Isn’t the perception of LIKE by California college students, like, paradoxical?


  • Pierre Habasque University Bordeaux Montaigne



LIKE, perception, stigma, gender, social meaning, Valley Girl, stereotype, California


This paper examines how California college students perceive vernacular functions of the word LIKE. It aims at testing the hypothesis that LIKE may potentially induce stigma because it can be perceived as a ‘female’ marker. Four versions of a short text were created from an original source. Texts featured either 30 occurrences of LIKE, 20, 10, or none at all. 123 participants were recruited and were asked to read only one version. They were then asked to rate their perception of the anonymous utterer on six variables: age, pleasantness, friendliness, education, competence, and gender. Finally, they were asked to describe what they associate with the speech style of a stereotypical persona: the Valley Girl. Results suggest that the number of LIKE in a text does not significantly influence the perception of an anonymous utterer, though participants do associate it with Valley Girl speak (Valspeak). Paradoxically, some participants report they despise the word LIKE but no evidence suggests they actually do stigmatize it in the perception study. 

Author Biography

Pierre Habasque, University Bordeaux Montaigne

Pierre Habasque is an adjunct at Université Bordeaux Montaigne, France. He teaches English linguistics and phonology. His research interests pertain to the relationship between perpetual dialectology and gender. His PhD dissertation explored how a misogynistic ideology may affect the perception of linguistic markers that can be traditionally perceived as ‘feminine’. He studied the linguistics of the Valley Girl (California) stereotype.


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How to Cite

Habasque, P. (2021). Isn’t the perception of LIKE by California college students, like, paradoxical?. Sociolinguistic Studies, 15(2-4), 247–270.