South Slavic discourse particles

South Slavic discourse particles. Ed. by Mirjana N. Dedaić and Mirjana Mišković-Luković. (Pragmatics and beyond new series 197.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. ix, 166. ISBN 9789027256010. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by Biljana Radić Bojanić, University of Novi Sad

This much needed book in the field of discourse analysis comprises the results of research on discourse particles, which has been increasingly interesting for linguists in the past few decades. The reason for choosing South Slavic languages as the sources of material and field of investigation rests in their abundance of discourse particles.

The volume consists of seven chapters, the first of which is ‘South Slavic discourse particles: Introduction’ (1–22), written by Mirjana Mišković-Luković and Mirjana N. Dedaić. This chapter provides a general introduction to the field of discourse particles on the one hand and to South Slavic languages on the other. It intends to demarcate the terms discourse particle, discourse marker, pragmatic marker, and discourse connective and explain the choice of the term discourse particle from the title of the book. Additionally, this chapter explicates the linguistic and political situation concerning the South Slavic languages by illustrating both historical and linguistic factors that have influenced the present-day status of Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Macedonian, and Bulgarian.

Ch. 2, ‘Ama, a Bulgarian adversative connective’ (23–44) by Grace E. Fielder, integrates relevance theory and discourse analysis to scrutinize the Bulgarian adversative connective ama. The research relies on the data from spoken discourse and a nineteenth century novel with a variety of registers, aiming to establish if the status of ama has changed with the passage of time. The author ascertains that ama has an interactional function in present-day colloquial speech because it expresses the adversative reaction of the speaker towards the preceding discourse or an extralinguistic element.

Alexandre Sévigny relies on relevance theory to focus on the Macedonian kamo in Ch. 3, ‘Kamo, an attitudinal pragmatic marker of Macedonian’ (45–63). The author analyzes the material collected in the Macedonian speech community in Canada composed of second and third generation speakers and establishes that kamo, a seemingly polysemous word, marks the speaker’s attitudes of disbelief towards an attributed utterance.

Ch. 4, ‘Markers of conceptual adjustment: Serbian baš and kao’ (65–89) by Mirjana Mišković-Luković, also couches her account of Serbian particles baš and kao in the relevance-theoretic framework, showing that both function as semantic constraints on the explicit content of an utterance but in different ways. While baš encodes either literalness or pragmatic strengthening, kao signals a weak pragmatic loosening. Her examples are either constructed or taken from naturally occurring discourse recorded in Belgrade and Novi Sad, Serbia.

Using relevance theory, Aida Premilovac analyzes Bosnian informal discourse as the context of occurrence of ono in ‘The Bosnian discourse particle ono’ (91–108). Shedding light on the fact that there are certain problems with the traditional approach to the analysis of ono, she suggests that it is a non-truth-conditional and procedural linguistic device, similar to English like, which signals loose interpretation of the utterance.

Ch. 6, ‘Reformulating and concluding: The pragmatics of the Croatian discourse marker dakle’ (109–31) by Mirjana N. Dedaić, concentrates on the analysis of the Croatian dakle (‘consequently’, ‘then’, ‘so’), using examples from conversations, media talk shows and reports, written material, and the Croatian National Corpus. After setting the scene in the account of dakle as a discourse marker, the author provides a detailed description of a number of different meanings of dakle, including reformulation, its most prominent function.

The last chapter, ‘Pa, a modifier of connectives: An argumentative analysis’ (133–62) by Igor Ž. Žagar, analyzes data from contemporary press in order to investigate the meaning of the Slovenian connective pa, especially in the phrases ker pa ‘but since’ and sicer pa ‘anyway’. The results of his analysis show that pa in the mentioned compound connectives invokes either background knowledge or discursive information, which without pa remains unavailable.

This book, whose contributions follow the dialectal continuum of South Slavic languages from South to North, thus covering an impressive number of languages, is an extremely valuable resource for everyone interested in discourse particles as it provides authoritative data on the semantic and pragmatic aspects of a number of discourse particles.