Change in the syntax and semantics of be like quotatives

Haddican, B., Zweig, E. and Johnson, D. E. 2015. Change in the syntax and semantics of be like quotatives. In Biberauer, T. & Walkden, G. (eds.) Syntax Over Time: Lexical, Morphological, and Information-Structural Interactions, 54-71. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Be like as an introducer of quoted speech is innovative in many contemporary varieties of English. Recent corpus-based work on be like has suggested that as it has continued to spread, it has undergone syntactic and semantic change: be like predicates, originally used exclusively to describe states of individuals via reported thought, have taken on an additional guise as descriptors of saying events.

This paper reports on two judgement experiments with speakers of American English intended to further explore claims of syntactic and semantic change in be like quotatives. Our experimental results suggest that the direct speech and reported thought readings of be like are diffusing into American English at a similar rate.