Cross-linguistic evidence for the early acquisition of discourse markers as register variables

Elaine S. Andersen, Maquela Brizuela, Beatrice DuPuy, Laura Gonnerman

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60 Scopus citations


Most prior research has focused on the textual uses of discourse markers (DMs): how they (1) create coherence; (2) provide feedback about comprehension; and (3) signal production problems. A less studied function of these forms is their use as markers of the social relationships between interlocutors. This paper compares earlier findings on the acquisition of DMs as register variables in American English and Lyonnais French (Andersen 1990, 1996) with more recent data from a comparable study of Chicano Spanish-speaking children; it demonstrates striking cross-linguistic parallels in the way children learn to use these forms both to convey social meaning and to manipulate the social situation where power relationships are not pre-established. All groups use more lexical DMs and more 'stacks' (Well, now then..., Et bon alors ...,Y bueno vamos ...,) to mark higher status roles, with non-lexical variants such as uh, euh, or eh more frequent in the low status roles. In addition to parallel patterns of use, the data also reveal differences that reflect the relative importance of these forms in the different language communities, with French children using more DMs and 'stacking' than their American and Spanish-speaking peers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1339-1351
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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