expression are instances such as 7.30 (a-b).

7.30 (a) Women and that used to go spreading = dung and that. (Bassingbourn BR)
  (b) He was old and- and that (Swaffham Prior EW)

That also occurs in such common expressions as that's what, that's how, that's where, and that's why, which all draw the listener's attention to what has been said previously. These expressions are illustrated by examples 7.31 (a-d).

7.31 (a) And I've seen a lot in my time = a lot = all nature. That's what make (for StE makes) me fond of nature. (Castle Camps JH)
  (b) We used to go in the market, you know, sell to the corn merchants ... He would say, “Well, I'll give you so and so ... take it to that one.” That's how we used to do. (Burwell GW)
  (c) Just agin (for StE against) the‑ a big box factory. That's where the station used to be. (Swaffham Prior EW)
Int.: The milking stool with three legs? Why not four legs?
AS: Yo- you could- you could shift your = you could shift your position on three…. if you got four = as far as here you- [SHOWS] you couldn't wriggle it about anywhere …. That’s why they had. (Harston AS)

The interviews for the present study also include the old form yon (and the variant form yin), as illustrated by example 7.32.

7.32     ES: She used t(o) say [LAUGHS] if she didn’t want you down that = down there she used t(o) say, “You go up yin eend = yin eend.”
    MH: Yeah, yeah
    ES: Yeah, that wa (for StE was) up the other end what you- what you’d say yon end. Here they used to say yin eend (Willingham)

In the 1970s, the form yon was claimed to occur mostly in the north of England and Scotland (e.g. Hughes & Trudgill 1979: 19). [17] However, Wright (EDG 1923: 76) lists East Anglia (and Devon, in the south-west) among the areas where yon is used. Wright’s evidence is based on the usage from 1700 to 1900. At earlier stages of the language, yon probably had a wide distribution. For instance, yon (‘that … over there’) (from OE demonstrative adjective ʒeon) was current in northern ME texts from the beginning of the 14th century on, and towards the end of the ME period, yon was found in all dialects (Mustanoja 1960: 178).

7.3.2 Intensification with here and there

Demonstrative pronouns are occasionally reinforced by appending here/there to them, as illustrated by examples 7.33 (a-c).

7.33 (a) and put it in this here pickle pot (Swaffham Prior EW)
  (b) And they had one of these here big old over-turned tractors down there. (Willingham AA)
  (c) He come and get hold my collar like that there and he got that there walking stick, he hided (i.e. punished with blows) me (Willingham ES)

The pattern this here/that there has been known since ME (Mustanoja 1960: 172, 175). According to Wright (EDG 1905: 76), this here/that there was commonly used in England, whereas these here was less frequent. However, it was recorded, for instance, in Norfolk. The pattern them there also occurred (EDD, them there). Wright’s examples include I'm sure them-there gals of ours must ha' gone cranky (e.An.1 Cmb.1) and Goo you and git one of them there pies (Nrf. E.M.; Suf. Fison Merry Suf. 1899, 9). Wright’s evidence is based on findings from 1700 to 1900. According to Ellis (1889: 249), the form that there school was the usual phrase in Cambridgeshire; however, the pattern this/these here and the pattern that/them there in particular may have been disappearing from Cambridgeshire by the 1970s, when the material for the present study was collected. [18]

