Discourse or Speech Markers and its features

Discourse or Speech Markers

he discourse markers , also called “extrarational links” by Samuel Gili Gaya , or argumentative or extra rational connectors , text processors , etc., are “invariable linguistic units, which do not exert a syntactic function within the framework of sentence preaching, since they are marginal elements and have a coincident role in the discourse: that of guiding, according to their different morphosyntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties, the inferences that are made in communication “.

Typically, discursive markers are separated by commas, since they are extrarational elements, that is, they are not part of any sentence .

History of the concept

Discourse markers are, as the term suggests, words that mark the discourse . This means that they only came to the attention as linguistics started paying attention to the discourse. Under discourse people understand: the communicative interaction that is specific to language and that has its own semantic dynamic.

Traditionally, semantics consists of either a component analysis of the components of an expression, in the case of sentence semantics , or a descriptive analysis of words in isolation, in the case of lexical semantics . In that approach, however, meaning is considered in a kind of idealized vacuum; however, in real communication, that is, actual linguistic interaction between people, there is an immense amount of personal evaluation. The discourse analysis, which always uses real, registered language, is oriented to the underlying personal and institutional context. As a result of that interest, people have started to focus on elements that speakers add to their discourse in order to express their personal attitude. In many cases it concerns words that have a clear lexical meaning in isolation.

Research into grammaticalization shows that the appearance of discourse markers is a result of, or is accompanied by, an increasing subjectification of the discourse.


Samuel Gili Gaya already pointed out some of the characteristics of these particles:

  1. Its link to external notions to the preaching of prayer.
  2. His invariable character.
  3. The heterogeneity of its categorical entity: conjunctions , conjunctive phrases, interjections , etc.
  4. The distributional versatility of many of them (they occupy the initial, medial or final position of the discursive member in which they appear).
  5. Their significant peculiarity: they contribute to establishing what the author calls coherence , and they reach a plurality of semantic values in combination, frequently, with the appropriate suprasegmental features ( intonation , especially).
  6. They can be assigned to different registers (in some cases they are more typical of written discourse – “however”, “nonetheless”, “consequently” … and in others they are more typical of oral discourse: well, so, etc. .)
  7. They become mere supports of elocution or “muletillas” in colloquial speech.


What are invariable, can see that is not the same as saying “Lucia is injured and therefore can not play” that “Lucia is injured and, therefore, can not play” , since “therefore” does not play syntactic function neither supports bending ( * hence ) nor supplements, which can be done “for this reason” , which supports plural or can be reformulated with complements “even for these small reasons” . Consequently, “for this reason” and similar expressions cannot be said to be true markers of speech .

Now, speech markers may appear to perform syntactic functions, but no longer as speech markers: I’ll do it / Well, I’ll do it. I will do it in any case / In any case, I will do it. It doesn’t have to answer like this / So it doesn’t have to answer. Say it in a word / In a word, say it.

The markers of discourse differ from the conjunctions in which they are not always placed at the beginning of the text , but have greater mobility, although many of them are required there. On the other hand, they do not admit negation, nor – between themselves – coordination: * good and therefore , although they can be coordinated with syntagmas located in interjection in case they are adverbs markers: “The culture is in addition, and mainly, the present time ” . “In fact, although they would be seen countless times, they would never refer to that supernatural fact . ”


María Antonia Martín and José Portolés distinguish five types of discursive markers, each with its different subtypes:

  • Information Structurers : Commentators, Opening, Continuity and Closing Computers, Digesters, Commentators.
  • Connectors : additive, consecutive and counter-argumentative.
  1. Reformulators : explanatory, rectifying, distancing, recapitulative.
  2. Argumentative operators : reinforcement and concreteness.
  3. Conversational markers : epistemic, evidence or source- and deontic guidance, conversational focusers, and conversational metadiscursive.

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