Date of Award


First Advisor

Nancy Bonvillain

Second Advisor

Eden-Renee Hayes

Third Advisor

Maryann Tebben


A linguistic exploration of the word like provides a mirror through which we can see current societal priorities. Beginning with the historical background of the use of the word like, from Old German and Old English through modern usage, I trace how like has changed and what it has changed into. The main focus is an innovative quotative using be + like: who uses it, and why could this grammaticalization (process of a word evolving from lexical to grammatical) could be occurring. Like is examined as a subjectivizing element in speech, used in the position of a particle or quotative to introduce a subjective quality in youth speech. This subjectivization is in turn explored in conjunction with the psychosocial concept of ‘face,’ and shown how like can be used to save face. Looking from a cultural perspective, I explore what possible changes in culture could have induced a change in the subjectivizing nature of today’s youth speakers, including influence from the Internet. Examples of subjectivizing words from other languages complete this exploration of a changing culture.

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