Fraser - An Account of Discourse Markers

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    International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 128

    Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2009 DOI 10.1163/187730909X12538045489818

    An Account of Discourse Markers

    Bruce Fraser Boston University, USA

    [email protected]

    AbstractDiscourse Markers (DMs) have been a topic of research for 30 years under many different names.

    e present paper presents an account of one view of DMs with the aim of providing researchersin the eld with a coherent denition of DMs and a presentation of the syntactic and semanticproperties of this functional category that will enable them to compare their work on DMs withother researchers. In addition, an analysis of the uses of the DMbut supports the claim that thereis one core meaning relationship, contrast, with the interpretation of the more than 10 differentuses ofbut being signalled by context and pragmatic elaboration.

    Keywords Discourse Markers (DMs), procedural meaning, pragmatic markers, pragmatic elaboration

    though prepositions and conjunctions, etc. are names well known in grammar,and the particles contained under them carefully ranked into their distinct sub-divisions; yet he who would show the right use of particles, and what signicanceand force they have, must take a little more pains, enter into their own thoughts,and observe nicely the several postures of his mind in discoursingneither is itenough, for the explaining of these words, to render them, as is usual in dictionar-ies, by words of another tongue which come nearest to their signication; forwhat is meant by them is commonly as hard to be understood in one as anotherlanguage. ey are all marks of some action or intimation of the mind; and there-fore to understand them rightly, the several views, postures, stands, turn, limita-tions, and exceptions, and several other thoughts of the mind for which we haveeither none or very decient names, are diligently to be studied (John Locke, AnEssay Concerning Human Understanding , 1959: 521).

    1. Introduction

    is paper presents an account of Discourse Markers (DMs), lexical expres-sions such as those in italics in the following examples.1

    1 Most of the examples in this paper are constructed rather than taken from corpora.

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    (1) a. Jones died last night.But he had been very ill for a long time.b. I went to Boston rstand later on, went to Cape Cod.c. e water wouldnt boil,so we couldnt make any tea.

    I sayan account , not the account , since there is considerable variation in whatmight be labelled Discourse Markers. On the one hand, researchers do notagree what falls under the term Discourse Markers. For example, Schiffrin,motivated by her interest in the coherence of discourse, considered the termto embrace a large, imprecisely dened group of expressions, including inter- jections such asoh andnow , and non-verbal expressions, whereas Fraser (1990,1999, 2006), concerned with the pragmatic role played by terms expressing a

    semantic relationship between messages, considered Discourse Markers to befar more constrained. Blakemore (2002), while agreeing that DMs signal asemantic relationship between utterances, was interested in only those whichcontained procedural meaning as opposed toconceptual meaning . e group ofterms labelled as Cue Phrases by Knott and Sanders (1998) is a subset of thoseabove plusthen again andadmittedly but , not considered by the others to beDMs at all. And many researchers, interested in the properties of a specicexpression such aswell (e.g. Foolen, 1993), labelled it as a DM, even thoughmost researchers wouldnt consider it as such.

    On the other hand, the labels given to the group of expressions generallyconsidered to be DMs vary widely. For example, one nds Cue Phrases(Knott and Sanders, 1998), Discourse Connectives (Blakemore, 1987, 2002;Hall, 2007), Discourse Markers (Blakemore, 2002; Item, 2000; Schiffrin,1987; Fraser, 1999, 2003, 2007; Mosegaard-Hansen, 2008; Lenk, 1998),Discourse Operators (Redeker, 1991, 1992), Discourse Particles (Schourup,1985; Abraham, 1991; Kroon, 1995; Fischer, 2000; Aijmer, 2002), DiscourseSignalling Devices (Polanyi and Scha, 1983), Indicating Devices (Katrieland Dascal, 1984, 1977), Phatic Connectives (Bazanella, 1990), PragmaticConnectives (van Dijk, 1985), Pragmatic Expressions (Erman, 1987), Prag-matic Markers (Fraser, 1996; Brinton, 1990; Erman, 2001), Pragmatic Operators(Ariel, 1994), Pragmatic Particles (stman, 1995), and Semantic Conjuncts

    (Quirk et al., 1985), to name just a few.Moreover, the researchers involved may have used a common term but wereinterested in very different goals. Under the term Discourse Connectives VanDijk (1979) was primarily interested in showing how semantic and pragmaticconnectives were different, Schiffrin (1987, 2005) was interested in illustratingtheir use in discourse coherence, Fraser (2006) was concerned with their role inpragmatic interpretation, Sweetser (1990) was concerned with their functionin pragmatic ambiguity, Ducrot (1980) used them to illustrate the subtleties ofargumentation, while Blakemore (2002) was interested in them for how theyillustrate the conceptual/procedural meaning distinction in relevance theory.

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    Rather than attempt to sort out these dimensions of names, denitions,and purposes in a coherent way, if that is even possible, I will present here anaccount of Discourse Markers which I have developed over the years, draw-ing on the research of others to augment and orient my view. In Section 2,I present a denition of DMs, a denition that provides researchers with theterms to state clearly what they have found so that their ndings may becompared with those of other researchers. In the next section, Section 3,I indicate some properties of DMs, which are associated with DMs but notcritical to the denition. In Section 4 I present an account of how the mean-ing of DMs should be treated within linguistic theory, the most controversialpart of this paper. Finally, in Section 5, I present some issues relevant tofuture research.

    2. A Denition of Discourse Markers

    2.1. e Framework Pragmatic Markers (PMs)

    I start from the assumption that there is a functional class of lexical expressionsin every language which I have called (Fraser, 1996).

    ese expressions occur as part of a discourse segment but are not part of the

    propositional content of the message conveyed, and they do not contribute tothe meaning of the proposition, per se . However, they do signal aspects of themessage the speaker wishes to convey.2

    Lexical members of this class typically have the following properties: theyare free morphemes, they are proposition-initial, they signal a specic messageeither about or in addition to the basic message, and they are classied aspragmatic markers by virtue of their semantic/pragmatic functions. ManyPMs have homophonous lexical counterparts which are classied by virtue oftheir syntactic function, e.g.however, clearly, allegedly, so , etc.

    ere are four types of Pragmatic Markers. e rst type, (BPMs), illustrated by the italicised items in (2), signal the type of

    message (the Illocutionary Force cf. Bach and Harnish, 1979) the speakerintends to convey in the utterance of the segment.

