Monday, May 20, 2013

Do I not like 'like'

There's a pretty sketchy and rather vague piece from yesterday's Mail on Sunday here which uses work on a corpus of contemporary English to make some rather sweeping claims about declining standards of "correct grammar". Needless to say, it's full of prescriptivist claptrap.

One of their particular bugbears is the apparently increased appearance of "like" in colloquial talk. Fair enough, they might not (like) like, it, but to claim that "The average English child is likely to say the word 'like' five times as often as his or her grandparents..." is a bit silly. The word's use may well have increased over time - no one would deny the growth of like as a filler - but that's not the only use we put it to. As, the excellent Linguistics Research Digest at QMUL points out, many linguists have started looking at how like has developed as a quotative (as can be seen in the excellent Zack bike transcript on their site) and even as what are called "it's like enactments". So, not just a word we use to fill a gap, but a word that's like lots of others, doing, like, lots of different jobs and not getting much, like, love.

Sadly, for the Mail, they also seem a bit confused about what grammar actually is. Is the pronunciation of 'going to' as 'gonna' really grammar? And, if they are so upset about declining standards, why write a sentence using just an adverbial clause of time ("While Janet Street-Porter and footballer David Beckham are viewed as more 'demotic'."). Tut tut.

But even worse than this is the response from the readers of this paper. In a bid to obtain Mick from Scunthorpe's crown as King of Unintentional Irony for his mighty "keep talking like that and see were it get`s you, muppets no wonder some kids are as thick as to short planks" comment about an article on youth slang in The Sun, a guy called "Big Kev" gets very angry about Jamaican accents. While showing a disdain for the accurate use of his own language (sic):

The fake 'Jamaican' accent seems to be norm amongst comprehensive educated children in London. The cockney accent may of had it's day.
Big Kev , New Addington, 18/5/2013 13:59

Black British English vs MLE

The latest episode of Lexis is out and it features an interview with Ife Thompson about lots of issues connected to Black British English, i...