2. The term ‘pragmatic marker’ has emerged in the last 20 to 25 years
to describe items such as well, you know, like and I mean, expressions
which may have little obvious propositional meaning but which oil the
wheels of conversational social interaction. Fundamental to oral
fluency, pragmatic markers facilitate the flow of spontaneous,
interactional and social conversation. Variously termed ‘hedges’,
‘fumbles’ and ‘conversational greasers’ (Beeching, 2016).
3. Pragmatic markers comprise a functional class of linguistic items
that do not typically change the propositional meaning of an
utterance but are essential for the organization and structuring of
discourse, for marking the speaker’s attitudes to the proposition
being expressed as well as for facilitating processes of pragmatic
inferences. Thus, a word or expression that is considered a pragmatic
marker in some contexts may not be considered a pragmatic marker
in other contexts, as illustrated by the following examples from the
4. (1) He speaks English very well.
(2) Well, he is good at English.
In (1), well is used as an adverb and serves a semantic function. while well in
(2) does not change the meaning of the utterance, it serves a pragmatic
function in the sense of marking the speaker’s attitude to the rest of the
utterance (Fischer, 2006; Furkó, 2007).
5. Pragmatic markers are polyfunctional cues that predicate changes in the
speaker’s cognition, attitudes, and beliefs and facilitate the transmission
of illocutionary force and intentions.
They are a feature of oral rather than written discourse.
The speaker makes use of them to organize, recover, reformulate and
segment the information provided to the hearer.
They are drawn mainly from the class of adverbials, conjunctions and
prepositional phrases (González, 2004)
6. Functions of pragmatic markers in conversation
Pragmatic markers are most frequent in the spoken language and are a fundamental
part of oral fluency. There are five main ways in which the particular characteristics of
conversation are reflected in the usages made of pragmatic markers.
1. Conversation is spontaneous and takes place at speed; unlike writing, there is no
opportunity for speakers to edit what they say before ‘publication pragmatic markers
allow for hesitation, back-tracking, repair and repetition.
2. Conversation is interactional; pragmatic markers occur at the junction between
speakers in turn-taking, frequently in utterance-initial or utterance- final positions.
7. 3. Conversation is social; pragmatic markers may be sociolinguistically marked (used in
particular regions, by speakers of particular age-groups or particular social groups).
4. Conversation is sociable; pragmatic markers are often associated with naturalness,
friendliness and warmth. In addition, they are often addressee oriented: they allow the
addressee's opinion to be enjoined or invoked.
5. Conversation is polite; pragmatic markers can be a hedge talk, down toning what might
be considered over-strong assertions of opinion.
8. Types of pragmatic markers
Basic markers have representational meaning which means they
contribute conceptual information over and above that of the propositional
meaning. The basic markers are subdivided into the following:
A. Structural basic markers
B. Lexical basic markers.
C. Hybrid basic markers
9. A. Structural Basic Markers
The first and most general of the basic markers is the syntactic structure of the
sentence itself, its mood. Except for some idiomatic structures, every English
sentence falls into one of three syntactic types (declarative, imperative, or
interrogative) and each type signals a general force for the basic message.
a. The declarative structure signals the expression of belief by the speaker
that the sentence propositional content represents (or did, or will
represent) a true state of the world.
e.g. : John slid down the slope.
10. The action desired may be verbal, as in (a), or non-verbal, as in (b).
a) Tell me the answer.
b) Bring that book over here.
b. The imperative structure signals the speaker’s expression of
desire that the addressee bring about the state of the world described
in the propositional content.
11. B. Lexical Basic Markers
There are many lexical basic pragmatic markers. They can be analyzed into
two major groups:
1. Performative Expressions
These canonical performative expressions contain a first-person singular
subject, in some cases an object you, and a verb in the non-negative
present tense which denotes a propositional attitude specifying the
speaker’s view towards the following proposition.
a) I promise that I will be there on time.
b) I (hereby) apologize for running over your cat.
c) I (hereby) request that you stay just a bit longer
12. Pragmatic Idioms
In addition to the standardized forms, there are pragmatic idioms, expressions for which
there is no plausible inferential path leading from literal, direct meaning to the accepted
basic pragmatic signal.
There are two types of idioms:
a) Force idioms, which signal the intended basic message force such as please (kindly)
and perhaps (maybe):
Can you please help me? (Request)
Perhaps you should sit down and rest a bit. (suggestion)
How about going? (suggestion)
Long live the Queen. (wish)
13. b) Message idioms, which signal the entire basic message.
