Reflecting On Your Language & How It Identifies You

June 22, 2021grusha

Hey guys!

One of Learnmate's tutor, Scott Ho, referred me a video on how language and identity are reflected in the discourse particle 'like'. This video is in fact, a TED talk and so is naturally a credible source, with the speaker being Vera Regan, an Associate Professor of Sociolinguistics in University College Dublin. I'd recommend watching the video here: 

Please take the time to watch it in your spare time as it's quite fascinating!

In Ireland, where this study took place, Vera found that there were two forms of 'like' being used in a non-standard manner:

  1. Clause Marginal (like) - a local usage of nonstandard 'like' in Ireland, where 'like' is added to the end
    1. Sure these things happen like
  2. Clause Medial (like) - a more global usage of nonstandard 'like'  - where like is in the middle
    1. E.g. He was like so feral

As Aussies, the first category, 'Clause Marginal' is rarely used in Australia, but the second category is used all the time. Examples of this include:

  • He was like so feral (the purpose of emphasis)
  • Can you like get off me? (purposes of emphasis)
  • He was like way tall! (the purpose of emphasis)

In the quantitative analysis done by her and her team, they found Polish migrants had a higher tendency towards the localised version of 'like', whereas the younger Irish population had a higher tendency towards the global usage of 'like'.


Vera believes that the main reason for this is that the younger Irish population had ASPIRATIONS of one day leaving the country to live abroad, hence the greater adoption of the global usage of like, whereas the Polish migrants tended to use the localised version of 'like' peculiar to Ireland. This allowed these migrants to show their ASPIRATIONS of staying in Ireland after recent migrant to the country (their stance and attitude as well).

So, you could very well argue that LANGUAGE and IDENTITY can be linked in the usage of the discourse particle 'like'.

A quote that really stood out to me:

“Language was reflecting their [Polish migrants] aspirations, stances and their attitudes”

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