What your speaking style, like, says about you

Vera Regan at TEDxDublin

Vera Regan at TEDxDublin

Vera Regan studies the way we use language. At TEDxDublin, the sociolinguist shares her research into a few global linguistic tics — including the many ways we “like” in English.

It turns out that how people use filler words like “like” reveals interesting details about how they see and interact with the world, Regan says. She and her team at University College Dublin studied the use of “like” by Polish transnationals in Ireland — people who had relocated to Ireland from Poland — noting that the non-standard use of “like” in English has two popular forms: one, the Irish like, which tacks like to the end or the beginning of a sentence (“I was there, like.” “Like, they came, too.”) and two, the global like, which places “like” in the middle of sentences or as a tag for speech (“I was, like, really tired.” “She was like, ‘Yeah.’”) and is commonly used by American, Canadian, Australian and British English speakers.

The team that found that those who learned English in Poland and then moved to Ireland were often using the Irish like, picking up the patterns of native speakers, despite neither being taught in standard English courses and no word-equivalence existing in Polish. Further, many were using the global like, as well. Why? Regan’s team was determined to find out. “We dug down,” she says, “we did qualitative analysis; we listened to their stories; and we discovered that those people who were using [the global like] were more likely to have their eyes fixed on global worlds. They wanted, perhaps, to move to another [place], an English-speaking country outside, while the [Irish like] users were those who strongly identified with Irish people. They were local-focused, and had long-term plans to stay in Ireland.”

“In either case, whichever they used,” Regan says, “language was reflecting their aspirations, their stances, their attitudes.”

Watch her whole talk to learn more:


  1. Olwyn

    As a native southsider, albeit from a working class background; with an interest in Linguistics, I found this fascinating. I am sure I used the Irish “like” regularly until modifying my speech when I moved to the UK twenty years ago in a bid to be accepted or at least understood and not ridiculed. However the consequences are, that the more formal syntax means you lose your identity/credibility within your native community especially if coupled with an “anglicised” vocabulary.

  2. Thank you Vera Regan, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to you.
    Please come to Australia, “Brisbane”, You will have a big audience here, its the conservative city!

    It would be a great sociolinguist debate! “Who is Right and who is Wrong”, since the English language has been changing for the past 100′s of years.

    If you do come to speak in Australia, please someone email me on to where you will be speaking. Thank you. Mariam

  3. Pingback: Series editor Vera Regan on changing language use | peterlangoxford

  4. Pingback: What does the way you speak say about you? | carrowmore publishing consultancy

  5. Daniel Camilo

    Why do Polish people use more the Irish like than the native speakers?

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