Presentational/static locatives or "go" copulas in AAVE

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On the Variationist List, Benjamin Torbert (11/6) made the following request, and I gave (11/8) the reply below it, which I'd now like to  share with Language Log folks in the hope that someone may be able to add more. Torbert's query:

I have [at least] two grad students who teach in majority (read, 100%) AfAm classrooms in StL, and they bring up things about AA(V)E, and they're seldom able to stump me, but this time, I wasn't able to give a complete answer.  They were asking me about what is apparently known as deictic go.

1) There go your pencil.
2) Here go your permission slip.

These more or less paraphrase in mainstream American English (ugh, the label, I know) with a form of be, namely is, probably contracted most likely.

Is there any scholarly work on this feature, beyond a basic description of the feature?  I was vaguely aware of it, but I don't remember anyone talking about it in six years of gradskool, when we were talking about AAE more or less nonstop.  The only thing I could find was a 1975 article (Clark/Garnica), and it seems to address different issues.

In response to Torbert's request for info on "deictic go" in AAVE, as in "Here/go your pencil" (also known as "presentational go," the "go copula" or "static locatives"), here's what I know.

There is no full-fledged study of this feature.  Most of what has been written and presented about it has been in the context of studies of African American child language, which is fine, but we also need studies of teenagers and adults, and we desperately need more detailed grammatical descriptions.  So if your students are interested, encourage them to go for it!

Labov et al mentioned the feature briefly in their (1968) two volume Study of the Non-Standard English of Language of Negro and Puerto-Rican Speakers in NYC (always a good place to start for features of AAVE, although I wasn't able to find it in a quick look a few minutes ago), and Lisa Green has a couple examples and a short discussion (pp.  49-50) in her (2011) Language and the American Child.  She in turn cites these references:

* Wyatt, Toya.  1995.  "Language development in African American child speech."  Linguistics and Education 7:7-22  [But I only found one reference to the go copula, p. 10, citing Lorraine Theresa Cole's 1980 Northwestern U PhD dissn, "Developmental analysis of social dialect features in the spontaneous language of preschool black children." Maybe Wyatt's 1991 U Mass Amherst dissn, "Linguistic constraints on copula production in black English child speech" has more? I don't have access to either of these dissertations.]

* Horton-Ikard, RaMonda and Susan Weismer.  2005. "Distinguishing African American English from developmental errors in language production of toddlers."  Applied Psycholinguistics 26:597-620.  [Table 4, p. 608,  indicates that the go copula marks one of the most dramatic differences found between AAE and SAE speaking kids, with 19 tokens from the AAE 2.5 year olds, and 18 from the AAE 3.5 year olds, but none from the White 2.5 and 3.5 year olds.  But there is no grammatical analysis of the feature itself.]

The most detailed discussion of this feature I've ever seen/heard was a presentation by Ida Stockman and the late Fay Vaughn-Cooke at a conference (NWAV?) in the 1980s.  I have the handout in my office, but not here.  They never published it, as far as I know. They did publish another interesting paper on "Lexical elaboration in children's locative action expressions" (Child Development 63.5 [1992]:1104-1125).  But that has nothing on static "here go" locatives or copulas.

HOWEVER, Stockman (2010), in "A review of developmental and applied language research on African American Children:  From a deficit to a difference perspective on dialect features" (Language, Speech and Hearing Sciences in Schools 41:23-38) refers to this feature briefly on p. 28, citing Cole 1980 (as referenced above), and a 2007 poster on "Acquisition of 'go copula' in African American English" that she presented at NWAV in Philadelphia.   I'll write her to see if I can get a copy of that poster, and let this list know.  The Stockman/Vaughn-Cooke work is the best starting point on this feature, I think.


  1. John Walden said,

    November 9, 2013 @ 11:10 am

    If you Google Books "Here go your pencil" there's an intriguing note "also Black English" in an essay on St Helenian English by Ian F Hancock in "Development and Structures of Creole Languages".

    There's also a mention of something similar in "Nautical Sources of Krio Vocabulary (Ian F Hancock)" according to Google but it'd cost 30 bucks to see it.

    I'm not mapping out a Ship English-Krio-Atlantic English- Gullah- St Louis/AAV link or loop for one moment but Professor Hancock at Texas at Austin might be a person to ask.

