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USAGE: 'like' as a referent to quoting

From:James Worlton <jworlton@...>
Date:Wednesday, November 10, 2004, 16:46
Some of you may be interested in the topic at the University of North Texas'
Linguistics Colloquium (which I unfortunately can't attend). I don't think the
usage is as frequent in US english, but it certainly exists--and I find myself
(age 33) doing it sometimes as well *gasp*:

[from the announcement]

Since exploding onto the scene in the early 1980s, be like, as in the example below,
is well on its way to becoming the preferred way that younger speakers quote
themselves and others in conversation.

(1)		It took ten-minutes for the damn things to die
				and I’m like, “Can I put on the lid?”
				And she’s like, “No, it ruins it.”
				and I was like, “This is horrifying.”

In fact, be like is so vigorous in Canadian English that it has risen from a mere
13% in 1995 (Tagliamonte & Hudson 1999) to 60% in 2002 (Tagliamonte & D’Arcy
2004). This telescoped development provides an unprecedented opportunity to
investigate the ways in which linguistic change progresses. It also enables us
to address the question of whether be like is strictly associated with
teenagers and young adults, after which time its use decreases, or whether
speakers continue to use it once it forms part of their day-to-day
conversations. In order to address these issues, I will report on the frequency
and distribution of forms used to quote speech and inner thought (e.g., I say,
She goes, He’s like) among 189 speakers of Canadian English aged 10-87. These
data suggest that not only do speakers continue to quote with be like across
their lifetimes, but that they actually increase their frequency of use as they

James W.


John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>
B. Garcia <madyaas@...>
Stephen Mulraney <ataltanie@...>
Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>