It's like, so last decade.
Many years ago I wrote a seminar paper that I never published on the uses of non-canonical like. You know, it's like the like that's used by teenage girls. I don't know why I never published it, because what I found in my corpus study was not uninteresting: non-canonical like turned out not to be an unconstrained hedge, as I (and many others) had thought before. No, it was a far cry from ums and uhs and their discourse cousins. What I found in the corpus study of hundreds of thousands of words was that non-canonical like was actually pretty tightly syntactically constrained. There were three contexts where it occurred:
- Sentence initially: Like, what's going on here?
- After a verb, especially a copula: He's like, such a poser.
- After a preposition: Give me a pound of, like, black forest ham.
Anyway, I found myself thinking about non-canonical like again a few months ago, when I overheard the following conversation about an upcoming sale:
RH: Who told you about it? Do you know when it starts?
KF: My mother's, like, mail guy.
This was clearly a different case than the three I'd found in my initial corpus study. I haven't had time to do a detailed follow-up, but I've been paying more attention since overhearing that snippet, and I've started noticing a proliferation of other apparent counterexamples as well:
- My mom like doesn't even understand what it's about.
- She like can't get it through her head that he's never coming back.
Either way, I'm not sure who else is looking at this right now, but this seems like a topic ripe for (re?)visiting by some interested student of the syntax-pragmatics interface. :)