7.4 Reflexive Pronouns

7.4.1 Forms

The informants of the present study usually regularise the reflexive pronoun system with the use of hisself and theirselves, that is, throughout the system, they use the uniform paradigm: POSSESSIVE + SELF/SELVES. [19] (The third-person feminine pronoun herself can be regarded as being based on either the possessive or the object form.) However, the first-person singular pronoun usually has the form meself (cf. the use of the possessive form me for StE my, discussed in 7.2). The second element of plural possessives also has the form self (ourself, yourself, theirself). The use of the singular second element may be a continuation of an older usage. According to Strang (1970: 141), “the establishment of the number contrast, self/selves, in dependence on the number of the personal pronoun element… begins in the 16c., but establishes itself gradually”. For instance, the Canterbury Tales (E108) manuscripts have the reflexive ourself (Strang 1970: 198). The SED material, collected in the 1950s, also provides evidence of the emphatic form theirself (IX.11.3) (in addition to the emphatic form theirselves [IX.11.4]) for Cambridgeshire and for a large number of other counties, including the bordering counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. [20] Later evidence for the singular second element is provided, for instance, by Shorrocks. In his discussion of the dialect of Farnworth and district, Shorrocks (1980: 551) observes that “there is no singular-plural distinction in the second element”. [21] For the form theself, see the discussion in 7.4.2. The third-person singular neuter form itself is not attested in the material for the present study. [22] Cf. the discussion of the determinative possessive pronoun its, in 7.2.

7.4.2 Functions

Reflexive pronouns occur in object function, either as direct objects, as illustrated by examples 7.34 (a-b), or as indirect objects, as illustrated by example 7.34 (c).

7.34 (a) I keep meself up and keep me daughter up = s- so she don’t have to buy none (i. e. no potatoes) = and one of me grandsons what’s married. (West Wickham CC)
  (b) ‘cause we pronounce it to please ourselv (Willingham SS)
  (c) You can go into the barn and = grind yourself a = boxful. (Castle Camps JH)

In examples 7.34 (a-c), the subject and the object refer to the same person. Similarly, the reference is to the same person when the pronoun occurs as the object of a preposition, as in examples 7.35 (a-b).

7.35 (a) I'm not sold them (i.e. paraffin lamps) ever so many times = I said no = I'm keeping one along (for StE with) meself (Newon JF)
SS: and all he ever had for hisself was sixpence a week. He never had only sixpence a week.
MH: Yeah
SS: That's all he ever had for hisself (Willingham)

The form hisself is also the reflexive and emphatic form given for Cambridgeshire in the SED material (IX.11.2). The form theself is attested as the object of a preposition, as in example 7.36 (a). The reference is either to a plural subject, as in example 7.36 (b), or to a singular subject, as in example 7.36 (c).

7.36 (a) [She] use(d to) always cook potatoes by thesel’ and the greens by theself (Bartlow CP)
  (b) My daughter told me one day in the week they had their coal come in = one day this week. They got a bungalow down the bottom. They built it theself = hundred and three pound (Rampton TR)
  (c) They never used to have trouble with drying that = that was always ready in the stack, you see, that dry theself out (West Wickham CC)

The form theself is mentioned by Forby (1970 [1830]: 345). His glossary entry runs as follows: “THE, pron. Used as an inflexion of it.” This usage is illustrated by the example The child will cut theself, if you do not take away the knife. In Forby’s example, theself may stand for itself. In Cambridgeshire dialect speech, that is frequently used in cases in which StE has it. Thus, in example 7.36 (c), that dry theself out stands for StE it’d dry itself out. Another interpretation of theself in Forby’s example (The child will cut theself) is the use of a genderless pronoun corresponding to StE themselves. This interpretation is supported by Wright’s (EDG 1905: 277) observation about Scottish English: “in Sc. themsel is used with the singular meaning, as every one for themsel”. (Cf. the use of the genderless personal pronoun they, discussed in 7.1.2.) In the material for the present study, the form theself usually occurs in cases in which the reference is to a plural noun. In such cases, the use of the singular second element may agree with Wright’s (EDG 1905: 277) observation about Scottish English “in Sc. theirsel is used when the idea is collective, theirsels when it is segregate”.

In addition to the uses described above, a reflexive pronoun is used in apposition to highlight its antecedent. This emphatic function is illustrated by example 7.36 (b) (’They built it themselves, not somebody else’) above and by example 7.37.

7.37     I found the trouble out meself and that was nothing only wire off of the ba- battery and them- them three mechanics walked around me all that day… they didn’t find no trouble (Waterbeach BB) (The speaker himself found out the trouble, not the mechanics)

The second person pronoun is also used emphatically after a verb in the imperative, as in He said, “Explain yourself, *!” (Rampton HP).


