1st place: Laura Jarvis, The Use of Like in Everyday Talk
The purpose of this research is to examine the usage of the word like. Like is most commonly thought of as a filler word for the inarticulate. However, some may argue that the use of like is actually a good, important thing. Like can actually be used to effectively fulfill the speakers’ needs. This research paper will focus on three unique instances of like tokens: non-authoritative like, focus like, and quotative like. Similar to other tokens, like is used in these ways to define or further expand a word or entity. Using ethnographic methods, like tokens among young adults, ages 19 to 27, from Massachusetts will be explored to unpack what purposes like serves.
Like tokens are commonly used in everyday talk across the globe and can be used in a variety of ways. Janet M. Fuller, an American sociolinguist, introduces like as having two main purposes, quotative and discourse marker. Quotative like, also known as “quotative be like,” is used colloquially to introduce a quotation or impersonation. For example, “After I shot the ball, the announcer was like, “GO:AL!” Here, the speaker utters like to introduce an impersonation of the announcer. Like as a discourse marker serves to organize discourse, or talk, into segments. However, in more recent years, like has been studied more closely and found to also serve as a focus marker. Focus like is used to introduce salient or new information. Here, like is restricted to precede the focused element. Furthermore, like is also used in many instances in order to avoid sounding elitist to the other party. In this case like also precedes the focused element but is used to avoid letting the question asker feel unintelligent and to avoid letting the question answerer seem like a know-it-all.
Overall, as Canadian sociolinguist Alexandra D’Arcy writes, “There is, in fact, an intricate lore surrounding like. It includes the idea that like is meaningless, that women say it more than men do, and that it is an Americanism, introduced by the Valley Girls.” Not only does my research intend to disprove this common theory, but I also wish to answer the following question: is the information presented after like the focus of the sentence? Further, does the sentence have a different meaning without like? Is the speaker using like to sound non-authoritative?
Therefore, I will analyze my data looking for personal like tokens and the context in which they are used. I will argue that like is more than a filler word for the inarticulate; it is used in everyday talk to add meaning and sustenance to sentences.
For my research, I used my cell phone to audio record two twenty-five minute casual conversations. The first of the two consisted of two college aged females and myself. The second of the two consisted of a college aged female, a male and female college graduate, and myself. All persons recorded fall in the age range between 19 and 27, and are all residents of Massachusetts.
After transcribing the first recording, the number of uses of like caught my attention. Therefore, after thoroughly listening to the entirety of each recording, I selected nine examples that highlight a variety of like functions.
The data and analysis below present a few of the many uses of like. First introduced is traditional like as a point for comparison. Next, I will discuss non-authoritative like, focus like, and quotative like.
In order to accurately study the “informal” uses of like, it is only fair to first research the traditional use of like. Formally, like is used as a preposition, a noun, an adjective, and a verb. But most concretely, traditional like is used as a verb to describe the speaker’s feelings about the topic. For example, “I like apples,” or “I do not like apples.” Here, like is used to show that the speaker finds apples enjoyable, agreeable, or satisfactory. Instead, the speaker could have said, “I would like an apple,” or “I would not like an apple.” This traditional use of like shows the speakers wish or want for an apple. Furthermore, traditional like can also be used as a noun. For instance, when getting to know a new person people often talk about their likes and dislikes.
The data presented below serves to portray like as a tool for sounding non-authoritative. Often times, in everyday talk people feel more comfortable speaking with another party when they’re both on a level playing field. Nobody wants to make anyone think they’re better than him or her. Therefore, non-authoritative like is used as a discourse marker before key information in order to sound less knowledgeable on the matter.
In example A below, Caroline is telling Jordan about how her company is working on a green project with Tesla. In this situation, Caroline is a recent college graduate working in human resources; thus, for her to have access to the information that the company she works for has relations with Tesla is great news for Caroline. Therefore, Caroline’s use of like is non-authoritative in attempting to not lead Jordan to believe that she thinks she’s better than him.
Caroline My company works for Tesla and they’re trying to create like a more renewable like //yeah
Jordan //Solar panels?
Specifically, Caroline uses like because she is sharing information that the other parties are not aware of. This use of like is called non-authoritative because the speaker wants to avoid creating authority over the other party. In situations where non-authoritative like is used, the two parties are traditionally of equal standings. Caroline and Jordan are both college graduates of roughly the same age, who are in fact, good friends. It would be inappropriate for Caroline to make herself sound smarter or more knowledgeable to a friend and therefore, she uses like. For instance, if one were to remove the like tokens from Caroline’s sentence, the tone would change. By removing like from Caroline’s sentence, she immediately sounds much smarter and more reputable.
In example B below, Alex is explaining to Jess that before they order any new field hockey apparel for their team, the logo has to be approved by UMass. Because Alex is the team treasurer, she is required at the meetings where this information was announced. Therefore, Alex has more information on the matter than Jess does.
Alex Oh I should mention to Liv like we have to get everything approved before we can order it
Jess What do you mean?
Alex They’re like, Regan and I went to one of the meetings, and they were like “UMass is changing their brand logo and like we’re giving everyone a year to like change their uniforms=
Jess =Wait what do you mean? So our brand logo is Adidas
Alex No like the UMass brand, like UMass as a brand itself
Jess O:h so they changed it?