    (2) a. I promise that I will be on time.b. Please , sit down. [a request but not a suggestion or an order]c. My complaint is that you are always rude.

    2 ere are also instances of syntactic and phonological pragmatic markers which I do notdiscuss here. See Fraser (1996) for further discussion of this point.

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    e second type, (CPMs), signal a commenton the basis message. ere are ve different sub-types as illustrated in (3-7). Assessment Markers

    (3) a. We got lost almost immediately.Fortunately , a police offi cer happened by.b. Mary hurried as fast as she could, butsadly , she arrived too late for the

    movie.Manner-of-Speaking Markers (4) a. A: Mark, youve got to do something. B:Frankly , Harry, I dont know

    what to do.

    b. You got yourself into this mess.Bluntly speaking , how are you going toget out?Evidential Markers (5) a. A: Will he go? B:Certainly , he will go.

    b. I have great concerns over this.Conceivably , Tim is right.Hearsay Markers (6) a. A: Is the game still on? B:Reportedly , the game was postponed because

    of rain.b. I wont live in Boston. Allegedly , all the politicians are corrupt.

    (Non)Deference Markers (7) a. Sir , you must listen to me.

    b. You jerk , where do you think youre going?e third type of Pragmatic Markers, (DMs), typically

    signal a relation between the discourse segment which hosts them and theprior discourse segment, perhaps produced by another speaker. ere are threeclasses, illustrated in (8-10).

    Contrastive Discourse Markers

    (8) a. A: Harry is hurrying. B:But when do you think he will get here?b. Mark, a good guy.On the contrary , hes a jerk.Elaborative Discourse Markers

    (9) a. John cant go. And Mary cant go either.b. I dont think it will y. Anyway , lets give it a chance.

    Inferential Discourse Markers (10) a. A: I like him. B:So , you think youll ask him out then?

    b. Sue isnt here. As a result , we wont be able to see the video.

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    3 Exclamation particles (Wow!, Gosh!, Damn!, Yippee!) and interjections (Hey, You there , )are not part of a host utterance, are separate discourse segments, and are treated as pragmaticidioms.

    e fourth class of Pragmatic Markers, (DSMs), signal an aspect of the organization of the ongoing discourse (Fraser,2009). ere are three subclasses, shown in (11-13).

    Discourse Management Markers

    (11) a. In summary , the economy has not ourished under the Bushadministration.

    b. I add that he will not help you until the last minute.

    Topic Orientation Markers

    (12) a. ats all there is to say on this for now.Returning to my previous topic ,I would like to point out thatb. Now, Mr. Pickard,I want to return to the questions that my now-ab-sent colleague Mr. Roemer was asking you about your communica-tions with the eld.

    Attention Markers

    (13) a. We must leave right away.Look , cant you pay attention to whatIm saying.

    b. Hell will freeze over before thats likely to happen.Now , since youhavent found anyone in London to suit your taste, what about thatnice West girl?

    e canonical sequence of Pragmatic Markers is the following,

    (14) DSM (DM (CPM (BPM (Basic Proposition))))

    although there are seldom all present. In addition, in general only one tokenfrom each major type is present.3

    2.2. e Denition of a Discourse Marker

    For an expression to be a DM it must be acceptable in the sequenceS1-DM+S2, where S1 and S2 are discourse segments, each representing anillocutionary force, although elision may have occurred. ere are three neces-sary and suffi cient conditions that a DM must meet.

    Condition 1: A DM is alexical expression , for example,but , so , and inaddition .

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    4 Schiffrin (1987: 41) wrote I dene discourse markers at a more theoretical level as mem-bers of a functional class of verbal (and non-verbal) devices, although she never proposed anon-verbal DM.

    5 I am using * to designate segments which are unacceptable, either syntactically orpragmatically.

    While I do not mean to suggest that DMs consist exclusively of lexicalexpressions, this condition explicitly excludes syntactic structures, prosodicfeatures such as stress, pauses, and intonation, and non-verbal expressions suchas a grunt or a shrug. is would occur, for example, when a speaker utters Itsraining. Ah, go anyway with the Ah playing the same role asbut . I am simplyrestricting my notion of DMs to lexical expressions for this paper.4

    Condition 2: In a sequence of discourse segments S1-S2, a DM must occur asa part of the second discourse segment, S2.

    is hosting by S2 occurs whether the segments are combined, as in (15a),

    (15) a. We were late,but no one seemed to mind.b. We were late.But no one seemed to mind.

    or there is a full stop, as in (15b). Often, a DM has an intonation contourwhich separates it prosodically from the rest of the segment, but this dependson the particular DM and the linguistic context. While every DM mayoccur in segment-initial position, some DMs may occur in the segment medial,and/or segment nal position, depending on the particular DM. is is deter-mined by the DMs syntactic analysis and what it specically signals.

    (16) A: Everyone started late.B1 : However/But , we arrived on time.B2 : We,however/*but , arrived on time.B3 : We arrived on time,however/*but .

    Notice that for the (B2 ) variation, there is the interpretation thatwe is beingsingled out as different from the others (everyone ), a reading that requires aspecial marked intonation.

    ere are adverbial DMs which occur in medial but not nal position, andvice versa as (17a-b) show, although if the segment subjects are the same, as in(17c), the DM may not occur in segment-medial position.5

    (17) a. e trip was tiring.Despite that , he (*despite that ) remained cheerful(despite that ).

    b. e electricity went off.erefore , we (therefore ) couldnt make dinner(*therefore ).

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    2.3. Special Case: Absent S1 and/or S2ough not the canonical form of DM use, one or both of the discourse seg-

    ments S1 or S2 may be absent, with the segment replaced by an assumptionderived from the linguistic and/or situational context. Many DMs may occurwithout the presence of the initial S1, just in case the non-linguistic factorsprovide the suitable context, as the examples in (20) indicate.

    (20) a. Context: Joel, on seeing his bike being taken by a stranger. Joel:But thats my bike!

    b. Context: John, on seeing his roommate walk in smiling.

    John:So , you aced the exam.c. Context: Father, after a teenage boy has just left the dinner table in ahuff.Father: And where do you think youre going, young man?