[16] Edwards & Weltens (1985: 117) note that them is a common feature of British dialects (cf., e.g. Hughes & Trudgill 1979: 19; Beal 1993: 207; Shorrocks 1999: 95). Cheshire et al. (1993: 65) report that demonstrative them (item 125) is the most widely observed feature in The Survey of British Dialect Grammar (by Cheshire & Edwards), whose results are based on a questionnaire sent to urban schools. Them is so widespread that it can be regarded as a characteristic of British social dialects rather than of regional dialects (Coupland 1988: 35; Kortmann 2002: 198-199).

[17] The form yon (sg. and pl.) is also considered a northern English and Scottish form by Edwards & Weltens (1985: 117) in their survey on “Research on non-standard dialects of British English”. In the north, yon is observed, for instance, by Shorrocks (1999: 95) in his study on the dialect of the Bolton area. Shorrocks further notes that “yon disappears, but them is widely retained”. Shorrocks’ view about the gradual disappearance of yon conforms with the view of Cheshire et al. (1993: 65), who claim that historical forms of “the demonstrative adjective may now survive only in regions that are relatively independent of the urban centres, such as freestanding regions or the outer or rural zones of metropolitan regions”. Cheshire et al.’s view is based on the results of The Survey of British Dialect Grammar (by Cheshire & Edwards), a questionnaire survey carried out in urban schools in the 1980s. Interestingly, in this Survey, the form yon was reported in Woodbridge, Suffolk (a rural zone in the Ipswich region).

[18] A similar observation was made about Suffolk by Peitsara (1987: 359), who noted that the compound demonstratives this here and them there were infrequent, with that/those there not being used at all. The frequency of the pattern is not indicated by Edwards (1993a: 232-233). However, this here/that there is attested by Edwards in south-eastern England. Edwards observes that “there are two alternative forms for each of the singular demonstratives (this, that): this/this here and that/that there.

[19] Many non-standard dialects regularise the reflexive pronoun system so that all forms are based on the possessives (myself, yourself, hisself, etc.) (see, e.g. Hughes & Trudgill 1979: 18; Trudgill 1990: 93; Edwards & Weltens 1985: 116; Cheshire et al. 1989: 206-207; Beal 1993: 206; Edwards 1993a: 230). Coupland (1988: 35) regards this regularization of the reflexive pronoun system as one of the characteristics of British social dialects rather than regional dialects, since the system is extremely widespread.

[20] For a more detailed discussion of the regional distribution, see Upton et al. (1994: 489).

[21] This fact is repeated in Shorrocks (1999: 91). The second element is ‘sel’ in this dialect. The ‘singular’ form also occurs in some other areas. For instance, in her Grammar of southern British English, Edwards (1993a: 230) gives the example we ought to do it ourself. The form theirself has also been attested in Suffolk, according to Peitsara (1996: 294), who notes that “the forms hisself and theirself/theirselves” are part of the reflexive pronoun system in Suffolk. (Boldface by the present writer) In the Suffolk sub-corpus of the Helsinki Corpus of British English Dialects (HD), collected in the 1970s, the form of the third-person plural reflexive is themselves. In the south-west data of the HD, the form theirself still occurs, as illustrated by the examples Oh, I likes to see people enjoy theirself but what I likes most of all is a good ol’ time singsong, ol’ time tunes ’n’ ’at (Devon, Holcombe Rogus, T) and All sorts of things they used to have. An’ used to make ‘em theirself. Used to cut out what we call nutsticks (Somerset, Stogumber, JC).

[22] However, the form itself is attested in a larger data set (with 38 speakers) of Cambridgeshire dialect speech (for a discussion of the data, see Vasko 2005: 40-48). Even in this larger amount of data, the form is infrequent but occurs in cases such as Int.: You put- you tied it with straw?TW: Oh, tied it with the wheat itself (Swavesey).