“Telling it like it is”

On 12 September 2011, Marilyn Hedges received her Master’s degree from the University of Leiden (The Netherlands). Her thesis, which has the above title, is subtitled “An assessment of attitudes to language change based on the use of like“, and it was supervised by Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade and Dick Smakman (both from Leiden University Centre for Linguistics).

On the basis of a questionnaire, Marilyn studied attitudes to the use of like for as or as if, as in “Sunday is not observed like it used to be” and “It looked like it would rain”.

She found that these constructions, though they are strictly speaking ungrammatical, are now considered to be more acceptable than they were in the late 1960s, when a similar study was made. She also found that norms of correctness nowadays tend to come from informal rather than from formal usage, which looks like a very interesting development. And that it was very likely usage on the internet, in blogs or other social media, that played a role in this development.

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