    Discourse segment S2 may be empty, with only a DM present, as illustratedin (21), with the implied S2 question in brackets.

    (21) a. A: Ill have another piece of cake. B:But ? [Who gave you permission?]b. A: Well arrive late, Im afraid. B:So ? [What do you want me to do

    about it?]c. A: John will not take his medicine. B: And ? [What do you want me to

    do about it?]is use of a DM for the entire S2 is very restricted. And, both S1 and S2 may be empty, as the following examples illustrate.

    (22) Context: John, seeing someone taking his bike. John:But !Context: John, upon suddenly encountering his girlfriend embracinghis best friend. John:So !

    2.4. Classes of DMs

    Given the above denition, the DMs of English naturally fall into three func-tional classes:

    (CDMs), where a CDM signals a direct or indirect con-trast between S1 and S2 (but , alternatively, although, contrariwise, contrary toexpectations, conversely, despite (this/that ), even so , however, in spite of (this/that ), incomparison (with this /that ),in contrast (to this/that ),instead (of this /that ),nevertheless ,nonetheless , (this/that point ), notwithstanding , on the other hand , on the contrary ,rather (than this/that ), regardless (of this/that ), still , though , whereas , yet )

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    (EDMs), where an EDM signals an elaboration inS2 to the information contained in S1 (and , above all, after all, also, alterna-tively, analogously, besides, by the same token, correspondingly, equally, for exam-

    ple, for instance, further (more ), in addition, in other words, in particular, likewise,more accurately, more importantly, more precisely, more to the point, moreover, onthat basis, on top of it all, or, otherwise, rather, similarly , that is to say ).

    (IDMs), where an IDM signals that S1 provides a basisfor inferring S2 (so , all things considered, as a conclusion, as a consequence (of this/that ), as a result (of this/that ), because (of this/that ), consequently, for this/ that reason, hence, it follows that, accordingly, in this/that/any case, on this/that

    condition, on these/those grounds, then, therefore, thus ).e rst marker in each class (but, and, so ) is what I call the primary DMof the class and has the broadest meaning of all the DMs in a class. To date,I have not found a DM that falls into more than one class.6

    3. Incidental/Non-Dening Properties of DMs

    I will now present a variety of properties, more or less associated with DMs,which do not play a role in their denition. ese might be thought of asincidental properties or non-denitional properties.

    First, nearly all DMs can be absent from a S1-DM-S2 sequence in whichthey might occur, with the relationship between the segments remaining unal-tered. For example, in the following sequences,

    (23) S1: is ight takes 5 hours.S21 : eres a stopover in Paris.S22 : After all , theres a stopover in Paris.S23 : Because theres a stopover in Paris.S24 : So , theres a stopover in Paris.S25 : But theres a stop-over in Paris.S2

    6 : And

    theres a stop-over in Paris.

    the DM in each can be absent with the sequence retaining the interpretationit had if the DM had been present, although the prosodic features of the sec-ond segment are often altered to signal the absent DM. e conclusion to bedrawn from this, as Schiffrin (1987) proposed, is that a DM does notcreate the relationship between two successive discourse segments, but it provides

    6 ese three classes closely parallel those of Blakemore (2002) who writes that DMs fall intothree groups,

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    i) By allowing the derivation of a contextual implication (e.g., so, therefore, too, also );ii) By strengthening an existing assumption by providing better evidence for it (e.g.after all,

    moreover, furthermore );iii) By contradicting an existing assumption (e.g.however, still, nevertheless, but )and have rough

    parallels to the analysis in Halliday & Hasan (1976) and to Quirk et al. (1985)7 Adherents to relevance theory would rejectas a result , among others, from being a DM

    because it contains conceptual rather than procedural meaning. I address this issue in Section 4.

    clues which inform the hearer of the relationship intended by speaker. To besure, in some cases it is unlikely that a relatively implausible relationship wouldbe recognized, absent the appropriate DM, but that doesnt bear on the de-nitional issue.

    ere are, however, a few cases such as those in (24),

    (24) a. Fred, a gentleman?On the contrary , hes a bastard.b. Harry didnt arrive on time.In addition , the meeting was late in

    starting.c. We dont like Harry.On the other hand, he doesnt seem to care.d. He arrived well after the start time. As a result, the Committee can-

    celled the meeting.where the absence of a DM leaves an odd, if not unacceptable, sequence.Second, some researchers have proposed that the fact that a DM does not

    contribute to the truth conditions of the host segment should be part of itsdenition (e.g. Schourup, 1999). is claim is superuous. Since DMs func-tion as arelationship between two segments, not as part of themeaning ofeither, it follows that a DM does not contribute to the truth conditions of thehost segment.

    ird, in some cases the meaning of a DM is exactly the same as the expres-sion when it is used as an adverb, for example in (25).7

    (25) e meaning of DM and a homophonous form are the same:a. DM: He didnt brush his teeth. As a result , he got cavities.b. Adverbial: e substance suddenly hardened. is wasnt what we

    expectedas a result of our work.In other cases, the meaning of the DM and its homophonous form is quite


    (26) Conceptual meaning of DM and a homophonous form are different:a. We stopped.On the other hand , there was little point in continuing.It doesnt feel right. Try iton the other hand .

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    8 e verbs say , look andsee are not DMs according to the denition used here.

    b. We started late.However, we arrived on time. You should get therehowever you can.

    Finally, there are a number of DMs which have no homophonous form, forexample,nevertheless , on the contrary , moreover , andconversely . To what degreethis meaning difference is discrete or represents a cline is an open question.Fraser (1990: 393) is probably too strong in suggesting that it is a cline.

    Fourth, there are a number of DMs which have more than one meaning/usewhen used as a DM (e.g.but , so , instead ,). However, there appears to be nocase where a sequence is ambiguous due to a DM and a homophonous non-DM form with a different meaning occurring in the same context.

    (27) a. I expect him to come.However , he will have to get herehowever he can.b. A: Its snowing outside.

    B:So I guess well have to leave earlyso as to get there on time.c. In addition , John was quite skilled in math, especiallyin addition .

