Consider the following data (spoken American English):
- John said "I'll come."
- John was like "I'll come."
- What John said was: "I'll come."
- ?What John was like was: "I'll come."
Does anyone have an analysis of this?
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BE like is not an integrated collocation meaning SAY. Rather, like is a “discourse marker” which signals that what follows is worthy of particular emphasis or peculiar interpretation.
John was [like [totally excited about it]].
John was [like [jumping up and down]].
John was [like [“I’ll come”]].
In the ‘quotative’ version, like indicates that what follows is an imitation and demonstration of what John ‘was’.
So the Wh-cleft should be:
A: John was like “Oh all right, I’ll come”—
B: No, no, no, what John was was like “I’ll come! I’ll be there!”.