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Guidelines for Research in Discourse Markers

Bruce Fraser
Boston University
May 2005
The following constitutes some suggestions about how to research DMs. It is not the only way
but it may help you get started.
First, you should become familiar with the main theoretical orientations within which DMs are
analyzed. In Section I of the References below I have listed some of the basic literature, most of
it written in English. There are also many papers written in other languages which deal with the
theory. I simply have not listed them.
Second, you should become familiar with the main research work on the DM(s) you are
researching, both in English and in the language you are investigating. In Section II of the
References I have listed some but not all of the CDM literature, again in English only.
Guided by both the theoretical and description research, you should look at:
The syntactic patterns of the DM. Look not just where they occur in a S1-S2 sequence, but
where researchers have suggested they occur in the syntactic structure. You should be
sensitive here to both scope of the DM in terms of the position as well as pragmatic factors
such as deference.
The semantic meaning(s) of the DM. Do NOT take a translation of English, but figure out
in terms of where the DM occurs and with what meaning if there is more than one meaning.
Keep in mind that the same DM can have a constant core meaning but a different
interpretation as a function of the linguistic context.
Look also at the morphological structure of the DM to see if it tells you anything about the
meaning and/or the function.
The pragmatic functions of the DM. Does the DM reflect certain roles, genders, attitudes,
written language, etc.? Does it function on the semantic but not the speech act level?
All of these conclusions should be grounded in data, preferably taken from real sources. You
should not rely on your intuitions except for the broad picture. Your intuitions become a slave to
the emerging pattern and soon become corrupted.
If you have a large corpus, it will be important to know if your DM, for example, occurs
primarily in S-initial, if it was used by men rather than women, in formal rather than informal
speech, in written rather than oral language, etc. You need to back up your findings with
examples and percentages.
If you use questionnaires, be very careful. There is often more than one DMs that will occur in a
given slot.

DM PAPERS
References to, and versions of, some of these papers are available on http://people.edu.bu/bfraser
I. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK OF DMS
There are three different theoretical frameworks within which DMs are discussed. I have listed
below the major researcher in alphabetical order and briefly indicated what their contribution is.
Diane Blakemore
Blakemore, D. 2002. Relevance and linguistic meaning: The semantics and pragmatics of
discourse markers. CUP 99.
Blakemore has adopted and contributed to Sperber & Wilsons Relevance Theory (RT). She has a
number of previous papers, but chapters 3-5 of this book summarize her position on DMs and the
earlier papers are redundant. She never defines DMs and, in fact, maintains that they are not a
coherent class of linguistic entities. Her purpose is to make a case for a clear distinction between
procedural and content meaning. She does not form a coherent class.
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Bruce Fraser - Fraser, B. 2005. Towards a theory of DMs. In K. Fischer (Ed), Approaches to
Discourse Particles, Elsevier Press. Earlier papers are less detailed versions of this paper.
Fraser places DMs within a linguistic analysis of language but takes no position on the particular
grammatical theory. In this paper he defines what DMs are, how they are characterized, the
functional classes into which they fall, and indicates some of their variations in patterning.
*Pragmatic Markers. 1996. Pragmatics 6(2) 167-190 presents his analysis of those linguistic
features which do not contribute to the propositional meaning of a sentence but do contribute to
the interpretation: Basic Markers (e.g., please, Declarative Structure); Commentary Markers
(e.g., sentence adverbials such as frankly, certainly); Parallel Markers (e.g. Sir, Your Honor,
damned); and DMs (e.g., and, so, but).
Papers by Mosegaard-Hansen (2005) and Pons (2005) are also in this vein.
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Deborah Schiffrin - Schiffrin, D. 1987. Discourse Markers. CUP.
Schiffrin, who hasnt written anything theoretical since then (as far as I know), treats DMs from
a discourse point of view, Working from sociolinguistics interviews, she proposes that DMs may
exist on up to 5 levels of discourse, with their purpose being to increase coherence. She never
defines DMs although she suggests some criteria including that there may be non-verbal ones.
There are also many papers by Sanders, Knott, and their colleagues. They call DMs cue phrases
and are concerned with the role they play in discourse coherence.

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REFERENCES
I THOSE THAT TREAT SOME GENERALASPECT OF DMS
Below are general references on discourse markers, mostly written in English, that deal with
major issues. I have included work that uses the labels of discourse connective, discourse
relation, cue phrases, pragmatic markers, pragmatic particles, discourse particles, etc., but I have
excluded references to focus or modal particles.
Please note: I have not read all of the articles so there may be a few that were chosen because of
their title but are not relevant. In addition, there are irregularities in the format of the citations
and there are typos.
Abraham, W. (ed.). 1991. Discourse particles. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Abraham, W. 1991. Modal particle research: the state of the art. Multilingua 10(1/2):9-15.
Aijmer, K. 2002. English Discourse Particles. Evidence from a Corpus. Amsterdam: John
Benjamins.
Aijmer, K., A. Foolen & Anne-Marie Simon-Vanderbergen. 2005. Discourse particles in the
perspective of heteroglossia. In Fischer, 2005.
Ameka, F. 1990-91. How discourse particles mean: The case of the Ewe "terminal" particles. J.
of African Languages and Linguistics 12(2):143-70.
Andersen, G. & Fretheim. T. (eds.). 2000. Pragmatic markers and propositional attitude.
[Pragmatics & Beyond. New Series 79]. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Jucker, A. & Ziv, Y. 1998. Discourse markers: Introduction. In: A Jucker &and Yael Ziv (eds.).
Discourse Markers: Description and Theory. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1-12.
Ariel, M. 1998. Discourse markers and form-function correlations. Discourse Markers.
Descriptions and Theory, A. Jucker and Y. Ziv (eds.), 223-259. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Bateman, J. & Rondhuis, K. 1997. Coherence relations: Towards a general specification.
Discourse Processes 24: 3-49.
Bell, D. 1998. Cancellative discourse markers: a core/periphery approach. Pragmatics 8(4) 515-541.
Bestgen, Y. 1998. Segmentation markers as trace and signal of discourse structure. JoP 29: 753763.
Birner, B. 1988. But as conventional implicature: Identifying the source of contrast. In
Northwestern University Working Papers in Linguistics 1:16-28.

Blakemore, D. 1989. Denial and contrast: A relevance theoretic analysis of but. L&P 12:15-37.
Blakemore, D. 1996. Are apposition markers discourse markers? J of L 32: 325-347.
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Blakemore, D. 1989. Denial and contrast: a relevance theoretic analysis of but. L&P 12:15-37.
Blakemore, D. 1993. The relevance of reformulations. Language and Literature 2.2:101-120.
Blakemore, D. 1996. Are apposition markers discourse markers? J. of Linguistics 32;325-347.
Blakemore, D. 2000. Indicators and procedures: nevertheless and but. J. Linguistics 36:463-486.
Blakemore, D. 2002 Relevance and Linguistic Meaning: The Semantics and Pragmatics of
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Brinton, L. 1990. The development of discourse markers in English. Historical lingustics and
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Culpeper, J. 1994. Why relevance theory does not explain the relevance of reformulations.
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