    Fifth, DMs constitute a functional class, a heterogeneous syntactic group.ey are drawn primarily from

    (28) a. (and, but, or, nor, so, yet, although, whereas, unless,while ,)

    b. (anyway, besides, consequently, furthermore, still, however

    ,..)c. (above all, after all, as a consequence (of that),

    as a conclusion, as a result (of that), on the contrary, on the other hand, inother words, rather than that, regardless of that ,)

    and very seldom from nouns, adjectives, verbs, or prepositions.8 Sixth, while many DMs are mono-morphemic (e.g.but , so , andthus ), there

    are those which are polymorphemic (e.g. furthermore, consequently, neverthe-less , andmoreover ) and still others which consist of an entire phrase ( aconsequence, in addition ). For DMs which take the form of prepositionalphrases, there are three variations, as in (29).

    (29) a. DM of Fixed Form:above all, after all, as a conclusion ,Mary can open the safe. After all , she knows the combination.b. DM+this/that (wherethis/that refers to S1):despite this, in spite of that,

    in addition to that, She wasnt very pretty.Despite this , she was extremely popular.

    c. DM+of this/that (wherethis/that refers to S1):as a result of (doing ) this/

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    9 ere are a number of other, relatively insignicant features of DMs, stated in the negative.For example, DM cannot be modied (*as a perfect result ), emphasized (*It was,extremely how-ever , a good idea), coordinated (*But and on the other hand , she could be the one to do it) or thefocus of a cleft sentence (*It washowever , that we went home).

    that, because of (doing ) this/that, instead of (doing ) this/that Canonical Form: John didnt take the letter.Instead , he left it.Inverted Form:Instead of taking the letter, he left it.

    Notice that the members of (c), above, are fashioned from a DM plus an ana-phoric prepositional phrase. ese are meaning preserving variations (trans-formations) of the canonical (basic) form. In these cases, the form of the DMis altered (instead/instead of ) but the overall interpretation of the S1-S2sequence is not altered when the transformed DM occurs in segment-initialposition of what would ordinarily be S1.

    Seventh, DMs are likely to take a comma pause when they begin a sepa-

    rate S2, as in (30), (30) a. I was tired.But/However , I went anyway.b. He was tired.So/As a result , he went home.

    and the primary DMs of a class (but , and , and so ) permit an emphatic stressnot typically permitted for the other members of the class.

    (31) a. You will have to take the chairs. BUT/*HOWEVER, dont touchthose chairs over by the wall.

    b. He was very enthusiastic of the project. AND/*IN ADDITION , hehad money to fund it.

    c. e water wont boil.SO/*THUS

    , we cant make tea, can we?

    Eight, the number of speakers required differs depending on the DM. Forexample, whenon the contrary is used in metalinguistic negation, only one speakeris possible, as illustrated in (32a). On the other hand, whenbut is used in the cor-rection sense (Iten, 2000; Hall 2007), two speakers must participate, as in (32b)9

    (32) a. Im not happy.On the contrary , Im ecstatic.b. A: I enjoyed meeting your sister.

    B: Shes not my sister but my daughter.

    Finally, in the view of DMs presented above, where the DM signals a seman-tic relationship between adjacent discourse segments, thescope of the markeris typically the segment before and the segment which hosts the DM. However, just as there are cases of empty S1, S2, or both, so there are cases where theDMs scope is extended. e rst is illustrated in (33),

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    (33) He drove the truck through the parking lot and onto the street. en healmost cut me off. After that, he ran a red light.However , these werenthis worst offences.

    where the three segments referred to bythese are all embraced in the scopeof however . e second case is where the scope consists of the prior segmentand segment hosting the DM, but subsequent segments as well, as in (34).

    (34) S1: e boss is on vacation today and everybody played.S2:So , let me guess: John stayed home; Jane went to the movies; and

    Harry and Susan reported to work but did nothing.

    ere may be multiple arguments for both S1 and S2, but I have not foundany to date. I suspect they would be rather cumbersome.

    e third case is where S1 is interrupted by another segment, either spokenby the speaker of S1, as in (35a), or another speaker, as in (35b).

    (35) a. I dont want to go. Its such a nice day outside.However , I really dohave an obligation to show up.

    b. A: I dont want to go.B: Well, why dont you stay home? A:But I have an obligation to be there.

    Lenk (1998) suggests that there is the relationship of DMs proposed to distin-guish between , relationships between adjacent segments(with the alternatives just presented above), and , relation-ships to segments mentioned earlier or intended to follow. However, her deni-tion of DMs is far broader than the one proposed here and I will not address it.

    4. e Semantic Meaning of DMs 10

    4.1. Framework

    I now turn to perhaps the most controversial aspect of DMs, their meaning.I start from what is known as asemasiological approach, whereby one takes

    10 One approach was suggested by Grice (1989), who noted that DMs such asbut , moreover ,andon the other hand , do not contribute to the propositional meaning of what is said, but seemto convey information about non-central or higher-levelspeech acts , which comment on theinterpretation of the ground oor speech acts. For example, in ree is a prime numberbut fouris not, the function ofbut , what Grice calls aconventional implicature , is to signal that there is acontrast between the interpretation of the two segments. It has been pointed out that this con-trast notion ofbut would not cover all the uses, and that this use of the termspeech act is very

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    different from the usual use. Iten (2000: 203) suggests that Grice might have seen but an indi-cating the performance of an illocutionary act of contrasting, but provides no further commen-tary. I will not pursue this alterative.

    a specic linguistic form and investigates the range of meanings or functionsthe form may full. is is in contrast to anonomasiological approach, wherebyone takes a predened set of (discourse) functions, and investigates how thesefunctions might be expressed linguistically. is latter approach has been usedby researchers of Cue Phrases (Knot and Sanders, 1998).

    In investigating the meaning of DMs, my approach has been to take a spe-cic DM, such asbut , so, and, however, thus, moreover and examine whatsemantic relationship(s) it signals between adjacent discourse segments.In examining a particular DM, I am interested in only its use as a DM and notits use as any other expression, however they are used. us, I am concernedwith the rst examples but not the second examples in (36).

    (36) a. Pi is a rational numberbut its not even. John isbut a child.

    b. e time is getting lateso we shouldnt stay much longer.e bench is aboutso high.

    c. I didnt like the food,and I absolutely detested the cool aid.Gin and tonic is a favourite summer drink.

