Quotative be like in American English
Ephemeral or here to stay?
This article investigates quotative use in American English in apparent and real time. The use of quotative be like, go and say in a corpus of conversation in American English dating 2004 / 2005 is compared with use in a similar corpus dating 1995 / 1996 (Barbieri 2007). Findings show that in present-day American English be like is the favorite choice for all speakers below age 40, and is extremely popular among young teenagers. The real time comparison reveals that speakers who in the mid-1990s were in their teens to mid-20s have not only maintained, but considerably increased use of be like over time; women aged 27–40 have also maintained use of be like over time. Such findings provide evidence of generational change, as well as of “lifespan change” (Sankoff 2005). Overall, the present findings indicate that be like is a true case of change in progress — a change still led by women; however they do not point to one particular type of change, suggesting that generational and communal change may operate simultaneously in the advancement of change.
Keywords: change in progress, American English, lifespan change, real time, be like, quotatives, age, sex
Published online: 20 February 2009
Cited by 11 other publications
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