The so-called invariant tags, such as eh, okay, right and yeah, are extremely frequent in general English speech and have been studied extensively in recent years, especially in the spoken expression of teenagers, where they are a very common feature.
In this article I focus on innit, as in She love her chocolate innit? and It was good innit? For this purpose, I analyse and discuss data extracted from two comparable corpora of teen speech: the Bergen Corpus of London Teenage Language (COLT), compiled in 1993, and the Linguistic Innovators Corpus (LI), created in 2004. The analysis considers the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic features of the expression, and asks three fundamental questions: has innit remained stable in use over time or has it increased in frequency? Has innit preserved its original grammatical features, or has it undergone notable changes? To what extent is innit especially associated with teentalk, at least in London speech, rather than with the speech of adults? Contrasts are also drawn with the standard tag isn't it.
Findings confirm that innit is typical of the language of London teenagers and has not gone out of use; on the contrary, its frequency has increased over the last few years. In contrast, the proportion of tokens found in the language of their adult counterparts is rather marginal. At present, innit conserves syntactic features of its own: it does not follow the regular question tag formation rules and can represent not only the verb be but also do, have and most of the modal verbs. Furthermore, it continues to show a high degree of flexibility in the sentence, occurring not only in final but also in initial and medial positions. Finally, it appears that innit should no longer be regarded as a simple invariant tag. It tends to behave more and more like a pragmatic marker serving to express the speaker's attitude to the content of the message, thus often reflecting the relationship between the participants in the interaction, and also contributing to the organisation of the discourse. In this respect, two new discourse functions of innit are identified and described: emphatic and text organiser.