    Mosegaard-Hansen (2008) proposes several types of relationships betweenthe different uses of a single expression. Withhomonymy , for each different usethere is a differentlexical item , a different meaning, and any connection

    between the uses is arbitrary. e different use of bill as (1) a piece of papercurrency, (2) a receipt for goods, (3) the beak of a bird, and (4) a piece of leg-islation, is an example.

    With monosemy , there is a core meaning compatible with all uses, wherepragmatic elaboration, based on the context, both linguistic and situational,makes clear the particular use on a given occasion. is mode of DM meaningwas proposed earlier, among others by van Dijk (1979), who suggested thatthere were two types of connectives. He wrote:

    we assume that each connective has a certain (minimal) meaning which may befurther specied depending on its semantic or pragmatic use. At the same time,semantic conditions may underlie conditions of pragmatic appropriateness. us,denoted facts may be normal conditions for the possible execution of subsequentspeech actswe assume that each connective has a certain (minimal) meaningwhich may be further specied depending on its semantic or pragmatic use.(1979: 449)

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    11 Relevance theory also takes the view of monosemy (though researchers dont label it assuch) but with the provision that the single procedural meaning of Contradiction & Eliminationcan be used to account for all DM uses of, for examplebut . I specically reject this claim.

    Sweetser (1990) also took this position for her discussion of DMs, as in(37), though she didnt explain how one was to distinguish between the threeuses.

    (37) a. Content Causation: fact of S2 caused fact of S1.He came back because he loved her.

    b. Epistemic Causation: belief in S2 caused conclusion of S1.He loved her because he came back.

    c. Speech Act Causation: fact of S2 gave reason for speech act of S1. Would you like to go out for dinner tonight, because I know youretired.

    With polysemy , a single expression has more than one semantic meaning butthese meanings are related in a motivated, if not fully predictable way. eserelated meanings may reect a chain, a radical category, or a network of inter-connected nodes (Mosegaard-Hansen, 2006). One challenge of this approachis to separate out the different uses of a DM so that it is the meaning of theDMs which is different, not the context. In the three approaches just dis-cussed, it is essential that the tokens under consideration be all of a singlesyntactic/functional category. If not, then a fourth approach,heterosemy , atype of polysemy, can be employed, where the phonetic form remains thesame but the syntactic analysis changes.

    I am treating DMs as monosemous since most DMs have a single meaningrelationship and for those which have more than one, it appears at this pointthat they can be dealt with by pragmatic interpretation. e challenge forthose DMs that have more than one use, for examplebut , so, instead, andrather , is to determine a single core meaning that can be further elaborated onby rules of interpretation, yet not be so broad as to be meaningless. In thesecases, I attempt to create a path guided by linguistic context and pragmaticprinciples to signal which of the uses of the DMs is occurring on a givenoccasion.11

    In agreement with Blakemore (2002) and other relevance theory adherents,I assume that meaning involves (at least) two types: procedural and conceptual(Blakemore, 2002; Hall, 2007). However, I am in strong disagreement withBlakemore, Hall, and others who consider every expression as having either aconceptual meaning, or a procedural meaning, but not both. With regard to

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    DMs, they argue that DMs are only expressions such asbut, however, so, nev-ertheless, and thus which allegedly are without any conceptual meaning, forexample, you cant say what they mean or combine them with other expres-sions (Rouchota, 1998). ey specially exclude as DMs the many expressionssuch asin contrast, as a result, after all, as a consequence, and furthermore whichhave conceptual meaning as well as procedural meaning, and in some cases,precisely that same uses as their procedural brothers. ey conclude thatbecause of this difference among DMs, they do not form a meaning func-tional class, a counterintuitive conclusion to my mind (Blakemore, 2002).

    It is my view that the mutual exclusion proposed by relevance theory is toostrong and misguided, and that each expression in a language may have bothconceptual and procedural meaning, some having a greater emphasis on pro-cedural meaning (e.g. the past tense marker ed ), some a greater emphasis onconceptual meaning (e.g. the noun justice ). I analyze DMs as potentially hav-ing both conceptual and procedural meaning, though not in equal propor-tions (as a result would have far more conceptual meaning thanthus ). Both theDMsas a result and thus would contain procedural information to the effectthat both DMs signal that S1 is the cause of S2, or that S2 was caused fromthe action/state of S1, butthus would have the added conceptual require-ment that the causality is assumed to follow logically. I see no way to incorpo-rate the logical requirement ofthus into a procedural instruction without

    reference to the conceptlogical . Armed with both the assumption of a core meaning from which variationsof use are derived through pragmatic elaboration, and the assumption that aDM can potentially contain both procedural and conceptual meaning, I nowpresent what the semantic meaning and pragmatic interpretation ofbut mightlook like.

    4.2. e DM but

    I propose that the DMbut signals the semantic relationship .12 Itfollows that for every use ofbut as a DM, there is a contrast to be foundbetween the segments of the S1-but -S2 sequence. Of course, the segmentswhich are compared and contrasted are not always the same. Sometime theyare the explicit interpretations of S1 and S2, which I shall call direct con-trast, sometime one or both of the segments involved in the comparison are

    12 Blakemore makes the same claim using the term contradiction rather than contrast.In the following discussion, I hope to make clear why I have selected contrast.

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    13 ese set members are not antonyms, as Lakoff (1971) would have it, but characterize dif-ferent descriptions, more or less complex, grouped under a general category label.

    an implication, which I shall call indirect contrast. For example, in (38a)the interpretation which emerges from contrasting explicit S1 and S2 is thatspeaker of S2 is challenging the accuracy of S1, while in (38b), the contrastbetween the presupposition of S1, a logical implication ( ere is a King),and the explicit S2 is an indirect contrast with the interpretation that thespeaker of S2 considers S1 as defective.

    (38) a. A: My father is a professor. B:But your father is NOT a professor.b. A: e King is dead. B:But there is no King.

