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Scout, you aren’t old enough to understand some things yet, but there’s been some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending this man.
(Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird)

Is ‘there’s’ the abbreviated form of ‘there is’ or ‘there has’?
If the former is right, for what meaning does the sentence use the passive form?
If the latter is right, is ‘there’ a dummy-adverb (I’ve not heard about it yet) and is its real adverb ‘around town’?

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There's here represents There has.

But the there is the ordinary dummy pronoun, and the has is not a lexical verb but the auxiliary employed with the past participle of be in a present perfect construction:

There is some high talk ... present
There has been some high talk ... present perfect

One clue that helps you see this is that only verbs which take a direct object ('transitive' verbs) can be cast in the passive. BE does not take a direct object but a predicate complement, so a construction with been cannot be passive. That rules out 's = is. It has to be has.

  • Not to mention which it could have been "...there's several people been putting it about that I shouldn't do much...". In which case you have to ask whether 's stands for is or are (bearing in mind almost no-one says there is several...) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 20 '13 at 3:43
  • @FumbleFingers Weyull .. There's plenty of folks in Alabama'll say that; though promly not Atticus Finch, leas' not in front of a jury. He's a EDucated man; too educated for his own damn good, some'll say, and not sure I'm not one u'm. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 20 '13 at 4:25
  • As Kosmonaut says here, It is as if "there's" is becoming a separate lexical item of its own. Linguistically speaking, such a change would certainly be possible. Anyway, it's "relatively" acceptable to me in speech. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 20 '13 at 11:41
  • @FumbleFingers I think what both of you say there is exactly right. Moreover, I think it's been around for quite a while; I suspect that the "eye dialect" they's some, they's many, &c, which starts showing up in US books in the 1840s and is still found quite often, but which I've never actually heard, represents the same thing. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 20 '13 at 12:01

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