Evidence for ‘like’ as a Focus Marker
Received: Aug 18, 2020 ; Revised: Jan 11, 2021 ; Accepted: Feb 16, 2021
Published Online: Apr 30, 2021
Several functions have been proposed for the colloquial discourse particle like. This paper examines possible evidence for like as a focus marker. While this hypothesis seems plausible, it has been posited with insufficient definition or detail regarding the type of focus involved. It is also not clear how this aligns with other likely functions proposed for this discourse particle: for example, as a hedge marker or an approximator. This paper reports on a preliminary empirical study with small sets of conversational data of spoken colloquial American English. Its syntactic patterns and pragmatic usage suggest that like is used in a manner comparable to that of additive focus markers, exemplifiers, and other discourse markers. In such cases, it can function as an additive focus marker of indirect contrast, in addition to its well attested use as a hedge marker. Sentence-initial it’s like may have similar properties. Analyzing like as an additive marker allows for reconciliation of its various proposed functions by treating it as a multifunctional marker. The findings also indicate many avenues for further research.