Get a horse. [Directive to hurry up]
Where’s the fire. [Challenge for necessity of speed]
I smell a rat. [Claim that all is not well]
14. C. Hybrid Basic Markers
To this point, the basic pragmatic markers discussed have been either
structural (e.g., the declarative structure) or lexical (e.g., performative
expressions). There are, however, a number of markers which involve a
specific structure in combination with certain lexical conditions, what I will
call a “hybrid basic marker.” There are three general types: declarative-based,
interrogative-based, and imperative-based.
1. Declarative-based Hybrids
A declarative followed by a sentence-final interrogative tag.
John saw Mary, didn’t he?
John didn’t see Mary, did he?
15. 2. Interrogative-based Hybrids
a) Can (could/can’t/couldn’t) you do that?
b) Will (would/won’t/wouldn’t) you do that?
3. Imperative-based Hybrids
a) Talk, or I’ll shoot. (If you don’t talk, I’ll shoot.)
b) Don’t smile, or I’ll clobber you. (If you smile, I’ll clobber you.)
16. Commentary Pragmatic Markers
Commentary markers are lexical expressions, which have both a representational
meaning specifying an entire message, and a procedural meaning signaling that this
message is to function as a comment on some aspect of the basic message.
They are of six types:
1. Assessment markers
Assessment markers signal the speaker’s evaluation of the state of the world represented in
the proposition. It delivers the basic message, and the comment.
- Sadly, Mary arrived 5 minutes too late to meet the deadline.
These assessment markers, primarily adverbs, may include:
Amazingly, amusingly, annoyingly, appropriately, astonishingly, etc.
17. 2. Manner-of-speaking markers
Markers with which the speaker can signal a comment on the manner in
which the basic message is being conveyed.
- Bluntly, how are you going to get him off the hook?
Adverbials falling into this group can include the following,
Bluntly, candidly, confidentially, crudely, fairly, frankly, generally, etc
18. 3. Evidential markers
These markers signal the degree of confidence, positive or negative,
weakly or strongly, held by the speaker about the truth of the basic
- Indeed, I promise to be on time.
Evidential markers can include the following:
Assuredly, clearly, conceivably, decidedly, definitely, doubtless, etc.
19. 4. Hearsay markers
Hearsay markers are comments about the type of source of the speaker’s
- It is claimed that Susan did not kill the two boys.
The class includes:
Allegedly, I have heard, it appears, it is reported, it is rumored, one hears,
purportedly, reportedly, etc.
20. 5. Mitigation markers
This marker signals the speaker’s desire to reduce the face loss associated with the basic
message. (Brown & Levinson, 1988; Fraser, 1991).
There is a number of varieties listed under this type of markers, two are mentioned below:
1. The pseudo-conditionals: Despite their appearance, these are not conditional sentences.
Rather, they constitute a basic message with a mitigating comment on it.
- If it’s not too much trouble, could you help me?
2. Expressions ending with but: The basic message that follows these mitigation markers, is
typically disadvantageous to the addressee and thus susceptible to mitigation.
- You are, of course, entitled to your own opinion, but are you sure that’s a safe thing to do?
21. 6. Emphasis markers
These markers have the function of emphasizing the force of the basic message.
- Mark my words: Sam will end up in jail.
This group is illustrated by expressions such as,
By no means, by no stretch of the imagination, definitely, DO VP, I cannot too
often point out that, I emphasize (strongly) that, I insist that, etc.
22. Parallel Pragmatic Markers
The third type of pragmatic marker is the parallel marker, whose function is to signal an
entire message in addition to the basic message.
Four types can be viewed:
A. Vocative markers
By using one of these vocative forms, the speaker is explicitly sending the message that the
addressee of this message is exactly whom was called.
- Waiter, please bring me another fork.
This group contains the vocatives, which include:
Standard Titles: John, Mr. President, Colonel, Mom, Your Honor, Father
Occupation Name: waiter, doctor, nurse, driver, judge
General Nouns: brother, boys, guys, ladies and gentlemen, man, young lady
Pronominal Forms: you, somebody, everyone, anyone.
23. B) Speaker displeasure markers
These markers signals the speaker’s displeasure.
- Where in blue blazes is that young son of mine; it’s already 3 am.
This group of markers includes
Damn well, for the love of God, how many times have I told you, right now, the heck, etc.
24. c. Solidarity markers
These markers signals solidarity or lack thereof.
- As one guy to another, we’re in deep trouble.
- My friend, we simply have to get our act together and face this problem.
- As your superior, I am authorized to tell you that you have been selected
- Look, birdbrain, this has been sitting in the “in box” for over a week.
- What’s the story?
25. Focusing markers
These markers signals focusing or refocusing on the topic at hand.
- He can’t go. Y’see, he isn’t feeling well.
Included in this group are:
Alright, here, listen, look (here), now, so, well, y’see