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Sociophonetic variation of like in British dialects: effects of function, context and predictability1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 September 2016

Department of English and American Studies, University of Salzburg, Unipark Nonntal, Erzabt-Klotz-Straße 1, 5020 Salzburg,
School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU,


This study examines sociophonetic variation in different functions of like among adolescents in London and Edinburgh. It attempts to determine the factors that may explain this variation. Our results suggest that the function of like correlates primarily with contextual factors, rather than the phonetic factors of vowel quality, /l/ to vowel duration and /k/ realisation. In particular, the preceding and following segments and their bigram predictability emerge as highly significant, in addition to the boundary strength following like. In both London and Edinburgh, the vowel appears to be the only non-contextual feature that is sensitive to the function of like: quotative be like is more likely to be monophthongised than other functions of like. We argue that the more monophthongal nature of quotative like is due to the syntactic and prosodic context in which it occurs.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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This research was funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC, grant AH/K003674/1, Erik Schleef PI). We are grateful to Fernanda McDougall and Patrycja Strycharczuk for assisting ably with coding and corpus handling. We thank Josef Fruehwald for providing us with the Praat script for speech rate, and Constantine Lignos for his assistance in extracting bigram frequencies from the SUBTLEX corpus. We also thank Maciej Baranowski, Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero, Tine Breban, Jenny Cheshire, Yuni Kim, Laurel MacKenzie and the members of the University of Manchester Phonology reading group for their expert advice on the topic. Particular thanks go to two anonymous reviewers for providing us with extremely helpful, considerate and insightful comments, which have shaped this paper. We alone are responsible for any failings or shortcomings that remain.


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