Performed narrative: The pragmatic function of 'this is me' and other quotatives in London adolescent speech

Jenny Cheshire and Sue Fox

Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom

WS146: New Perspectives on New (and old) Quotatives

Performed narrative: The pragmatic function of ‘this is me’ and other quotatives in London adolescent speech

The emergence and rapid rise of new quotatives such as go and be like has been extensively documented in recent years (e.g. Tagliamonte and Hudson 1999; Macaulay 2001; Tagliamonte and D’Arcy 2004; Buchstaller 2004, 2006), with studies generally focusing on the distribution of the quotatives and the internal and external factors constraining their use. An investigation of London English (Cheshire and Fox 2007) has demonstrated that the use of these new quotatives has also spread into the speech of adolescents in London, but in inner London there is a new competitor within the quotative system, giving rise to the emergence of this is + subject as in the following examples:

i) this is me “what…what’s your ..what’s your problem?” (Zack_1, 1:27:05)

ii) this is them “what area are you from . what part? (Alex _1, 20:15)

In this paper we present findings from a corpus of 50 adolescents from an inner London borough, a multicultural area of social and economic diversity. The adolescents in the study are from a wide range of ethnicities and of working class background.

We report not only on the distribution of quotatives within the quotative system of the adolescents but widen our analysis to consider why and how new quotatives are introduced. Do new quotatives take over or fulfil a particular function depending on the speech event being reconstructed? Do different quotatives have different pragmatic functions? Which speakers adopt the innovative quotatives and can this inform our knowledge about the spread of innovative forms? Using a qualitative approach we analyse the ways in which the new quotatives go, be like and this is + subject are used and by whom they are used. We demonstrate that the choice of quotative depends to some extent on speaker characteristics and the type of personal experience being recounted. In particular, the use of this is + subject is elected when the narrative is ‘performed’ and the speaker adopts the stance of one of the participants in the event being constructed.


Buchstaller, I. (2004). The sociolinguistic constraints on the quotative system: British English and US English compared. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Edinburgh.

Buchstaller, I. (2006). Diagnostics of age-graded linguistic behaviour: The case of the quotative system. Journal of Sociolinguistics 10/1: 3-30.

Macaulay, R. (2001). You’re like ‘why not?’ The quotative expressions of Glasgow adolescents. Journal of Sociolinguistics 5/1: 3-21.

Cheshire, J. and Fox, S. (2007). This me, this is him: Quotative use among adolescents

in London. The Second International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English, Toulouse, July.

Tagliamonte, S. and Hudson, R. (1999). Be like et al. beyond America: The quotative system in British and Canadian youth. Journal of Sociolinguistics 3/2: 147-


Tagliamonte, S. and D’Arcy, A. (2004). He’s like, she’s like: The quotative system in Canadian youth. Journal of Sociolinguistics 8/4: 493-514.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
New Perspectives on New (and old) Quotatives
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 02