    As an aide to talking about contrast, I will use the concept of SemanticallyContrastive Sets (SCSs). ese sets, characterized by a hypernym, such as sports,toys, my friends, or Boston politicians, consist of the names or descriptions foreach member of the set, with some members being different and thus in con-trast, some not. For example, if we consider the set sports, golf andbaseball wouldbe viewed as a contrast while golf andthe game of Tiger Woods would not.13

    Segments being compared for an assessment of contrast sometimes have oneSCS, which means that each segment contains one member in the same syn-tactic functional location (e.g. subject, action, etc.), and sometime there aretwo SCSs. In all cases, the segments are typically declarative or imperative, andparallel in structure (e.g. active-active, cleft-cleft). In (39), with one SCS beingthat of friends, the other being sports, (39a) constitutes a meaningful contrast

    while (39b) does not, there being no meaningful contrast between tennis andthe sport that made Billy Jean King famous.

    (39) a. John plays golfbut Susan plays tennis.b. *John plays tennisbut Susan plays the sport that make Billy Jean King


    ere are other cases of meaningful contrast which do not involve SCSs.ese cases arise when one or both of the segments being compared for pos-

    sible contrast are relatively vague, and do not contain obvious SCSs. In (40),

    (40) a. We arrived late for the dinner party,but everyone seemed toignore this.

    b. People cant stand latecomers to a dinner party.when S2 is compared with (40b), a possible implication (assessable assump-tion) from S1, there are no SCS members to compare yet there is a sense

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    14 I have included the other contrastive DM such asin contrast to reinforce what is clear to methat examples like these are really in contrast.

    contrast, a sense of incompatibility. I shall use this somewhat weaker notion ofincompatibility in these less precise cases of comparison of implications.In the following I present many uses ofbut as a DM, attempt to make clear

    what linguistic context characterizes a specic use, and to identify what inter-pretation emerges. e examples are fairly straightforward and more complexones may give rise to issues I have not considered. I take no credit for discov-ering these uses and present them for others to assess and rene. e order ofpresentation, having the direct contrast before the indirect contrast, is notintended to suggest any theoretical priority, nor is the order within the groups.I have labelled the explicit contrast examples EC-1, EC-2, and the implicitcontrast examples IC-1, IC-2, and appended the names often given in theresearch literature, where relevant.4.2.1. Explicit Contrast

    ese uses ofbut all involve the explicit contrast of the interpretation of seg-ments S1 and S2 but in different linguistic contexts.EC-1 (Simple Contrast). In examples such as,

    (41) a. ree is [Positive] a prime number.But (in contrast ), four isnot .b. Exterior paint is verytough but ( in comparison ), interior paint is rela-

    tivelysoft .c. John likes todance,but/whereas I like toread .

    d. A: What we gain inspeed we lose insensitivity . B:But (conversely ), what we gain insensitivity we lose inspeed .(41a), for example, there is one speaker, the segments are declarative, are paral-lel in form (active-active), and there are two SCSs for comparison, shown initalics in the example. e interpretation for these examples is that S1 and S2are in contrast.14

    Abraham (1979: 112) discusses sequences like,

    (42) a. ere was no chickenbut I got some sh.b. He doesnt have much endurance,but (to make up for that), he has

    long legs.

    which have 2 SCS each. He suggests a different use ofbut , calling it compen-satory, or negatively concessive with thebut being translated bydafr inGerman. He further suggests that the predicate of the second clause is sig-nalled as preferred to that of the rst, and the second clause is dominant,

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    i.e. the second clause receives the stronger accent of the two events (Abraham1979: 113). at may be the case, but I nd no evidence for it in English, nordo I nd these examples different than the other one-speaker contrast cases just discussed (Iten, 2000: Ch. 5).

    EC-2. In the following examples,

    (43) a. He plays basketballbut healso plays ping pong.b. Jones works as an engineer.But, in addition , he consults for the FBI.c. I like Bach,but I like e Beatles,too .

    there is a single speaker and one SCS. A comparison of S1 and S2 results in ameaningful contrast (Note: the DMalso does not play a role in this determi-nation) but this contrast would ordinarily result in an unacceptable sequencewithbut (though it is acceptable withand ), for example,

    (44) *He plays basketballbut he plays ping pong.

    sincebut precludes positing contrasting properties of the same object. However,in these sequences there is a second, Elaborative DM, (also, in addition, too, aswell, neither ,) which signals that what was expressed in S1 is not a uniquecase. Here the interpretation of thebut sequence, taken with the EDM, is thatthe segments are in contrast but are compatible.

    EC-3. In examples (45),

    (45) a. A: John is brilliant. B:But he is NOT brilliant.b. A: We are not going to move to the library. B:But we ARE going to

    move to the library.

    there are two speakers but one SCS: polarity. S2 and S1 are in contrast. S2denies S1, with the interpretation that the speaker of S2 is posing a challengeto the message of the rst speaker.

    EC-4 (Correction). A fourth case is shown by (46),

    (46) a. A: Im going to a conference in Berlin tomorrow.

    B: at conference is not in Berlinbut Boston.b. A: I see you brought your niece with you today.B: Shes not my niecebut my daughter.

    c. A: Oh, my, Nancy fell down.B: Nancy didnt fall down,but tripped.

    where it is the prior contribution from speaker A who, in the view of B, makesa factual mistake. e second speaker, in uttering S1, rejects the mistakeninformation, using an explicit (not incorporated) negative, and S2 provides

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    15 is use ofbut , which is rendered assino rather than pero in Spanish, assondern rather thanaber in German, has been examined by Schwenter (2002), among others. ere is an interpreta-tion ofrather in all these cases, giving rise to the speculation that an alternative form would haverather in it, for example, at conference is not in Berlin.Rather , its in Boston.

    16 Notice thatexcept, with the exception of, apart from, aside from, excluding, save, among oth-ers, may be used in this construction without any meaning change. eir status as DMs has notbe examined to my knowledge.

    the correct answer in a truncated form. Here, again, S1 and S2 are in (albeitelided) contrast, with the interpretation that this use ofbut signals that S2should be considered a correction of an earlier mistake.15

    EC-5. In the examples (47),

    (47) a. A: He likes yogurt. B:But he likes ice cream even more.b. I dislike carrots and also turnips.But what I like least is brussel

    sprouts.c. anks are due to John and Jim.But above all , I want to thank

    Harry.there is one SCS and one or two speakers, andbut combines with a RelativeDegree Form such aseven more/less, what he likes best/least, andabove all . Likein EC-3, there is contrast between S1 and S2 but, in addition, the degreeexpression signals that one segment is more/less highly valued than the other.EC-6 (Exception Use). e sixth use is shown in the following examples,

    (48) a. Everyone left on timebut John.b. No one said a wordbut me.c. Come anytimebut dont come right before dinner.

    where there is a single speaker and two SCS (for example, in (48a), the set ofall relevant people; polarity). e member of the SCS in S1 is at the extremevalue (any, anyone, everyone, everything, nothing, no, no one, all, ), and S2 hasa polarity opposite from S1 and is usually truncated (John as opposed toJohn did not leave on time) and has numerous variations.16 S1 and S2 are incontrast and the interpretation of this sequence is that there is an aspect of S2which is exceptional when compared to S1.

