Discourse markers

Discourse markers are usually short words, phrases or clauses that guide the way in which participants in a conversation interact with each other and how they react to each other's contributions. Here are some examples:

yeah, oh, well, ehr, uhm, ah, anyway, definitely, OK, absolutely, mmm, I mean, I think, so

Discourse markers are much less common in written language, except perhaps in language that mimics speech, e.g. in novels or plays. It would be unusual to see the following examples in written English:

  • Sorry, can you start again? [S1A-001 #3]
  • Excuse me, I've got to do what I did last time. [S1A-001 #18]
  • I mean you'd be amazed. [S1A-037 #190]

Some words, phrases or clauses have a particular meaning when they are used as discourse markers. For example, I mean in the example above does not have its usual meaning, but is used for emphasis.

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