Naomi Nagy

Linguistics at U of T

Variation in the use of discourse markers in a language contact situation
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Variation in the use of discourse markers in a language contact situation

Research on the use of discourse markers by 17 speakers of Anglophone Montreal French (AMF) shows a very great range in terms of individual repertoires and frequency of use. Whereas 5 subjects manifest rates of usage comparable to those of native speakers, or to their own L1 usage in English, the other 12 display a much more restricted use of the markers. In decreasing order of frequency, the markers used are: (1) tu sais 'y'know' ; (2) 'there', which does not correspond to any English marker, and is the most frequent among L1 Montreqal French speakers; (3) bon 'good', alors 'so', comme 'like', and bien 'well'; and (5) the local discourse conjunction fait que 'so'. Occasional use is also made of the English markers you know, so, like and well. As far as the individual markers are concerned, those typical of Qu´´bécois French, with no English equivalent, are used by speakers who have been exposed to French in their early childhood environment. The one marker that shows influence from English is comme, which AMF speakers appear to have calqued on English like. Overall, frequent use of discourse markers was found to correlate only with speakers' knowledge of French grammar, evidence that higher frequency of discourse marker use is the hallmark of the fluent speaker. As a feature that is not explicityly taught in school, mastery of the appropriate use of discourse is thus particularly revealing of speakers' integration into the local speech community.

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