Monday, 7 November 2011

“I’m geet excited”

The north-eastern England region where 'geet' is a dialect feature

If the expression in today’s title is something that you would say or at least sounds familiar to you, then the chances are that you are from or live in the north-east of England.

Michael Pearce has been looking at the use of the regional dialect feature geet (possibly pronounced more like git in some parts of the north-east) and the range of functions it performs in discourse among users of social websites. Although geet is usually a feature of spoken language, it is well known that the informal written language used on social networking sites often draws on aspects of spoken discourse. 

In 2010, Pearce looked at all the publicly available web pages from the sites MySpace and Bebo which contained the terms geet or git and which occurred together with a reference to one of four places in the north-east: Sunderland, Newcastle, Durham or South Shields. He collected 150 examples of geet/git and found that it is used in four main ways; to intensify an adverb, to intensify an adjective, as a discourse marker or as a quotative.

Speakers use intensifiers to boost the force of adjectives or adverbs and Pearce found that these uses accounted for about 50 per cent of the total uses of geet/git. When boosting the intensity of an adjective or adverb, geet/git has a similar meaning to really or very. He finds examples such as ‘your songs on here are geet good’ (adjective intensifier) and ‘I know her bf (initials used to mean ‘boyfriend’) geet well and that so it’s canny’ (adverb intensifier).

Geet/git can also be used as a discourse marker, much as in the same way that many people today use like. Pearce gives examples such as ‘haven’t see you in geet ages’, ‘I was geet working it out in my head’ and ‘no, but honestly, I wasn’t meaning it git nastily’ where the use of geet/git could easily be replaced by like. In fact, Pearce shows that geet/git and like often occur together as in uses such as ‘they were like asking for a spliff and they were all geet freaks haha’ and ‘been geet ages like’. The only exception is that geet/git does not seem to be able to interchange with like when like occurs clause-finally – clause-final position is not occupied by geet/git in the corpus.

Finally, geet/git is shown to function as a quotative or an introducer of reported speech in the corpus, as in the examples ‘I was geet ‘ahh’ and ‘stacey was git ‘where’s me burger then’. Pearce states that again geet/git has similar uses and fulfils the same functions as the quotative be like e.g. she’s like ‘oh my god’.

Pearce emphasises that the use of geet/git is not a new phenomenon in the north-east; it’s been around as an intensifier at least since the 1960s. However, what is new is the way that people are now using geet/git as a discourse marker and quotative and he suggests that these uses are innovations which have arisen in the last ten years or so. Please comment below if you can provide any further insights on the history or geographical spread of this dialect feature or if you would like to add any further examples of its use.
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Pearce, M. 2011. ‘It isn’t geet good, like, but it’s canny’: a new(ish) dialect feature in North East England. English Today 27/3: 3-9.
doi:10.1017/S0266078411000307

This summary was written by Sue Fox

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