The sociolinguistic distribution of discourse marker like in preadolescent speech

Stephen Levey 1 , 1
  • 1 Queen Mary, University of London.


Discourse like is claimed to be rapidly spreading in urban centres throughout the English-speaking world (see Dailey-O'Cain 2000; Tagliamonte 2005; D'Arcy 2005; Cheshire, Kerswill and Williams 2005). Like is claimed to be particularly pervasive in the speech of adolescents (Andersen 2001). However, comparatively little is known about the distribution of discourse like in the speech of younger age groups. This paper reassesses the claims made by Miller and Weinert (1995), who suggest that discourse like is not acquired until relatively late, after the age of 10. Using a corpus based on the speech of a group of British preadolescents, I argue that not only are new uses of like encountered frequently in preadolescent speech, but that distributional differences between males and females, as well as between different age groups, point to significant aspects of the developmental acquisition of this discourse feature. Furthermore, using data from various languages, cross-linguistic parallels are highlighted between discourse markers that have a similar functional inventory to like in order to show that a number of languages have encoded comparable pragmatic functions using similar lexical sources.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Log in with your institution

Journal + Issues

Multilingua is a refereed academic journal devoted to multilingualism, language learning, intercultural communication and translating and interpreting in their social contexts. Multilingua focuses on critical sociolinguistic studies of language and communication in globalization, transnationalism, migration and mobility across time and space. It is an international forum for interdisciplinary research on linguistic diversity in social life.