Alex Yeah, now it’s like beveled
In the above exchange, Alex uses non-authoritative like to avoid sounding better informed than Jess or implying a feeling of superiority. Jess has no knowledge on the topic being discussed, and utters like zero times during the entire conversation. This data is evidence that like can be used to mark discourse by a speaker who is attempting to avoid sounding authoritative. In other words, if like were removed from the interaction, Alex’s tone would sound inappropriate. As Alex and Jess are peers, not uttering like in this situation would create a disproportionate relationship between the two speakers.
The data below present like as a discourse or pragmatic marker. Here, like is optional, has zero referential meaning, and no grammatical function. If like were to be removed from the below data, the meaning of the data would not change, but the tone might. As Canadian sociolinguist, Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain, writes, “These markers are considered to be optional rather than required, to have little inherent meaning or at least meanings which cannot be easily specified lexically, and to also have no clear grammatical function.” This presents focus like as an oxymoron, with a meaningless purpose. In fact, focus like indicates approximation or a looseness of meaning.
In example A below, Caroline is telling her friends about her brand new Subaru Impreza that she just bought with her own money. Caroline’s message is to prove how good her new car is on gas. In her message, Caroline focuses on three things: how often she drives, how long she drives for each time, and how often she fills her car up with gas. Each of the three focus points follows after a focus like. The focus like token is used by Caroline to emphasize each thing that makes her new car’s gasoline mileage so terrific.
Caroline I love my car now. My Impreza can last like I drive every single day like an hour and a half my Impreza probably lasts like more than a week without having to fill it up.
Caroline’s statement above contains three utterances of like, all which precede salient information to her main point. Here, like is used to emphasize what makes Caroline’s car so good on gas. In this example, like can be removed from the sentence and only change the meaning slightly. In this case, like is not a necessary utterance, but it helps to focus the discourse as well as add a different sound to it. Further, it is important to note the places in which like is not uttered, where it might sound out of place or unintelligible. For example, Caroline does not say, “my like Impreza lasts more than a week without having to fill it up.” If Caroline had used like in precession to the name of her new car, the use would not be that of a focus marker but rather lead to Caroline sounding less credible.
Below, example B displays both focus like and quotative like. Here, Jordan is comparing the phenomena that all white people look the same to Asian people. The main focus of his sentence is when he says, “that’s kinda like someone from like East Asia not being able to tell the difference between Scandinavian countries.” Though like is being used in a traditional, comparison form, it is also being used as a focus marker. Here, like is preceding the focus of Jordan’s main point.
Jordan That’s like okay that’s kinda like someone from like East Asia not being able to tell the difference between Scandinavian countries it’s like “well why would you? They’re all right next to each other and they’re all very similar looking and sounding people”
In example B, Jordan uses focus like because he is talking about a sensitive, controversial subject. Any discourse involving the discussion of race, is a controversial one. With that in mind, Jordan uses like to attract attention to his main points. Jordan believes that the information he is providing is accurate, despite being controversial. Therefore, focus like comes in handy as Jordan uses it to calibrate the listeners’ attention to his central argument. Though Jordan’s use of like certainly guides the other parties to the focus of his utterance, it is also easy to argue that Jordan uses like as a token of modesty. Because the topic at hand is so contentious, Jordan’s use of like could also be an attempt at politeness to avoid offending any persons from East Asia.
Below, example C shows instances of focus like and quotative like being used. Alex is explaining to Jordan how directly after leaving her studying everyday talk class, she has a hard time holding conversations with others because she is analyzing everything they say. Alex uses like before each new piece of information to her story.
Alex So: much, when I saw Tammy after my class the other day I like had a hard time like speaking because I was like too busy like analyzing like everything she was saying
Jordan Yeah I had a problem like that when like I would get high for a while it would just like, it was an infectious thought where I would, at first I was just really curious and intrigued about speech then after a while I was just like focusing way too much on like what I was saying and I was like “Stop it brain, stop it”
Jordan responds in agreement by sharing similar experiences when smoking marijuana. He explains to Alex that he would focus too much on what he was saying and not be able to stop it. Just as above, with each new, salient piece of information that Jordan provides, he precedes it with a like focus marker. Yet, in this case Alex is also using like in the non-authoritative sense, in attempt at not sounding “nerdy.” This is true, because if like was removed from Alex’s sentence, it might seem like Alex is a very school oriented person who enjoys talking about her classes. However, Alex instead uses like so that she does not come across as too “nerdy,” or intrigued by analytical talk.
In example D, Jess and Alex are discussing sweatpants sizes for their field hockey team apparel. Alex already has the sweatpants, so she is trying to help Jess choose the correct size. Focus like precedes each new piece of information.
Jess So I’m not gonna get the men’s, so if they fit your legs, like how much longer down do they go, like on your legs?
Alex They don’t like if I’m wearing them like at my hips like they sit on the top of my feet, like they’re pretty good
Jess Should I just do it?
Alex The women’s medium? Yeah
Both Jess and Alex use like directly before the main points of their sentences. Each time a like token is uttered, salient information follows it. In this use of like, like most other uses of focus like, like can be removed from the transcript and still be read smoothly. However, the use of like in the above example serves to help both Jess and Alex focus their thoughts as well as steer the other parties attention towards those thoughts. However, if like was uttered in different places, its use would not serve the use of a focus marker. For example, if Jess had asked, “How much longer do they go, on your like legs,” “legs” would not suddenly become the focus of her question. Jess is asking Alex about the length of the sweatpants and is using Alex’s legs as a reference point, not as the focus point.
