Despite an emphasis on the high school environment in explaining the linguistic choices of young people, little is known about the sociolinguistic effects of nontraditional schooling, such as homeschooling. This study examines the use of quotative be like in interviews with undergraduates from different high school backgrounds (homeschool, private, public). Because of possibly having reduced experience with the social orders that structure conventional school communities, homeschooled students could show a distinct sociolinguistic profile. This study also considers other potential predictors of quotative use, including the speaker’s use of a “nerd” persona style. Overall, the results indicate that homeschooled students developed a quotative system very similar to that of their peers. Schooling type did not strongly predict be like use, although it appears to be related to persona style, which was a significant predictor. Qualitative evidence also points to peer-group differences among homeschooled students as a possible predictor. These findings call for more attention to school experience when studying the development and use of socially marked variables. The results also highlight the relevance of persona-based factors in a thorough account of linguistic variation, and they provide evidence that quotative be like, while pervasive in the speech of young adults, still carries social meaning.

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