    4.2.2. Implicit ContrastEach of the following cases has at least one implied segment for comparisonrather than the explicit interpretations of S1 and S2 of the prior examples. econtrast in these cases is often the weaker incompatibility rather than theexplicit contrast of two members of a SCS.IC-1 (Contradiction and Elimination). e rst case, illustration by (49),

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    (49) a. We started late. [We will arrive late]but we will arrive on time.b. Its very cold in here. [Please turn up the heat]but please dont turn upthe heat.

    c. Hes a University Professor. [University Professors are smart]but I think hes stupid.

    is what Lakoff (1971) calls Denial of Expectation and what relevance theorycalls Contradiction and Elimination. In this case, S2 is compared with someimplication (an assessable assumption according to Hall, 2007) derived fromS1 (I/S1), with the result being incompatibility. e interpretation is that theimplication, I/S1, is eliminated from further consideration in the discourse

    and S2 is validated.It should be noted that many of the EC-1 cases of simple contrast might beinterpreted as IC-1, if the situation is appropriate. For example, consider (50).

    (50) A: You are aware that John and Joe always drink the same thing.B: Well, today John drank beerbut Joe drank wine.

    In this context, S2 is in contrast with the implication Joe drank beer, withthe result that the implication is eliminated.

    I want to take a slight diversion here and consider the position of Blakemore(2002: 100; 2005) and Hall (2007). For them, every DM use ofbut is cap-tured by some variation of contradiction and elimination, that has just beendiscussed, which means that there is no contrast meaning forbut .

    Consider, however, the example in (51) taken from Saebo (2003).

    (51) a. Some talk.But most listen to the young woman at the piano.b. e volcano has been simmering.But it hasnt yet erupted.c. e driver should have seen the stop signal.But he didnt.

    What assumptions of S1 in these sequences could be contradicted by S2? What is to be eliminated?

    Hall (2007) argues that ifbuts core meaning is , this meaningshould work anywherebut can occur. But that argument presumes that the

    meaning ofbut doesnt change in virtue of the context in which it occurs. If,as Hall argues, the core meaning is contradiction and elimination, it shouldwork anywhere, as well. But clearly it doesnt, as the explicit contrast uses ofbut , discussed above, illustrate. She says,

    My proposal is that, rather than activating the contradiction and elimination ofan assumption,but indicates that what follows is cutting off a line of inferenceopened up by the previous clause. What gives rise to the different interpretationsof but is the salience of some particular conclusion that is undermined, and thisdepends on the relation between the two conjuncts. (Hall, 2007: 168)

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    No details to support this proposition are provided.IC-2. Now consider the three sequences in (52).

    (52) a1. Harry died,but this was a blessing, since he had been ill a long time.a2. Harry died,but this was a blessing.a3. Harry died,but he had been ill a long time.

    e rst sequence, (a1), is a straightforward case of S2 ( is [his death] wasa blessing) contrasting with the implication of S1 (His death was not ablessing) with the interpretation that S2 is validated. Similarly with (a2) inwhich the reasoning for S2 is missing.

    e third example poses a different problem. ere is no viable contrastresulting from a comparison of S2 with S1, or S2 with I/S1. However, a rea-sonable implication to be derived from S2 is that, given the reason presented,His death was a blessing. When compared with I/S1 (His death was not ablessing), these two implied segments are in contrast, with the S2 implicationbeing preferred, given that there is justication provided for it.

    IC-3. Consider the examples in (53). (53) a. A: Brighton used to be a nice city. [Its no longer nice] B:But its still nice.

    b. A: Take an orange. [Take some apples] B:But dont take any apples.c. A: Hes a professor [Professors are smart] B:But I think hes stupid.

    Here there are two speakers, and S2 contrasts with an implication of S1, muchthe same as in EC-3 where the rejection was of S1 itself. In this case, the inter-pretation is that the speaker of S2 is challenging the implication of S1, but noteliminating it, as in prior IC cases.

    IC-4. e examples in (54) illustrate what may occur when a felicity condi-tion on the illocutionary act conveyed by S1, a logical not a contextual impli-cation, is contrasted. (54) a. Statement: statement is true.

    A: John is brilliant. B:But thats not true.

    b. Offer: object/action is desired.(John, on being offered a drink)But I dont want it; I dont drinkalcohol.

    c. Request: hearer can perform the requested act. A: Please bring me the stool. B:But I cant do that. [why are youasking me?]

    In each case, S2 explicitly denies a felicity condition of S1, and a contrastexists. e resulting interpretation is that the speaker of S2 is claiming that theact conveyed in S1 is infelicitous. Again, no implication is eliminated.

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    IC-5. e next use ofbut involves two additional logical implications. (55) Challenge to entailment of S1.

    A: John murdered Smith. (E=> Smith is dead) B:But Smith is not dead. A: Some of the boys left. (E=> At least two boys left) B:But only one ofthe boys left. A: Consider this bicycle. (E=> A bicycle has two wheels) B:But this bikehas 3 wheels.

    (56) Challenge to presupposition of S1. A: Damn the King of France. (P=> ere is a King) B:But there is noKing of France. A: Has John stopped smoking. (P=>John smokes) B:But John doesntsmoke. A: All the boys left. (P=> At least 3 boys left) B:But only two boys left.

    Here, as in IC-4, S2 denies the entailment or presupposition of S1, therebycreating a contrast between the two. e resulting interpretation is that thespeaker of S2 is implying that the act conveyed by S1 is defective. Again, noth-ing is eliminated.

    IC-6. e nal set of examples, in (57), are similar to IC-2 in that there arethree variations.

