LINGUIST List 16.2552|
Mon Sep 05 2005
Diss: Socioling/Syntax: D'Arcy: 'Like: Syntax and ...'
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Like: Syntax and Development
Message 1: Like: Syntax and Development
From: Alexandra D'Arcy <alex.darcyutoronto.ca>
Subject: Like: Syntax and Development
Institution: University of Toronto
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005
Author: Alexandra D'Arcy
Dissertation Title: Like: Syntax and Development
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): English (eng)
Discourse LIKE, as in (1), is one of the most salient features of present-day
(1) a. LIKE, Carrie's LIKE a little LIKE out-of-it but LIKE she's the
b. Well, you just cut out LIKE a girl figure and a boy figure. (N/8/f/75)
It is overtly stigmatized and associated with adolescents, where it is perceived
as a crutch for lexical indecision (e.g., Diamond 2000; Siegel 2000). In the
literature, LIKE is sometimes characterized as a 'meaningless interjection'
(OED) that can be used 'grammatically anywhere' (Siegel 2002:64). Descriptions
such as these suggest that LIKE is unconstrained, yet language, despite inherent
variability, is rule-governed (see also Underhill 1988; Andersen 2001).
LIKE has received much attention in the pragmatic literature (e.g., Schourup
1983; Andersen 1997 et seq.), but it has never been investigated from a
variationist perspective. Consequently, this dissertation presents an
accountable analysis of LIKE is a large corpus of contemporary English. The
hypothesis developed in this work is that LIKE is not random, but interacts with
syntactic structure in regular and predictable ways. To address this issue, the
variable context is circumscribed according to structural criteria and the
analyses are embedded within current Minimalist Theory (e.g., Chomsky 1995 et
seq.). Over 20,000 structurally defined contexts are examined, comprising data
from 97 speakers between the ages of 10 and 87.
This method reveals that LIKE is 1) highly constrained by the syntax and 2)
occurs in specific positions among speakers of all ages. Indeed, examination of
language-internal constraints reveals that the community shares a single
variable grammar for LIKE (Poplack & Tagliamonte 2001). This feature is shown
to have developed gradually and systematically, arriving at its current state
through regular processes of language change. Using the grammaticalization
models proposed by Traugott (1997 ) and Brinton (forthcoming), it is
argued that after initially developing as a discourse marker, where it occurs
clause-initially and links sequences of dialogue (Fraser 1988, 1990), LIKE then
begins to enter syntactic structure, spreading to one maximal projection at a time.
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