Comparative Analysis of Grammatical and Pragmatic Functions of Contrastive Discourse Markers in Georgian and American Talk Show Discourse

DOI: 10.55804/jtsu-1987-8583-15-11

1. Theoretical Framework

In modern linguistics, discourse markers are mainly studied in pragmatic and semantic aspects. Despite the abundance of researches, the names of these linguistic units with expressive function are still controversial. The following terms have been observed in scientific papers: Discourse Markers (Schiffrin, 1987), Pragmatic Markers (Brinton, 1996; Fraser, 1996), Discourse Connectors (Blakemore, 1989), Discourse Operators (Redeker, 1991), Signal Phrases (Signal Phrase) Particles of Discourse (Schouroup, 1985), Pragmatic Particles (Ostman, 1983) and Pragmatic Expressions (Erman, 1987). The paper shares the view of American linguist Deborah Schiffrin and uses the most common term, discourse markers (DMs), as these units are a subset of pragmatic markers (Fraser, 1996) and combine not only discourse particles and connectors but also lexical markers (you know, I mean),  time indicators (now, then) and additions (so, because). In addition, terms discourse particles and connectors are syntactic terms, and discourse markers are primarily a matter of pragmatics and discourse analysis.

The earliest definition of discourse marker is found with J. Ostman (1981). This definition presents four main linguistic features of discourse markers. Specifically, discourse markers are (a) short, (b) prosodically subordinate to another word, (c) independent of the content of the sentence, and (d) syntactically independent linguistic unit. M. Coulthard and M. Montgomery shared J. Ostman’s view that discourse markers have no lexical meaning and are separated syntactically from the sentence. L. Brinton (1996) singled out the following syntactic features of discourse markers: (a) they are found in the initial position in a sentence, (b) remain outside the syntactic structure, (c) their use is voluntary; He also singled out the following phonological features: (a) they have a short form and lack meaning, (b) have a different tone, (c) are difficult to attribute to any particular class of speech. According to B. Fraser (1999), discourse markers, in addition to idiomatic phrases (still, all, all things considered), belong to three main parts of speech - conjunctions, adverbs and prepositions. These are syntactically independent of the sentence structure but at the same time retain their class value. Semantically, discourse markers meet the following criteria: 1) they connect two segments of discourse so that they are not part of either; 2) their meaning is procedural and not conceptual; 3) through the discourse markers we interpret the text, the desire and purpose of the speaker.

According to B. Fraser (2009), there are three subgroups of discourse markers according to the relationship between discourse segments (S1 and S2): 1) Contrastive Discourse Markers (CDMs), for example- but, however, still, yet, even though, instead (of)- expresses the resistance / contrast between S1 and S2; 2) Elaborative Markers (Elaborative DMs) serve to extend and clarify the statement (S1). Markers of such discourse are and, after all, also, besides, in other words, likewise, otherwise, for instance, moreover and others; 3) Inferential DMs indicate that the next statement (S2) is based on this statement (S1), for example, markers so, as a result, because, therefore, then, thus and so on. In “The Account of Discourse Markers” (2010) B. Fraser names the most common discourse markers in each class: but (contrastive), and (elaborative), so (inferential). According to him, no marker can be found that belongs to more than one functional class, although it may have several sub-functions in that class. It is noteworthy that B. Fraser’s list does not include interjections (oh, uh, aha, ah, ay, oy, eh, ouch, mhm) and lexicalized phrases (I mean, you know, like), which are considered markers of discourse with D. Schiffrin (1987).

1. Empirical Research

10 random episodes from popular American and Georgian talk shows (Ellen Show and Nanuka Show) have been selected  as research materials. These shows coincide in terms of genre and both of them consist of three main parts: introduction (host monologue), interview (dialogue between the host and celebrities of different professions) and conclusion (host summarizing the news of the day, thanking and saying goodbye). Particularly interesting in the process of researching discourse markers is the part of the interview where the addresser (presenter) and the addressee (guest) use different types of pragmatic (including discourse) markers in the process of unplanned and lively conversation. Thus, the study of the talk show genre was conditioned by: (1) the communication function of the genre, (2) a spontaneous speech in it; (3) the use of less formal , colloquial language; (4) ability to present a modern, contemporary language.

As part of a qualitative study, based on B. Fraser’s methodological framework, I reviewed the grammatical-pragmatic functions of the collected contrastive discourse markers in detail. The article, according to B. Fraser theory, distinguishes these linguistic units from their homophones, which have other semantic meanings and they are not considered in the functional classes of discourse markers. Through contrasting linguo-pragmatic analysis between languages, I researched the English discourse markers that matched Georgian, discussed their functional features and linguistic characteristics.

