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Volume 55, Issue 4


Acquisition of sociolinguistic awareness by German learners of English: A study in perceptions of quotative be like

Julia Davydova / Agnieszka Ewa Tytus / Erik Schleef
  • English and American Studies, University of Salzburg, UniPark Nonntal, Erzabt-Klotz-Straße 1, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
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Published Online: 2017-06-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2017-0011


This article examines the perception of the quotatives be like and say among German learners of English. We compare their evaluations with findings made for native-speakers of English (Buchstaller 2014). We also attempt to pinpoint the factors underlying successful acquisition of social judgements on variation. Data comes from written verbal guise tests in which participants rated stimuli doublets, each containing only one of the quotative variants, on multiple social attribute scales. Broadly, learner evaluations seem to match those of native speakers, in that speakers using be like are considered more fashionable, extroverted, etc. and less educated, pleasant, etc. than speakers using say. Learners have also developed notions about typical users of the two quotatives. We argue that the acquisition of social meanings is mediated by a combination of factors that involve, among others, proficiency and length of time spent abroad and potentially interlanguage processes that result in the creation of new meanings. Moreover, we suggest that the learners re-analyze the native-like meanings attached to linguistic variants in their L2 grammars and create new meanings that draw on resources available in their learner ecology. We call this interlanguage ideological extension. Finally, the paper raises the question of the role played by the local – German – language ideologies in the development of L2 social meanings, and points to the urgent need for further experimental work on interlanguage attitudes.

Keywords: sociolinguistic competence/awareness; L2 acquisition; quotative be like; vernacular uses of like


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-06-21

Published in Print: 2017-07-26

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 55, Issue 4, Pages 783–812, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2017-0011.

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