September 28, 2007

Cartoon quotatives

In the last panel of this Zits strip, we see teenage quotatives in action -- but they're a bit behind the times:

First, quotative go, and then two occurrences of quotative (be) all.  Both of these, and quotative (be) like as well, are stereotyped as characteristic of teen talk.  People think teens use quotative all "all the time".  But these days it's easier to find examples in comic strips than on the street.  All rose as a competitor to like and go (and, of course, say) from the early 1980s to a peak roughly a decade ago and then declined; meanwhile, the combination (be) all like entered the competition, and by now most occurrences of quotative all are in this combination, and like on its own is the quotative of choice among the young (and is used by many others as well).  This history is described in two recent papers from the Stanford ALL project:

John R. Rickford, Isabelle Buchstaller, Thomas Wasow, & Arnold Zwicky.  2007.  Intensive and quotative all: Something old, something new.  American Speech 82.1.3-31.

Isabelle Buchstaller, John R. Rickford, Elizabeth Closs Traugott, Thomas Wasow, & Arnold Zwicky.  2006.  The sociolinguistics of an innovation in decline: quotative all.  Paper presented at NWAV 35.  Submitted for publication.

So Jeremy, above, sounds several years out of date. 

Note also the occurrence of DISCOURSE MARKER like in the second panel.  This has been widespread (among speakers of all ages) for a long time, and people have been objecting to it for a long time, characterizing it as a "meaningless tic" or an "empty filler" and the like (though there's a considerable literature arguing that it has a variety of meanings and uses).  In addition, people tend to lump quotative like and discourse-marker like together, even though they have obviously different syntax and semantics.  (When Patricia O'Conner filled in for William Safire in the NYT Magazine "On Language" column back on the 15th of July and cited me -- and Jennifer Dailey-O'Cain and Geoff Pullum -- on quotative like, a number of non-linguist friends wrote me to report on their annoyance at like.  But, though O'Conner had gone to some trouble to distinguish the quotative from the discourse marker and said that her column was specifically about the quotative, the messages from my friends were all about the discourse marker.)  So it's likely that prejudice against the discourse marker has slopped over onto the quotative.  In any case, a great many people are passionately negative about discourse-marker like, quotative like, AND quotative all -- a response that needs some explanation.  I'll save that for another posting.

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at September 28, 2007 02:17 PM