In the discourse of the selected programs, several types of discourse markers were identified according to their grammatical-pragmatic functions:

The first type - the next statement (S2) contradicts the previous statement (S1). The most common contrast discourse marker of this type is ‘but’, which reflects the relatively weak contrast between the segments of the discourse, for example, the misrepresentation of the impression expressed in the previous segment of the discourse:

(1)a) Ellen: First of all, I should not call it cycling, it’s an electric bike, but, ah.

Simon Cowell: You still could have cycled

b) Ellen: No, I know. I had one, but it’s not, you knowwe are not cyclists. We’re on an electric-powered bike.

c) Ellen: I don’t imagine you cry often. Simon Cowell: I think three times in my life. Ellen: Is that true?  Simon Cowell: No, it’s not true, but, there was something about this guy.

d) Ellen: You are just brutally honest, but, so, it was just “kinda” great to see that.

(1a) ‘but’ performs the function of a discourse marker, which expresses the rejection of the first (previous) segment by the speaker. Ellen at the beginning of the sentence (S1) expresses an opinion which she then tries to invalidate by using but (1a) In the same example, the presenter may be interested in the guest's position and deliberately does not fulfill her word, but she also uses it in order to fill in a pause, avoid silence or hesitation[1].

(1b) This sentence is a clear example of the first type of contrastive marker, which, according to B. Fraser’s formula, can be represented as S1, CDMs + S2 (first view, contrastive discourse marker + opposite view).

(1c) ‘but’ is not used as a marker of discourse, it is not a link between two segments of a single discourse, however, it expresses a transitional link between two different topics. In the last example

(1d) ‘but’ is unequivocally a marker of discourse, since in S2 the presenter rejects the opinion expressed in S1 (discourse, the issue under discussion has not changed), in addition, the inclusion of a concluding discourse marker ‘so’ in the second segment of the discourse presents the second segment as a concluding opinion.

Thus, ‘but’ is considered a marker of discourse if there is a direct (explicit) or at least implicit connection between its present and subsequent segments. Otherwise, it appears in the sentence as a linguistic homophone of the discourse marker - a way to change the topic.

(2)a) Will Ferrell shares how he talks to his children: I am sorry that your feelings are hurt, I hear what you are saying, however, within five minutes get upstairs, brush your teeth (and go to sleep), Shut up, OK? 

b) Barack Obama: And the reason is because there are bunch of folks who say that we’re widely overspending even though we are not.

c) Bill Gates: young people do get the flu quite a bit, although they don’t die of it here.

(2a) ‘however’ in the sentence stands between S1 and S2 and is intended to contrast the second segment with the previous segment. Unlike ‘but’, ’however’ it is not an absolute rejection of the previous sentence. According to B. Fraser, it gives the impression that the speaker is taking into account the opinion of the listener. In this particular case too, Will Farrell tells his children to go to sleep (S2) even though he understands them and shares their desires (S1). According to B. Fraser, when using ‘however’, the opinion expressed in S2 is usually unexpected for the listener. Unlike ‘but’, ‘however’ is mostly found at the beginning of a sentence and is used only by the speaker (who has expressed the present opinion) in the discussion process, while but + S2 may reply to the listener in response to S1. It should also be noted that ‘however’ is largely characteristic of written language and it is not found in conversation as often as but.

(2b) ‘even though’ expresses the contrast between segments of discourse. DM + S2 rejects and invalidates the opinion expressed in S1.

(2c) The functions of ‘although’ and ‘even though’ coincide, sometimes differing in their position in the sentence. ‘Although’ sometimes stands in the beginning of the sentence, while ‘though’ and ‘even though’ stand in the middle or end of the sentence.

The second type of contrastive markers has limited use compared to ‘but’ and ‘however’. These types of contrastive markers indicate that the next segment (S2) rejects the idea directly or indirectly associated with the thought expressed in the first segment (S1). Markers of this type common in discourse are ‘yet’, ‘still’, ‘even so, etc .

(3) a) Jennifer Aniston: You can recline and relax

Will Farrell: I know yet its not relaxing, thats weird.

b) Jennifer Aniston: Its nerve-wracking when youre putting your honesty, your heart out there and yet it always seems to pay off because thats what people really respond to.

In both examples (3a, 3b) ‘yet’ can be replaced with ‘but/but still’ so that the sentence does not change the meaning. Here ‘yet’ translates as “and still”, “but still”.

Other types of contrastive markers are ‘instead’ (of doing this / that) and ‘rather’ (than (doing) this / that):

(4) a) Ellen to Hillary Clinton: Because it seems to me, more than ever, we need somebody who is going to go in and be able to kind of steer this ship in the right direction instead of going an extreme.