Quotative like always takes on the form, “be + like,” having a specific meaning and serving a clear grammatical function. Dailey-O’Cain explains the “grammaticalization” of like as it has transitioned from focus to quotative. “Grammaticalization” is the process by which a lexical item acquires a new position as a grammatical form. Specifically, quotative like is used prior to an unuttered thought or personal monologue, or before a direct quotation.
The data below use like as a quotative element. In this case, like is used to introduce inner monologue or non-verbatim renditions of dialogue. Here, Jordan and Alex are discussing a world where in addition to their native language, everyone was able to speak English. In the first instance, Jordan is impersonating a snobby native English speaker, commenting on how they’re too good to learn any other language but their own. Jordan precedes his impersonation with a quotative like token, signaling that he is going to begin an impersonation.
Jordan I feel bad like, we have it so, I feel like we’re spoiled as fuck like everyone has to learn our language and we’re just like “Yeah we have a great language ours is the best”
Alex No that’s what I’m saying no that’s why I really wanna learn every language so I can help everyone, I think like it’d be really cool if everyone knew English
Jordan And I agree, I think that’s one of the huge barriers for world peace honestly because it’s how countries keep their own people in the dark. Like you know what I’m talking about with war? I honestly think if everyone was fluent in the same language worldwide=
Alex =Yeah like you literally can’t understand what someone means you can not translate it like you can not
Jordan But like imagine how much like wars even would like violent wars would go down because like the citizens of all the countries would be like “Yo I just talked to those guys today and they would not like you know”
In the first instance of quotative like, Jordan is impersonating a snooty English speaking person. In the second instance of quotative like, Jordan is impersonating a leader of a country in a world where everyone knew how to speak English. Jordan’s quotation only follows after he has introduced it with a like marker. In this case, like cannot be removed from the sentence and leave the sentence with the same meaning. Quotative like is necessary in setting up speaker attitude or non-verbatim renditions of dialogue.
In example B below, Alex is telling Tammy about how her dad bought her a new car and she was nervous it would always look dirty because it’s white. In this interaction, Alex uses quotative like three times to represent non-verbatim renditions of dialogue.
Alex I was so: nervous about mine, cause like my dad got me the car so I didn’t, you know, say what I wanted, I was like “Whatever, whatever,” like I’m not gonna ask for anything, then he got a white car, I was like “e:h I don’t know about white cars”=
Tammy Oh really?
Alex Yeah cause I was like “It’s gonna be gross all the time,” and it’s like so: nice
Alex uses quotative like as an element to her story, in order to portray how she was feeling during that past situation. Alex uses quotative like before each quotation, letting the other party know that she is stepping outside of the present moment and impersonating herself in the past tense. Without the use of quotative like, Alex’s dialogue would not sound as smooth or comprehensible.
In example C below, Allie, Alex, and Jess are discussing possible costumes for Halloween. All three women are college students at UMass Amherst. Alex is telling Allie and Jess about her plans to dress as an alien for Halloween, since she already has a silver dress for it. Alex is saying how she didn’t really like the dress and has never worn it, so Halloween would be the perfect time.
Allie Some of my friends are being aliens
Alex I bought this like silver dress for new years and like didn’t wear it because I was like “What is this?”
Jess I might be like a fucking mermaid
Allie I’m gonna be a house wife
Alex precedes her question with a quotative like. Alex is telling the story about buying the silver dress, and uses like to signal that she is referencing a previous inner monologue. In this case, and in most cases of quotative like use, the sentence would sound unnatural without like infused. Like serves to set up the quotation by signaling to the other party that the speaker is changing character. Further, this use of quotative like contributes to a youthful, not too serious persona as it captures Alex’s state of mind and alludes to a certain tone. Alex’s use of like is not intended to capture verbatim inner monologue, but rather to portray how she was feeling and thinking at the time.
Not only does my research reaffirm like as a non-authoritative, focus, and quotative discourse marker, but also whispers about the versatility of like. Through my research, I discovered variations of like which are used for more than one purpose. As a result, I conclude that like is more than a meaningless filler word. Through my data I have proved that like is used among many young adults for a variety of purposes. Non-authoritative like is commonly used by a speaker to let the other party know that they are equals, focus like is used to guide the other party to and from the main points of the speaker’s utterance, and quotative like serves to introduce feelings and tones through non-verbatim renditions of dialogue or monologue.
As D’Arcy writes, “Inevitably, language change is always most advanced among younger speakers.” Unfortunately, as language continues to change, this change becomes synonymous with degradation. However, more vocabulary and definitions allow speech to become more closely aligned with actual thoughts. In fact, we are getting better and better at communicating as we find more and more meanings in the world of language.
Dailey-O’cain, Jennifer. “The Sociolinguistic Distribution of and Attitudes Toward Focuser like and Quotative like.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 4.1 (2000): 60-80.
D’arcy, A. “Like And Language Ideology: Disentangling Fact From Fiction.” American Speech 82.4 (2007): 386-419.
Fuller, Janet M. “Use of the Discourse Marker like in Interviews.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 7.3 (2003): 365-77.
Rickford, J. R., T. Wasow, A. Zwicky, and I. Buchstaller. “Intensive And Quotative All: Something Old, Something New.” American Speech 82.1 (2007): 3-31.
 Bolded “like” signifies its use as a quotative discourse marker.
