Approaches to discourse particles

Approaches to discourse particles, Vol. 1. Ed. by Kerstin Fischer. (Studies in pragmatics 1.) Oxford: Elsevier, 2006. Pp. viii, 498. ISBN 9780080447377. $104 (Hb).

Reviewed by Marco Shappeck, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana

The study of discourse particles (DPs) has moved from the periphery of linguistics to a position of intense focus and rigor. Recently, researchers have undertaken projects with unbridled—and refreshing—interdisciplinarism. This volume contains many of the major themes of the crosslinguistic study of DPs; each of the twenty-two articles exemplify that the theoretical study of DPs deserves serious consideration.

To allow for comparative objectives among the different research perspectives and methods, the editor of the volume, Kerstin Fischer, outlines the specific presentation format required of the contributors. Each paper is to (i) differentiate DPs from other particles; (ii) account for the different functional interpretations that DPs may support; (iii) provide support for different readings in relation to context, particle morphemes, and word classes; and (iv) relate descriptions of DPs to wider questions of general linguistics.

Maj-Britt Mosegaard Hansen proposes an interdisciplinary approach to the lexical semantics of discourse markers, focusing specifically on French toujours ‘always’. Diana M. Lewis shows how DPs in English have permeated written language to function as meta-textual comments about expressions. Richard Waltereit introduces a model that attempts to explain why certain lexemes develop diachronically into DPs and not into other categories.

Salvador Pons Bordería situates the study of DPs within the field of pragmatics, outlining the problems and directions of the DP word class. Addressing both theoretical and methodological issues, Karin Aijmer, Ad Foolen, and Anne-Marie Simon-Vandenbergen propose a model based on reflexivity, indexicality, and heteroglossia. Eddy Roulet puts forward a description of text relation markers and explains how they mediate text constituents to discourse memory.

Henk Zeevat explores DPs in the framework of speech act semantics, illustrating how some DPs function as context markers, while others serve as presupposition triggers. Ler Soon Lay Vivien’s relevance-theoretic approach considers how the cognitive economy of information storage applies to the process of utterance interpretation. Thanh Nyan joins argumentation theory to a coevolutionary perspective and describes the emergence of DPs as one of the language adaptations to brain systems.

Building a theory of DPs, Bruce Fraser provides a four-fold typological definition and presents the requisite linguistic properties of this class of pragmatic markers. Harald Weydt discusses the challenges for the crosslinguistic study of DPs, particularly in regard to patterns of face-threatening acts. Concerned with context, function, and meaning, Catherine E. Travis examines the Spanish bueno ‘good’ in Columbia and distinguishes between its semantic and pragmatic aspects.

Anthea Fraser Gupta explores the defining elements of functional and syntactic systems in Singapore Colloquial English. Li-Chiung Yang integrates prosodic and contextual cues in the interpretation of DPs by illustrating their role in coherence and discourse structure. Corinne Rossari discusses the formal properties and semantic constraints of connectives, a subclass of DPs.

Examining the functional spectrum of English and, Deborah Schiffrin situates the study of DPs into a more general model of functional layers. Gisela Redeker argues that DPs act as attentional cues for the listener during discourse transitions. Barbara Frank-Job proposes a concept of DPs that considers the emergence dynamism within their interactional functions and development.

François Nemo proposes a model for the semantic and pragmatic interpretation of DPs through the application of morphemic and constructional semantics. Gabriele Diewald examines present-day German DPs in light of word class membership, functional roles, and semantic content. Kertsin Fischer introduces a framework that connects the polyfunctionality of DPs to a linguistic theory of language development and shows how such a concept can contribute to context, common ground, and politeness. Finally, Carla Bazzanella analyzes Old Italian DPs from a prototypical-model framework, taking data from two computerized corpora.

Covering all of the subfields of linguistics, this volume unites revised and recent perspectives on the study of DPs, making it a reference point from which to challenge, support, integrate, and develop future research.