Discourse markers in French and German

Reasons for an asymmetry

Authors

  • Séverine Adam Université Paris-Sorbonne
  • Martine Dalmas Université Paris-Sorbonne

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.v6i1-3.77

Keywords:

discourse analysis, discourse operations, linguistic assymetry, pragmatism

Abstract

The ‘pragmatic movement’ at the end of the 1970s, as well as the increasing number of studies on the oral language and the development of phraseology paved the way for descriptions of language and discourse phenomena, which had been neglected until then. Discourse markers are such phenomena: in each language there are units that speakers use to mark certain discourse operations and to convey communicative intentions, feelings and attitudes. Because most of these units are pragmaticalized forms (syntagms), which have undergone a linguistic change, they can’t be translated literally, so that they may appear to have no equivalents in other languages. This is the case for German particles, for instance: it would be pointless to look for literal, mono-lexical equivalents for them in French for example. This does not mean, however, that the French language has no specific linguistic means to fulfil similar functions as German particles. On the other hand, the formal similarity of some units in different languages is no guarantee for their functional equivalence. These observations lead to the basic idea of this contribution: if we want to find equivalents in other languages for the units of one language that fulfil pragmatic functions, such as discourse markers, we have to give an accurate formal and functional description of these units first and then to look for possible equivalents in other languages. We want to illustrate this by having a closer look at three French discourse markers (dis donc, tu vois and écoute) and their possible equivalents in German.

Author Biographies

Séverine Adam, Université Paris-Sorbonne

Séverine Adam teaches German and comparative linguistics at the University of Paris-Sorbonne since 2008. From 1999 to 2008 she worked at the department of French language and literature of the University of Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany). She received her Ph.D from the Universities of Paris-Sorbonne and Freiburg. She is a member of the research team CoVariUs/‘Contextes, variations, usages’. Her work currently focuses on comparing information structure devices in German and French.

Martine Dalmas, Université Paris-Sorbonne

Martine Dalmas studied German language and literature in France (Aix-Marseille) and Germany (Heidelberg). After her Ph.D in linguistics at the University of Lyon 2, she received her Habilitation degree in German linguistics from the university of Paris-Sorbonne, where she now teaches German and comparative linguistics as full professor and leads a research team that focuses the syntax-semantic interface (CoVariUs /‘Contextes, variation, usages’). She has collaborated for many years with the German Institut für deutsche Sprache (Mannheim). Specialization: Discourse markers, information structure, synonymy, formulaic language.

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Published

2012-12-13

How to Cite

Adam, S., & Dalmas, M. (2012). Discourse markers in French and German: Reasons for an asymmetry. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 6(1-3), 77–98. https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.v6i1-3.77

Issue

Section

Discourse Markers