2nd place: Julia Jagannath, Constructed Dialogue in Conversational Narratives
Individuals in conversational narratives often interject their own interpretation when representing another person’s voice. The world an individual constructs through talk is a subjectively constituted world. Therefore, this study primarily focuses on how a speaker can impose his or her own perspective within a conversational reenactment. A narrator’s constructed world is not necessarily bad, but is telling of their views of society, life and themselves. According to Deborah Tannen, in the book, Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse, when speakers represent another’s dialogue they are not “reporting” actual speech but indicating their own perspective of the utterance. She explains that language framed as dialogue is always “constructed dialogue”. By definition, constructed dialogue is a term used in conversation analysis to describe a re-creation or representation of actual, internal, or imagined speech in storytelling or conversation. Using ethnographic methods, instances of constructed dialogue will be explored through a multitude of recorded conversations to provide insight into how speakers incorporate their own perspectives within the constructed dialogue in stories.
The collections of data below are different examples of conversational narratives where constructed dialogue is present. The format of the constructed dialogue is consistent with Tannen’s description of “like” + “to be” verb tense. The following examples provide strong evidence that a narrator imposes his or her perspective within the constructed dialogue. The narrator supports his or her perspective in construct dialogue with a type of evaluation. This is consistent to Labov’s structure of narratives.
The conversation below is between A and her two friends, K and J. She is describing the phone call she had with her brother about his recent break up with his girlfriend.
Example 1: Constructed Dialogue of a Female Narrator Reenacting a Male’s Voice.
Sub-Category: Family (sister-brother) Relationship
- A: My brother called (.2) like last Saturday (.4) and was like (.2) uhm Allie, like
- Isabel just told me, that’s his ex girlfriend (.2)
- the one who (.) they were gonna like break up (.2) but like be together when
- they go ho::me=
- J: =uh huh
- A: and he was like, she told me she’s been seeing like some other guy like at
- scho::ol but like when she comes home (.2) she like still wants to go back to us (.)
- being boyfriend and girlfriend (.2)
- A: She says its nothing. but li::ke she’s been hooking up wit- sleeping with him 10. two weeks after like (.2) like she didn’t see m::e anymore, but I was wo:w,
- she moved on like rea::ly fast. (2)
- (background loud conversations)
- A: it’s just so sad
- J: I kno//w
- K: //what’d you say to him?
- A: I was like, uhm, honestly Greg, if she is going to move on ^that^ fast, I know it 17. sucks to hear bu::t she’s not who you think she was.
In order to observe the constructed dialogue within the narrative, we must first identify if the conversation could be a story according to Labov’s definition. Labov notes that a particular time must be expressed. In this example, A explains that her brother called her last Saturday. Therefore, a particular time has been established. Next, Labov explains that the event discussed must be “newsworthy” or interesting enough to be shared. For the above conversation, A is discussing her brother’s ex-girlfriend which is interesting to K and J because they know the people involved, and it is breaking news. Lastly, Labov expresses that an evaluation of the event should be present. In this example, A evaluated the event when she shared what her response to her brother was. These three characteristics identify that A is telling a story.
Before discussing the constructed dialogues in the narrative, it is important to note the relationship between teller and audience as well as the relationship between teller and participants in the story. Since an audience shapes talk, the reconstructed dialogues in conversations are ultimately shaped by the audience’s connection to the teller. Therefore, the teller’s constructed self (in the present) in relation to the audience affects the way a narrator reconstructs the dialogue. In the example above, K and J are friends, teammates, and roommates with A. They have both met her brother, heard him talk, and acknowledge the close relationship A and her brother have. Since A assumes her audience and she all have the same understanding her reconstructed dialogue fits this relationship.
As for the constructed dialogue within the narrative, we can identify that there are at least five examples present in the transcription. In line 1, A tells her audience that her brother called. She is therefore establishing whose voice she will reenact in followed constructed dialogue. By establishing a relationship between the narrator and the voice in the constructed dialogue, the audience is immediately persuaded to make an assumption about the relationship and how the constructed dialogue should or will sound. In line one A writes, “was like” which follows Tannen’s structure for a “formulaic introducer”. This indicates that what she is about to say is something that will be very similar to what was actually said. By using the word like, what A is about to say is not verbatim what she heard, but a recollection and reciting of the conversation. In line 6, A repeats the phrase, “he was like” which initiates an introducer to a constructed dialogue. In line 9, the constructed dialogue is no longer A reenacting what her brother said, but is now A reenacting what her brother said when he was reciting what his ex-girlfriend said to him. In line 10, A is reciting what her brother said. Finally, in line 16, A is reciting herself and the response she gave during the conversation, which not only follows Labov’s necessity for an evaluation, but is a completely different approach to the constructed dialogue since the constructed dialogue is of herself rather than a different participant.
The words A chooses to emphasize or repeat provide evidence that A inserted her own perspective on the situation through the constructed dialogue. In line 9, A stops in the middle of the word “with” and self repairs her unfinished word with the phrase “sleeping with him two week after” where she emphasizes the phrase “two weeks”. In line 10, A emphasis the “o” vowel sound in wow with emphasis on the phrase, “moved on”. She extends the vowel sounds in the word “really”. The specific words A chooses to emphasize suggest that these words or phrases had some importance of her opinions with the story and complicating action. To A, it can be inferred that the time frame of two weeks (the time the ex-girl friend took to hook up with someone else after the last time she saw her brother) was too short of a time period to move on to someone new. By emphasizing the “o” vowel sound on the word “wow”, she shows that she was surprised by the quick turn around for her brother’s ex-girlfriend to find someone new. This inference is confirmed when A shares her constructed dialogue of herself and her response to her brother.
