Abstract and Keywords
This chapter notes that the ultimate concern of variationist sociolinguistics is the evolution of linguistic systems and the mechanisms which operate on them. One feature that offers particularly good insight into these issues is the quotative be like, a relatively recent and robust change that has affected varieties of English worldwide. The chapter illustrates the types of theoretical issues that be like has been used to explore, beginning with the quantitative paradigm and the analytical assumptions underlying variationist work on direct quotation. It argues that what makes be like such a useful and powerful heuristic for testing theories of language change is variation and the constraints which operate upon it.
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