  2. ThomasH said,

    November 9, 2013 @ 11:11 am

    It sounds familiar to me (WM) having grown up in East Texas, 1950's. I might then have said "Here you go/there you go" while deliveing a pencil or permission slip to someone. If challenged to rationalize the phrase, I might have said that the transaction enabled the receiver to go to or to go back to an activity.

  3. beslayed said,

    November 9, 2013 @ 11:46 am

    Following on ThomasH, the potential connection with "Here you go/there you go" is intriguing. I wonder if there could have been a development from "Here you go – here's your pencil" to "here go your pencil".

  4. jfruh said,

    November 9, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

    I would second @ThomasH; I'm a 39-year-old white male who grew up in Buffalo, NY, and I immediately thought of the usage "Here you go," meaning "Here it is," when giving something to someone.

  5. Mar Rojo said,

    November 9, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

    When I say "Here go, your pencil" and "Here y (you) go, your pencil", there is very little difference.

  6. Luis said,

    November 9, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

    Chalk me up as another vote for "Here (you) go(, here's) your X". I have heard the "here go" form in the past and have always assumed that's what it means (i.e., that's what its reflex in standard Schoolteacher English would be). Folk etymology for the win!

  7. chh said,

    November 9, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

    I know the expression kind of sounds like "Here you go, your ___", with the pencil example, but I think it would be useful for people to first at least have a look around for some of the background Prof. Rickford mentions in his post to see why this isn't the analysis linguists seem to be focusing on. There is also this abstract, which is for a neat experiment looking at child speech to test whether 'go' in these examples is analogous to 'be' in SAE existential locative constructions.

    Among other things, I think the possible absence of overt 3rd person singular inflection in AAVE is (mis)leading people to the 'hear you go' idea.

    I can't find enough examples to show for sure whether existential expressions like "Here is my street" and "here is my problem" can use "go copula" in AAVE, but those are some cases where "here you go" doesn't work at all in SAE, but of course "here is __" does… I'd expect those are grammatical with 'go' in AAVE, but it would be good to see.

    This construction reminds me a little of the existential pleonastic 'it' in AAVE, like "It's a book on the table" for SAE "There's a book on the table", just as a nice example of how constructions may use different lexical items from dialect to dialect.

  8. Seiichi MYOGA said,

    November 9, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

    Quote: Another passer-by sets off a train of simple identifications at the very end of the Jet outing:
    J1: There go Willie mother right there.
    J2: Your mother is a lizard.
    J3. Your mother smell like a roach.
    J4. Your mother name is Benedict Arnold.
    One passing lady is the focus of a whole series of sounds. One can sound on someone simply by saying, "There go your mother."
    J1: Hey-ey (whistle) … That's your mother over there!
    J2: I know that lady.
    J1: That's your mother.
    J3: Hell, look the way that lady walk.
    J4: … she sick in the head.
    J3: Walk like she got a lizard-neck.
    (W. Labov, Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular)

    So, it seems that the "There go +NP/DP (whether it is singular or plural)" construction is used here to identify someone you have just seen. What is interesting is that you are recognizing that someone not as someone that just CAME into your view but rather as someone that just WENT across/through your view.
    cf. (i) a. There appeared a giant oil-tanker on the horizon.
    b.*There disappeared a giant oil-tanker over the horizon.
    (R. Huddleston, Introduction to the Grammar of English)

    Seiichi MYOGA

  9. chh said,

    November 9, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

    Seichi Myoga,

    I think the point of 'stative go' or the 'static locative' or whatever we choose to call it is that it is used in constructions where the referent isn't moving.

    I might just be misunderstanding your example, but aren't you saying the context is one where the lady has just moved past/away from the the speaker? Couldn't an SAE speaker say "There goes Willie's mother right there" in the context you give for J1? I'm pretty sure I could say that.

  10. Seiichi MYOGA said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 2:15 am

    Hi, chh

    Actually, I don't think it does matter whether the referent is moving or not. At least, the key in my quote is the word "identifications."

    After all, the topic-starter gives us no such presupposition, just saying "There is no full-fledged study of this feature." In fact, in referring to the phenomenon at issue, he uses a variety of expressions such as "deictic go," "go copula," "static locative" and "presentational go."

    We might want to remind ourselves first that "Deictic go is used when the goal of movement is outside the speaker's region. (W. J. M. Levelt, Speaking).

    I don't know exactly what "go copula" means, but if we understand that it refers to the fact that "go" can work like the copula be (as in "John is honest", but not "John is [=exists] in his study"), then it follows that "There" in "There go your pencil" must be an NP/DP but not a locative adverb, as in "I believe John to be honest/I believe there to be no misunderstanding" or "John is honest, isn't he?/There is no misunderstanding, is there?"