The conversation below is a friend sharing the text message she received from her ex. She is not directly reading the text from her phone, but is reciting what the text said from her memory.
Example 5: Constructed Dialogue with Text Messages
Sub-Category: “Ex” (boy-girl) Relationship
- J: Ya no::o, (.2) what’s it called, um::m yeah Ollie texted me:: Sunday night, I
- J: and was just like Hey, I wan::ted to tex:t yo::u to ^catch up^and I hope m::y,
- what:: I did on Saturday didn’t p^i^s::s you of’((haha)) I literally read it and was 6. like,
- T: He’s just trying I guess
- J: (uh:k)
- T: I, I:: don’, I don’t kno::w //ma’
- J: //I literally read it and I go I haven’t said a word to you in 11. si’, in::, since you took care of Kelsey ((laughs))
- T: I don’t know, maybe, maybe that’s his way of just tryna na’ tryna keep things 13. from moving backwards instead of forward ya ^know^?
- J: I don’t know my friend, I thought you would have more insight
- T: I don’t know ma::n.
Just like in the other example, we must first identify if this is a narrative. A particular time is established when J tells T the time at which she received the text message (Sunday night). The conversation is about an “ex” texting her after they had not spoken in awhile which is out of the ordinary and therefore interesting. As for the necessary evaluation, J shows her “shocked” reaction and evaluation to the text message through a three second pause. However, in line 12, T tries to give an evaluation of the text message sent. Line 13, we see J searching for help on an evaluation of the situation. The relationship between narrator and audience is important because the audience, T, is roommates with Ollie. Therefore, T knows Ollie personally, and T could have insight as to why the text was sent if Ollie had already talked to him. Since J knows that T is roommates with Ollie, it is more likely that J will try and persuade T in her constructed dialogue to understand her interpretation and side of the situation.
The constructed dialogue is observed in lines 4, 5-6, and 9. At the beginning of line 4, J is reading the text aloud. However, this example of constructed dialogue within a conversational narrative is unique because the form of communication was from a text message rather than a previous conversation. Text messages received are solely under the interpretation of the recipient. Since the recipient cannot hear the tone of voice of the sender, he or she must try and make sense of the message in relation to a previous text or situation. Therefore, a text message already is under the influence of the recipient’s perception so by J reading the text aloud, J is forcing T to hear her interpretation and perspective. The audience also knows that J is reciting the text from memory rather than just directly reading the text when she initiates a self-repair in line 4-5 with the words “my” and “what”. Reading a text directly helps to eliminate the possibility of misspeaking during reenactment. However, when listening to the recording, I noticed that J changed the tone of her voice to a lower sounding pitch when she recited the text. This was most likely done to try and “match” a male’s voice. The words J emphasizes in the reciting the text are crucial to understanding her evaluation and perspective within the text. First, she extended the “n” sound in the word “wanted”, and extended the vowel sound on the “o” in you. Next, she says the phrase “catch up” in a slightly higher pitch. Listening to the recording, I noticed that her tone of voice with this phrase seemed sarcastic and almost said in a mocking tone. The next word J strongly emphasizes is the word “piss”. Even though the text said, “I hope my what I did on Saturday didn’t piss you off”, when J recited the text she emphasized certain words that was supporting evidence that she was pissed. She knew he did not want to just catch up.
The examples provided above clearly show that conversational narratives that have constructed dialogue allow a speaker to interject his or her own perspective on the action. In each conversation, specific words were emphasized in the constructed dialogue that ultimately foreshadowed and supported the narrator’s evaluation of the situation. Most narrators are guilty of constructing talk in a way that tells their audience about themselves, their views, theirs likes, and sometimes their dislikes. They create a subjectively constituted world through their talk. Narrators often try to use talk to accurately and objectively define the facts of the world. However, many are not just reciting the actual, empirical world and speaking objectively but are representing their opinion and understanding of the world. A narrator’s story tries to help make sense of the world in hopes that their audience can agree and follow along. The relationship between narrator and audience is crucial when observing whether the narrator’s subjectively created world is understood and ultimately accepted. Each of the conversational narratives above followed Labov’s structure for a story. The introduction formatting for the constructed dialogues were all consistent with Tannen’s claim of it being a verb phrase “to be” followed by the word “like” in the English language. This format is a reminder that the constructed dialogue is not an exact representation, but is part of the world the narrator created through talk. For further exploration and supporting evidence that a narrator’s perspective is shown through constructed dialogue, one could study how a male narrator reenacts a female’s voice and compare the two different styles of talk.
3rd place: Michael Hagerty, Podcasting and Youth: Resource Guide on Youth Radio
- Introduction 2
- Themes and Examples 3
- Youth Radio Organizations 4
- Other Forms of Youth Media 10
- Conclusion and Podcast 11
In a digital age, youth are finding more ways to express themselves to an audience. As podcasting becomes more popular, youth are producing audio for storytelling. These stories are giving representation to a population that typically does not have a voice. Youth radio has emerged as a powerful tool for children, teenagers, and students in order to offer a unique perspective in the media.
