"Like" abuse redivivus

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Apr 14 18:17:29 UTC 2008

On Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 12:25 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky
<zwicky at csli.stanford.edu> wrote:
> as for quotative "all" vs. quotative "like", there's quite a bit of
> literature about differences in the contexts of use.  the situation is
> complex, because different groups of speakers at different times have
> somewhat different systems, but it looks like everybody with the two
> non-standard quotatives uses them in different (though overlapping)
> ways.  quotative "all" seems to be generally favored by simple present
> tense; in a sense, it's more "vivid" than quotative "like".  and, from
> the Rickford et al. paper:
> "for the 2005 corpus, all is quite different from like with respect to
> this constraint [occurrence with a representation of speech or
> thought]. It rather seems to pattern like the older quotatives say and
> go in being favored for the introduction of actual speech."
> there's a lot more.

A contributor to a 2001 Linguist List discussion on quotatives came up
with a very tidy scale of emphasis:

"X says" (staid situation)
"X goes" (doing voices)
"X is like" (dramatic impression)
"X is all" (full-body caricature)

But the contributor noted, "that looks so logical and literal I wonder
if I'm not imagining it." Indeed, actual usage is almost always
messier than this sort of metalinguistic pigeonholing.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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