It’s like priming: An Investigation into the Priming and Audience effects for the Discourse Marker like.
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Research into priming has shown that it is possible to prime both words and syntactic structure in speech. Similarly, investigations into audience design and alignment have shown that language use and speech in general is designed for audience i.e. changes depending on to whom you are speaking. Studies in other languages have investigated how discourse marker usage can vary according to audience. In English, the discourse marker like has been found to be increasingly prevalent in speech (more so than other DMs) but its prime-ability and frequency of use when speaking for different audiences has not been investigated. This study presented participants with four short stories, verbally accounting an event that the speaker had experienced such as their first day at University. Each story had a primed and un-primed version (containing or not containing like). Participants recounted these stories to one of two audiences: a Student or a Lecturer, with the number of likes produced tallied per condition. Results showed no significant effect of audience, which was attributed to the low saliency of the ‘authority’ difference between lecturers and students. This condition may not have enforced the different levels of audience strongly enough to examine natural use of the discourse marker like. Priming showed a trend towards a significant effect, with more likes produced when re-telling primed stories than un-primed stories. This suggests that like may indeed be prime-able, and should be investigated further. In addition, results for the individual stories suggested that other factors such as naturalism and saliency of topic may have affected the re-telling of stories and priming of like.