It is important to recognize that my background is in student-run college radio and public radio. Often linked to public radio, youth radio strives to produce compelling and unusual stories as NPR and college radio does. But youth radio is not unique to the US — it is found globally and is found to be utilized for various intentions. In Africa, youth commonly broadcast to spread awareness and to educate communities about different subjects. In the US, youth radio is often used as a platform for self-reflection.
Many organizations provide a space for youth to create content and educational resources such as workshops to improve student’s ability to write stories and produce sound. This guide will analyze themes of youth radio and five organizations who are great examples of what it means to be a youth radio station.
You will see a pattern in themes found in youth radio productions. A majority of themes listed below surround the notion of empowerment, giving representation to a wide range of people, and education. These examples were produced by Public Radio Exchange (PRX), WNYC, Transom, and Youth Radio.
Themes and Examples:
- Body: Body Modification Segment (PRX via Littleglobe)
- Body: Tattooed Teens (PRX via City High Radio)
- Bullying: One Student’s Quest to Avoid Fights at School (Radio Rookies)
- Bullying: Portrait of the Bully as a Young Man (Transom)
- Culture: Am I Latina Enough? (Youth Radio)
- Culture: La Oportunidad (PRX)
- Disabilities: Asthma as a Disability: A Family’s Struggle With Chronic Illness (Youth Radio)
- Disabilities: Different, Not Disabled (Transom)
- Fashion: Why Kids Today are into Clothing Brands (PRX via KBEM)
- Gender: Embracing Gender Nonconformity in the Age of Trump (Youth Radio)
- Growing Up: Not All Bad Things (Transom)
- Growing Up: Running From Myself (Transom)
- Health: How Badly I Want My Dad To Quit Smoking (Youth Radio)
- Health: My Struggle With Obesity (Transom)
- Mental Health: Suicide Show Segment (PRX via Littleglobe)
- Music: Hot 5: Favorite New Tracks This Week (Youth Radio)
- Politics: Youth Radio Podcast: Immigration (Youth Radio)
- Politics: Hopes For the Trump Era: What Teens Want (Youth Radio)
- Relationships: High School Relationships (Youth Radio)
- Science: Californians, Have Your Water Habits Changed? (Youth Radio)
- Sexuality: Battling Homophobia at East Side Community School (Radio Rookies)
- Sexuality: Not the Right Kind of Gay (Radio Rookies)
- Social Justice: Seven Schools Later, One Student’s View of Segregation (Radio Rookies)
- Social Justice: The Politics of Gentrification (WNYC via Radio Rookies)
- Sports: Even Super Bowl Ads Take a Turn Political (Youth Radio)
- Youth Empowerment: Blunt Youth Radio (Transom)
- Youth Empowerment: Children’s Radio Foundation in South Africa (Transom)
- Public Radio Exchange (PRX) Library
- Transom: A Showcase and Workshop for New Public Radio Examples
- Youth Radio Library
Youth Radio Organizations
Production Company (Domestic):
Youth Radio | Oakland, CA
- About: Youth Radio was founded in 1993 in Berkeley, California. Established as a space for youth representation in the media, the nonprofit moved its headquarters to Oakland and has since opened additional bureaus in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, DC. Youth Radio has received two Peabody Awards (2001, 2011) and is often featured on NPR, PBS, and the Huffington Post.
- Mission: “Youth Radio’s mission is to launch young people on career and education pathways by engaging them in work-based learning opportunities, creative expression, professional development, and health and academic support services.”
- Demographics: Low-income 14-to-24-year-old high school students and young people throughout the Bay Area.
- Funding: donation based, grants (National Endowment For The Arts Grant) (National Science Foundation Grant)
- Coming of Age: “What are the experiences in our lives that shape our character? Follow the stories of Youth Radio’s teen reporters as they grapple with their identities, test their beliefs, and chase their curiosities.”
- Education: “Your source for youth perspectives on trends, policies and innovation in education.”
- Health: “Your source for youth perspectives on health topics and policies.”
- Juvenile Justice: “Your source for youth perspectives on juvenile justice issues and trends.”
- outLoud: “outLoud Radio is now at Youth Radio, continuing its mission to increase the wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer young people by helping them develop the skills and confidence to decide for themselves how they will be represented, advance social justice and make the most of their lives.”
- Podcasts: “From news to pop-culture and everything in-between, a roundup of the best youth-produced coverage from our award-winning newsroom.”
- Politics: Your source for youth perspectives on the political landscape.
- Science: “Your source for youth perspectives on the environment, science, technology, and engineering.”
- Special Coverage: Projects covering larger issues produced from a youth perspective.
- Sports: Your source for youth perspectives on the sports industry.
- Technology: “Your source for youth perspectives on the culture of technology, digital media, and the arts.”
- Project Example: Transgender Rights (20:02) March 10, 2017
- This particular podcasts examines the Government’s decision to no longer require schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. Teenagers discuss one specific example of Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen from Virginia who is fighting to use the high school bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity.
- Opportunities for Education: Youth Radio offers lesson plans on various aspects to radio production. Courses are also available at Youth Radio. Here are some “DIY Toolkits”, which include audio narration and step-by-step direction:
Production Company (Global):
Children’s Radio Foundation | Africa
- About: Children’s Radio Foundation works in 6 African countries by providing youth with technology and education for radio production.
