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Text & Talk

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies

Ed. by Sarangi, Srikant

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Volume 34, Issue 1


“So what's a year in a lifetime so.” Non-prefatory use of so in native and learner English

Lieven Buysse
Published Online: 2014-01-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2013-0036


As a highly frequent discourse marker in spoken English, so prototypically indexes a “resultative” or “inferential” relation between two propositions. This article, however, focuses on instances of so that do not overtly preface a proposition, but occur either at the end of an intonation unit or as intonation units in themselves. It is argued that nonprefatory tokens of so can prompt the interlocutor to recover an implicit proposition and establish the relevance of the prior segment to the turn, or can merely serve as a turn yielding device. This article lays bare these nonprefatory uses of so, as well as the four discourse structures in which they operate, in a corpus of English interviews with native speakers of English and Dutch, enabling the comparison of native and learner data. Contrary to previous studies of discourse markers, and of so in particular, (the nonprefatory use of) so is found to be significantly more frequent in the learners' speech than in the native speakers'. This is attributed to an interplay of three main factors: the learners' desire to be viewed as coherent speakers, their limited inventory of markers, and a functional resemblance of so with comparable markers in the learners' mother tongue.

Keywords: discourse markers; so; discourse analysis; English as a foreign language; learner English

About the article

Lieven Buysse

Lieven Buysse is Assistant Professor of English Linguistics at the Brussels campus of the University of Leuven (Belgium), where he teaches English Linguistics, Discourse Analysis, and Translation Studies. His current research interests include the study of discourse markers, foreign language acquisition, discourse analysis, and the discourse of interpreting. Address for correspondence: Faculty of Arts, KU Leuven, Warmoesberg 26, 1000 Brussels, Belgium 〈 〉.

KU Leuven, Faculty of Arts, Warmoesberg 26, 1000 Brussel, Belgium

Published Online: 2014-01-03

Published in Print: 2014-01-01

Citation Information: Text & Talk, Volume 34, Issue 1, Pages 23–47, ISSN (Online) 1860-7349, ISSN (Print) 1860-7330, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2013-0036.

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