Quotative moments

Yesterday, Geoff Pullum posted an xkcd strip citing Patricia Cukor-Avila on “quotative like“, I linked to it, and lots of people on Facebook were impressed by the concept. So here a few words about quotative constructions, beginning with a wonderful exchange in a song from the 1996 album Love Is Dead by The Mr T Experience:

I’m like “Yeah”
but she’s all “No”
and I’m all “Come on baby, let’s go”
and she’s like “I don’t think so”

(with the quotative elements bolfaced). The guy and the girl go back and forth between quotative like and quotative all in their bargaining.

A quotative construction is a way of conveying direct, or quoted, speech, by reporting “speech or thought in its original form phrased by the original speaker” (link). In writing, the speech report is usually enclosed in quotation marks (as above).

English has a large number of quotative verbs: say, ask, announce, suggest, etc., plus all the manner-of-speaking verbs (whisper, shout, shriek, etc. — see my “In a manner of speaking” of 1971). In addition it has several relatively new vernacular quotative constructions, in particular:

with the verb go;
with the predicate (be) like;
and with the predicate (be) all

There’s a huge literature on quotative like, some on quotative go, and (thanks to a Stanford research project) a fair amount on quotative all. Research reports from Stanford, with extensive bibliography:

(John R. Rickford, Isabelle Buchstaller, Thomas Wasow, & Arnold M. Zwicky). Intensive and quotative all: Something old, something new. American Speech 82.1.3-31 (2007). (link)

(Isabelle Buchstaller, John R. Rickford, Elizabeth Closs Traugott, Thomas Wasow, & Arnold M. Zwicky). The sociolinguistics of a short-lived innovation: Tracing the development of quotative all across spoken and internet newsgroup data. Language Variation and Change 22.2.191-219 (2010). (link)

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