- Democratic Republic of Congo: 2 locations, 44 youth trained-reporters
- Themes: marginalization of indigenous people, LGBT rights, and youth livelihood
- Ivory Coast: 6 locations, 64 youth trained-reporters
- Themes: education/scholarization, gender issues, health (sexual reproductive health and rights, HIV/AIDS), new technologies, civic education, child labor and abuse
- Liberia: 3 locations, 34y outh trained-reporters
- Themes: teenage pregnancy, unemployment and educational challenges,
- South Africa: 17 locations, 264 youth trained-reporters
- Themes: sexual reproductive health and rights, gender and LGBTI, HIV/AIDS, violence and safety, financial literacy, and education.
- Tanzania: 8 locations, 175 youth trained-reporters
- Themes: civic education and engagement, girl child rights and early pregnancies, and HIV/AIDS.
- Zambia: 10 locations, 135 youth trained-reporters
- Themes: climate change, food security, other critical environmental issues.
- Mission: Children’s Radio Foundation organizes community radio stations where youth are taught how to produce radio that educates and informs others about struggles certain communities face.
- Funding: donation based
- Educational Resources:
- How to start a youth radio project in your community
- A facilitators handbook created by Unicef and Children’s Radio Foundation
- Learning Room
- “An online platform that places the work of Children’s Radio Foundation in dialogue with youth, educators, other organizations, and experts in order to interact, exchange methods, and participate in building a global network.”
- How to start a youth radio project in your community
- Democratic Republic of Congo: 2 locations, 44 youth trained-reporters
Educational Program (Local):
NEPR Media Lab | Springfield, MA
- About: New England Public Radio, or WFCR, first broadcasted in 1961 in Hampshire House at UMass Amherst. In 2014, NEPR moved its location to Downtown Springfield into a new space offering state-of-the-art equipment and more opportunity for community involvement.
- Mission: “New England Public Radio’s Media Lab is a youth training initiative designed to teach the tools of radio for the purpose of telling stories in sound.”
- Demographics: (ages 14 to 18) high school students from Springfield and Holyoke.
- Funding: donation based
- Opportunities for education: “Through basic journalism and audio production, participants learn to tell stories with sound. The curriculum includes learning how to interview, writing for radio and producing commentaries and radio features. During the school year, Media Lab is an after school program that meets twice per week for two and half hours for twelve weeks. During the summer, the term is six weeks with sessions meeting three times per week for three hours. Semesters start in September, February and July.”
- Similar Programs:
- Philly Youth Radio Philadelphia, PA
- “Youth radio apprentices engage in intensive radio production workshops to produce stories about issues important to them and their communities.”
- Zumix Radio Boston, MA
- “Empowered youth who use music to make strong positive change in their lives, their communities, and the world.”
- WNYC New York, NY
- PRX Cambridge, MA
- Generation PRX Resources
- “Connecting youth radio makers, educators, and listeners”
- Generation PRX Resources
- Philly Youth Radio Philadelphia, PA
Educational Program (Global):
Youth Radio Rocks | United Kingdom
- About: “Youth Radio Rocks is an online youth powered radio station that showcases UK youth radio talent. On air 24/7 and powered by the passion of its participants, it’s taking online broadcasting to a new level and giving youth a voice.”
- Mission: “No individual or group should be excluded from radio participation and we like to cater for absolutely everyone. We pride ourselves in continuing to work with youth from all backgrounds, creating an experience of conversation and a big bag of the F word. Fun. It’s not just about taking the mic and yattering away, it’s very much about building confidence, increasing social interactivity all whilst learning some essential new skills in the field of communication.”
- Demographics: UK Youth
- Content: Listen live via their Pop Up Player
- Educational Resources: Youth Radio Rocks offers radio workshops that help build social interaction, install confidence and showcase UK talent The workshops have been created exclusively for Youth Radio Rocks by Industry Professionals that have worked in Award Winning, Commercial, BBC, Community and School radio stations.
- Workshops include: studio set up, show planning, the basics of presenting, preparing for a guest interview, advanced techniques, and studio operation including mixing.
Student Audio Network (Online):
Now Here This | Providence, RI via Brown University
- About: Now Here This is an online platform for student-produced audio storytelling. It was started at Brown University in 2014. At Brown, Now Here This publishes audio stories and records live storytelling events with the Brown Storytellers.
- Mission: “We’re now in the process of expanding to host student stories from across the country and develop tools and resources for new producers. Our goal is to promote student-produced storytelling and foster a new generation of audio storytellers by teaching students the skills of audio storytelling and providing them with a platform where they can showcase and promote their work. Basically, we want to make it easier for students to get their foot in the radio-door.”
- Demographics: college-aged students
- Funding: Brown University
- Content: Now Here This Story Archive
Other forms of Youth Media:
Gandhi Brigade Youth Media | Washington, DC
- About: “Gandhi Brigade is an afterschool program that empowers young people in the Washington, DC region to use multimedia as tools to promote community building, multicultural understanding and the common good.”
- Mission: “Gandhi Brigade Youth Media provides programs that empower youth to be leaders in their communities, keeping the importance of youth voice as its priority.”
- Content: Gandhi Brigade Youth Media’s YouTube Page
Street-Level Youth Media | Chicago, IL
- About: “Street-Level Youth Media educates Chicago’s urban youth in media arts and emerging technologies for use in self-expression, communication, and social change.”
- Mission: “Street-Level’s programs build critical thinking skills in youth who have been historically neglected by policy-makers and mass media. Using video and audio production, digital arts, and the Internet, Street-Level’s young people address community issues, access advanced communication technology, and gain inclusion in our information-based society.”
