This article examines change in social and linguistic effects on be like usage and acceptability. Results from two studies are presented. The first set of data comes from a trend study with samples of U.K. university undergraduates collected in 1996 and 2006. While the effect of subject person, morphological tense, and quote content is constant in the two samples, the effect of speaker sex decreases. The second study is a judgment experiment with 121 native speakers of U.S. English, examining acceptability of be like in environments biasing direct speech and reported thought readings. The analysis reveals no interaction between age and the reported thought/direct speech contrast, suggesting no support for change in this effect on be like acceptability in apparent time. The two studies therefore converge in suggesting no evidence of change in linguistic constraints on be like as it has diffused into U.K. and U.S. Englishes.
We are grateful to the respondents of this study and to Sali Tagliamonte and Rachel Hudson for sharing their 1996 data set with us. Thanks also to Helen Lawrence and colleagues at the
University of York for help in contacting potential informants. Thanks to Alex D’Arcy, Tony Kroch, Sali Tagliamonte, and audiences at NWAV, DiGS, LingEvid 2010, and University of
Glasgow for comments on some of the material presented here. We are responsible for all errors.
- be like
- British English
- real time
- language variation and change