The Use of the Discourse Marker say in Conversational English

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Lee, ChunHee
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Seoul National University Department of English Language and Literature
SNU Working Papers in English Language and Linguistics 2, 133-156
discourse markerformal propertyclause-internal/externalpragmatic functioninformation unit
This paper analyzes syntactic and pragmatic features of the discourse marker say using a large corpus of naturally occurring data. In so doing , it attempts to explain how a particular discourse marker gets its different interpretations. First, the examples of say are divided into two groups in terms of their syntactic positions (i.e., the clause-internal position and the clause-external position). We observe that the syntactic position explains the formal properties of say as a discourse marker. Second, various pragmatic functions of say are classified into five categories: introducing some new relevant information, signaling optional specification of a previously mentioned information unit, presenting a supposed situation, attracting the hearer's attention and serving as a self-repair device or a marker of hesitation. This paper proposes that, unlike other discourse markers, the pragmatic functions of say are largely dependent on the constructions in which it is involved (e.g. let us say, I should say, that is to say, etc.).
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College of Humanities (인문대학)English Language and Literature (영어영문학과)SNU working papers in English language and linguisticsSNU working papers in English language and linguistics Vol.02 (2003)
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