- Content: Street-Level Youth Media Programs
In order to communicate my understanding and reflection on youth radio, I have produced a podcast that includes examples of youth radio and narration. This was recorded and mixed at WMUA Amherst and features music from creative commons via WFMU Jersey City. Below is a link to the podcast via Google Drive and a transcript to follow.
[0:00-0:30] MH: YOUTH RADIO SHARES MANY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN COLLEGE AND COMMUNITY RADIO. THEIR PROGRAM PHILOSOPHIES PUSH TOWARDS PROMOTING EDUCATION AND EMPOWERMENT. BUT YOUTH RADIO’S KEY DIFFERENCE IS THE ABILITY TO VOICE AN UNDERREPRESENTED POPULATION IN CHILDREN, TEENS, AND STUDENTS. FOR THE FIRST TIME, MASS MEDIA IS BEING PRODUCED BY YOUTH, FOR YOUTH. THESE YOUNG PRODUCERS ARE CREATING COMPELLING STORIES FOR THE AIRWAVES AND YOU WILL HEAR FROM 3 DIFFERENT YOUTH RADIO PROGRAMS.
[0:42-1:24] MH: YOUTH RADIO IS THE NAME OF A NON-PROFIT PRODUCTION COMPANY BASED IN OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA. YOUTH RADIO WORKS WITH LOW-INCOME HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS AND YOUNG PEOPLE THROUGHOUT THE BAY AREA. THEY PROVIDE TEENS WITH A PLATFORM FOR CREATIVE-EXPRESSION AND PREPARE THEM FOR PROFESSIONAL AND ACADEMIC CAREERS BY ENGAGING THEM IN WORK-BASED LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES, AND SUPPORT SERVICES.
GENDER EQUALITY IS A COMMON SUBJECT HEARD ON YOUTH RADIO. IN THE CASE OF THE BATHROOM BILL, MUCH OF THE CONVERSATION IS BEING MADE BY OLDER CIS WHITE MEN, WHILE TRANSGENDER YOUTH ARE LEFT WITHOUT SAY.
RECENTLY, YOUTH RADIO AIRED A SEGMENT ANALYZING TRANSGENDER RIGHTS DURING THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FROM A HIGH SCHOOLER’S PERSPECTIVE:
[2:02-2:21] MH: THAT PIECE WAS TITLED TRANSGENDER RIGHTS AND WAS PRODUCED BY DESMOND MEAGLEY AND MAYA GODFREY OF YOUTH RADIO.
CHILDREN’S RADIO FOUNDATION SUPPLIES YOUTH IN AFRICA WITH TECHNOLOGY AND EDUCATION TO PRODUCE STORIES ABOUT WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO THEM. ONE TEEN DISCUSSED TEENAGE PREGNANCY, AND THE STIGMAS CONNECTED TO IT.
[3:03-3:46] MH: THIS FORM OF YOUTH RADIO HAS THE INTENT TO EDUCATE AND SPREAD AWARENESS OF SOCIAL ISSUES IMPACTING YOUNG WOMEN IN SOUTH AFRICA. OTHER PODCASTS MADE HERE COVER TOPICS LIKE CHILD LABOR AND ABUSE, CLIMATE CHANGE, AND FOOD SECURITY.
YOUTH RADIO SEEKS TO EMPOWER YOUTH. AN ORGANIZATION EXEMPLIFYING THIS IS BLUNT RADIO. AS FOUNDER CLAIRE HOLMAN SAYS, BLUNT IS ABOUT, “YOUTH EMPOWERMENT THROUGH DIRECT MEDIA ACCESS.IT’S THEIR SHOW. FROM THE FIRST IDEA, TO THE FEATURES, TO THE LIVE BROADCAST.”
FOR JOHANNA GREENBERG BLUNT RADIO, SEX WAS AN AVOIDED CONVERSATION. TAKING RESPONSIBILITY INTO HER OWN HANDS, JOHANNA CONFRONTS HER PARENTS, WHO IS STILL RELUCTANT TO SHARE.
[3:47-04:10] [BLUNT RADIO: LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX (00:35-00:58)]
[4:11-04:32] MH: JOHANNA USED A MICROPHONE TO TACKLE SOMETHING THAT, ACCORDING TO HER PIECE, IS ORDINARY AMONGST YOUTH. THIS MOMENT ILLUSTRATES THE POWER RADIO HAS TO RECORD HONEST AND EMOTIONAL MOMENTS THAT SHED LIGHT ON UNSPOKEN TOPICS.
JOHANNA ALSO USES THIS TIME AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO OFFER ADVICE TO PARENTS STRUGGLING TO BRING UP THIS CONVERSATION.
[5:12-5:47] MEDIA IS A POWERFUL TOOL THAT IS USED TO SEND MESSAGES. WHEN THE PRODUCERS OF MEDIA ARE NOT INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS, THE CONTENT SEEMS TO CARRY MORE MEANING. YOUTH MAY NOT CONNECT WITH THE MESSAGES CREATED BY OLDER PRODUCERS WHO ATTEMPT TO CURATE AND ESTABLISH TRENDS IN THE MEDIA. WHEN YOUTH ARE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE STORIES, THEY HAVE THE ABILITY TO CHANGE THE SOCIETY. YOUTH RADIO IS ONE WAY TEENS ARE SHAPING OUR CULTURE THROUGH EMPOWERMENT, EDUCATION, AND REPRESENTATION.