(4a) The opinion expressed by S1 is acceptable to the interlocutor and she opposes the opinion expressed by S2 by means of ‘instead of’. Thus, the speaker shares the previous opinion and rejects the next one. When using ‘instead’ or ‘rather than’, the opinion expressed in the first segment (S1) is corrected and correctly rendered in the second segment (S2). To illustrate- She should have taken it. Instead / * Rather she left it lying there.

The following contrasting discourse markers predominate in the Georgian talk show:

5) a) Nanuka Zhorzholiani: Yesterday, when I had a meeting in "News Room", I said that several journalists caused misunderstanding in the audience ... However, I think I explained it well, but I still want to provide you with additional information.

b) Maka Chichua: The overall picture is very serious, though fighting always makes sense.

c) Levan Berdzenishvili: Mostly, the survivors are those (prisoners), who have a sense of humor and those who know that imprisonment is injustice, but you have done so much in life that they put you in prison for 3-7 years ... even if I did not count (time), I had a man who had counted every day.

d) Levan Berdzenishvili: We had a problem with sugar. They gave us 2 spoons in 10 days and it was very little, but we had candies... it was "passing" as sugar.

e) Guram Kashia: I have played in front of a lot more spectators, but it was one of the outstanding games.

f) Lika Kavzharadze: Despite the fact that it was an arranged marriage, I was still trying to start a family.

(5a) butand but stillare contrastive discourse markers between previous and following segments. The issue has already been clarified by the presenter (S1), however ("but still"), the presenter considers it necessary to provide additional information to the viewer (S2). When using both discourse markers, the next discourse segment directly or indirectly contradicts the previous segment.

(5b) The first segment (picture is very serious) is implicitly contrasted with the second segment (fighting always makes sense). In this context, it is possible to use other English discourse markers - ‘but still’, ‘still’, ‘yet’ so as not to violate B. Fraser’s syntactic formula ( S1-CDMs + S2).

(5c) ‘but’ expresses the contrasting connection between the segments, ‘even’ is the addition in the negative context, which enhances the contrast, as does ‘even’. In this context, their English equivalent might even be so.

(5d) S1- ‘but’, but + S2, the interpretation of the second segment (candy is sweet) contrasts with S1 (we had a problem with sugar).

(5e) This example also shows a similar contrast to (5d).

(5f) In a sentence, the speaker uses the discourse marker ‘despite' in the sentence to indicate the contrast between the segments of the discourse, other equivalents in context may include ‘although’, ‘even though’, ‘however’.

3. Conclusion

The study of empirical material showed that contrastive discourse markers have the same syntactic position in both languages ​​and do not violate B. Fraser’s formulas S1.DM + S2 and S1, DM + S2. Their use in the sentence is voluntary and they do not affect the validity of the sentence[2], they do not participate in the construction of the conceptual meaning of the sentence. According to grammatical-pragmatic analysis, contrast discourse markers express different types of contrast, including the most common contrast links:

1. Contrast between segments when S2 (correct) directly or indirectly denies the meaning expressed by S1 (incorrect). In both languages, this function is performed mainly by "but". Markers of other contrasting discourse have a similar function in Georgian - “while”, “even (if)”?;

2. The opinion of S1 (the speaker) is contradicted by the opinion of S2 (the listener). ‘However’ has a similar function in English, while in Georgian, "though", "nevertheless", "yes, but” are mostly used;

3. S2 corrects the opinion expressed in S1. In Georgian "but", "though", "on the other hand” are used, whereas in English ‘but, instead, in comparison, conversely, in contrast, on the other hand’ are employed;

4. The given condition in S1 will not be fulfilled (‘even if’, ‘even so’) if S2 is fulfilled. “even if” and even so are usually found in combination with other contrastive discourse markers in the sentence - "even", but even so;

5. The next segment of the discourse (S2) is considered instead of the previous segment (S1).

To perform this function in Georgian and English we use ‘instead’, ‘rather (than)’.

Analysis of empirical material suggests that ‘but’ is the most common contrastive discourse marker in both languages. In English as well as Georgian examples, it is often found in combination with markers of different contrast discourse - but still, but yet, but on the other hand, but instead (of) and so on. As for the ‘but’ discourse marker functionality, it is similar in both languages. However, in English, unlike in Georgian, the use of ‘but’ is noticeably more frequent, which is caused by other functions of but in English: a) pause-filler, expresses hesitation; B) turn-taking signal.

It is desirable to conduct future research in the following areas: 1. Quantitative analysis of contrast discourse markers, which clearly shows which discourse markers predominate in the talk show discourse and whether the frequency of their use differs in English and Georgian languages; 2. Comparative analysis of the functionality of Georgian and English contrast discourse markers within another theoretical framework; 3. Contrast analysis of the functioning of contrastive discourse marker combinations on the example of both languages.

[1] Most of the discourse markers highlighted in this article carry the same functions.

[2]Truth condition of the sentence , one of the most important characteristics of discourse markers.


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