    (57) a1. Tom is supposed to be here,but he isnt, since he missed his train.a2. Tom is supposed to be here,but he isnt.a3. Tom is supposed to be here,but he missed his train.

    S1 consists of a (usually positive) segment, which contains a verb ofdesiring (wishing, wanting, hoping ), of expecting (supposing ), or conditional modals(would, could ), and the full S2 consists of the implied negative assertion thatcorresponds to S1, followed by a justication for this negative assertion. Forthe rst two variants of (57a1-a2), S2 (he isnt) contrasts with an implicationof S1 (he is here).

    e third variant must be handled differently. S2 in the sequence (57a3),He missed his train, implies that Tom is not here. When this implicationis compared with the implication of S1 (Tom is here), there is a contrast.

    e interpretation is that the S2 implication is validated, given there was a justication to support it.

    4.2.3. Some Other CasesI want to briey mention several other cases which dont seem to t within thecontrast meaning ofbut . e rst is the topic change use ofbut (Bell, 1998;label it as Discourse or Sequentialbut , as illustrated in (58)).

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    (58) a. A: I had a lovely evening last night with Harry. B:But did he repay youthe money?b. Its good to see you so well, Jane.But lets talk about the real reason

    I came by.

    e fact that there is no contrastive result from comparing S1 and S2 followsfrom the fact that this case is not a DM use ofbut . Whereas DM signals asemantic relationship holding between S1 and S2, thebut in these examples issignalling a change in discourse topic, not a semantic notion. isbut is analo-gous to pragmatic markers such asincidentally, on another topic, to return to the

    former topic, etc. (cf. Fraser, 2009a).

    e examples in (59), (59) a. Its unbelievable,but John got married last night.b. You may not be aware of this,but Mark is a very ne pianist.c. Im reluctant to say this,but I dont like the dinner Mary has planned.

    pose a very interesting case. ey have been considered by Lauerbach (1998)and Fretheim (2005), the former not considering the specic meaning ofbut ,the latter attempting to place these examples within the relevance theory ofcontradiction and elimination, but with a lack of success. What is to be con-trasted is not clear to me, if this use ofbut is even a DM.

    e nal case is illustrated in (60), a case for which I have no adequateanalysis, (60) a. A: Is it done? B:But of course its done.

    b. A: He doesnt want to leave. B:But of course he doesnt. Would you?c. A: Can I help? B:But of course you can.

    where thebut may or may not be functioning as a DM and it requires theofcourse to accompany it with this use.

    I list here for the sake of completeness a number of additional sequencescontainingbut which I, at the moment, do not have acceptable analyses for,whether they be DMs or otherwise.

    (61) a. e tyranny of the multitude isbut a multiplied tyranny.b. He would have gone,but for the mess on the garage oor.c. She speaks either French or German,but I dont know which one.d. Who arrived at the stroke of midnightbut the long lost relatives.e. He hasall but / nearly clinched the championship.f. It never rainsbut (that) it pours.g. He isbut a child. (only, simply, just, merely )h. Ill get youbut good .

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    17 e sequence ofbut however does not occur for most people.

    5. Future Areas of Research on DMsere are several areas where the researcher interested in DMs might make

    considerable headway in addition to pursuing further their meaning and howbest to account for it. e rst area is the sequencing of DMs. Recall thatwithin the three classes of DMs, there is one term I identify as the primary DM for the class:but , and , andso , with the other members of the class beinglabelledsecondary. In general, the primary member of a class can occur, pre-ceding a secondary member, as in (61).17

    (61) a. He didnt try to climb upbut instead just sat there and sulked.

    b. e rain was coming done hardso we didnt have the picnic as planned,as a result .c. I wouldnt try thatand furthermore , I wouldnt encourage you brother

    to try it either.In many cases, the secondary DMs may occur in the S2-nal position as well,as in (61b). When there is a pair of DMs, the primary DM retreats to its corefunction (but : contrast;and : elaboration;so : cause) and the secondary DM isthe one that signals the intended S1-S2 relationship. What combinations ofPrimary-Secondary are permitted has not been studied.

    In addition, there are some cases of two secondary DMs from the same

    class, for example, (62) Well, on the one hand, Ive conded in my mother. I know she wants tohelp me and is worried about me.However, on the other hand I think sheis angry with me. Im making her look like a bad mother.

    e order is xed in these cases and only specic DMs combine. ese, also,await study.

    en there is a combination of a Primary DM from one class with aSecondary DM from another class, as in:

    (63) a. ey loaded the pallets onto the trailer,but, in addition , they strappedthem down.

    b. He didnt move from his rocking chairand, instead , gestured to hisassistant to do it.

    c. John went swimming.So, in addition , he wont be home for dinner.

    How the signals from each affect the DM interpretation is yet to be studied.

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    Another area is the extent to which all DMs operate in the three domainsproposed by Sweetser (1990). While most DMs appear to, there are some suchas for example, as a result, in contrast, that is to say , and moreover for whichI cannot nd sequences in which they function in the epistemic and/or speechact domain.

    Finally, a third area worth looking at is the extent to which at least the pri-mary DMs (and, but, so ) have the same uses across languages. I have con-ducted a preliminary investigation into this matter withbut , using sequenceswhich favoured the different interpretations ofbut as a DM in English, suchas the examples in (64).

    (64) a. John is tallbut Mary is short.b. I left the house latebut I arrived on time.c. Shes not my sisterbut my mother.d. Its unbelievablebut no one in the class has a middle name.e. I would kiss youbut I cant.f. Jack isbut a child.

    e results from over 20 languages indicate that they all share the functions ofbut illustrated in (64a-b), most usebut for (64c) although some languageshave an alternative form forbut (Spanish: pero , German:aber ), but the lan-guages vary considerably for the other functions which were discussed above.

    A more thorough, systematic study should be conducted to ascertain just howuniversal the functions of the Primary DMs are.To conclude, in the foregoing I have attempted to sketch out an account of

    DMs with suffi cient precision that researchers working in this area will be ableto assess and compare their results with others. e section on the meaning ofbut is a rst attempt to set out an alternative to relevance theory and certainlywill undergo revision. Indeed, it is possible that data from other languages willcause revision of parts of my account presented here. I certainly hope not.However, I do hope this paper will be the basis for a more productive analysisof DMs than we have experienced to date.


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