    In contrast, "stative locative" seems to suggest that the syntactic category of "there" at issue is an adverb, as in "Who is [=exists] there?" And does "stative locative" only mean that something is still, or not moving? Then how about "Come back here by 6 o'clock"?
    You can instead say without difference of meaning, "Be back here by 6 o'clock." In this light, we could safely say that both "come" and "here" in "come back here" function as something stative. But does it mean that the sense of movement is completely bleached, and has nothing whatever to do with the choice of one over the other?

    And finally, "presentational go." The there-construction is generally divided into three groups: existential, presentational and listing. If what Rickford means by "presentational" is the presentational-there construction, then the "there" in question is an NP/DP but not a locative adverb (, although unlike "There came into the room a man," I could hardly imagine any native speaker would accept something like "There went out of the room a man." In that sense, the term of "presentational go" strikes me as strange.)

    Anyway, the syntactic status of "there" is normally decided by the presence (or absence) of the stress on that word: Adverb "there" receives a stress, but this doesn't apply to NP/DP "there."

    Considering the fact that Rickford makes no mention of this, we could well assume that
    the stress doesn't help us here. Probably, "there" in "There go your pencil" may behave like an NP as well as like an adverb.

    In other words, this may be a merger of two distinct constructions.

    Quote:One can sound on someone simply by saying, "There go your mother."
    J1: Hey-ey (whistle) … That's your mother over there!

    If we're right in thinking (as the author suggests) that we can use both "There go your mother." and "That's your mother over there." to report the same situation, we could tentatively conclude that the first "there" can work both as subject and as adverb.

    That's the reason why I have quoted it. And let's call this use "identificational."
    Given what we are provided with, all I could say is that the relevant use here may have to do with the identificational use.

    Seiichi MYOGA

  11. Glenn Bingham said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

    Although not universal, in my region of Southern New Jersey, USA (very different linguistically from North Jersey), "Here you go" usually accompanies the transfer of a physical object, whereas "There you go" indicates the arrival of a serendipitous situation. Along with the pencil comes a "Here you go." They are not mutually exclusive, so if someone is prevented from finishing homework because of the lack of a pencil, one could pass the pencil with a "Here you go" referring to the object, or else a "There you go" referring to the facilitation of getting the homework done.

    Furthermore, I find "Here you go" and "There you go" synonymous with "Here you are" and "There you are," respectively. As with the original sentences, the "go" seems to be an alternative copula.

  12. Boris said,

    November 11, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

    My internalized meanings for the four phrases (also south jersey) are different from yours
    "Here you go" means I'm giving you something that you previously asked for.
    "There you go" means you finally deduced something after not understanding it for a while, or possibly when you said something that you were expected to say.
    "Here you are" primarily means "I finally found you" or "I found you at an unexpected location". It can sometimes be used in the same way as "her you go" but that usage sounds strained to me.
    "There you are" can be used similarly to the "finding" example above, but is more emphatic as in "I've been looking all over for you!" It can sometimes be used like "There you go", but with different semantics. Something like "And there you *are*" (with the go version the emphasis would be on "there").

    It is also interesting that in third person, the meanings are completely different.
    "Here he is" is the only one with pretty much parallel usage to "here you are"
    "Here he goes" means "here he is" with an additional emphasis on the fact that he is moving.
    "There he is" differs from "here he is" in that he is not at the same location as you are.
    "There he goes (again)" would mean "he's doing something typical of him"

  13. Joyce Melton said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

    Has anybody studied whether there is some source language besides English where the go and be verbs are used in this way? Latin and Spanish both have something that is nearly similar.

  14. Glenn Bingham said,

    April 15, 2014 @ 12:44 am


    200-year lag in response, but…

    >Our "Here you go" seems to be a close match.
    >Your "There you go" is a subset of mine. Aside from a mental achievement, it can be physical; for instance, when someone makes it over the fence on the 4th try: "There you go!"
    >I also have your "Here you are," but I have the additional synonymy with "Here you go" without finding it unusual.
    >I share your "There you are," but find the other meaning of it as not too different from "There you go."

  15. NQA2 said,

    July 10, 2014 @ 7:38 pm

    If Jerry Friedman's hypothesis is correct, we may be in line for Linguistics Wars II.

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