Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition

By Ronald P. Leow; Héctor Campos et al. | Go to book overview

“Little Words” in Small Talk: Some
Considerations on the Use of the Pragmatic
Markers man in English and macho/tío in
Peninsular Spanish

LAURA ALBA-JUEZ

Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia

PRAGMATIC MARKERS are linguistic forms that are very common and frequent in spontaneous conversation, and, as Carranza (1997) points out, they can signal not only some kind of attitude on the part of the speakers toward their interlocutor(s) but also the limits and relationships between different parts of the text or discourse.

In this chapter I present, discuss, and analyze (both qualitatively and quantitatively) the different uses and discourse functions of the pragmatic markers man in English (E) and macho tío in Peninsular Spanish (PS), including some reflections on and analysis of their feminine counterpart (tía and “macha”) in Spanish.

The corpus used for the analysis has been taken from different sources, such as the online concordances of oral language of the British National Corpus (BNC) in Variation in English Words and Phrases (VIEW; Davies 2005) and US TV Talk, as well as some American radio interviews and movies. For Spanish, the main source has been the oral section of the Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual (CREA), which includes television and radio shows, telephone conversations, and face-to-face oral interactions among friends, workmates, or members of a family. The recording and transcriptions of some conversations in Spanish, carried out by the researcher and author of this article, have also been made use of.

Following Fraser's (1996, 2006) taxonomy, we could label the markers man (E) and macho/tío (PS) as parallel pragmatic markers, “whose function is to signal an entire message in addition to the basic message” (1996, 21). I also follow Fraser in his view of pragmatic markers as expressions that occur as part of a discourse segment but are not part of the propositional content of the message conveyed and that do not contribute to the meaning of the proposition per se.

Within parallel markers, macho/tío (PS) and man (E) belong to the subclass of vocatives, but, as will be shown with examples in the following sections, they can also be found fulfilling the functions of any of the other three subclasses in Fraser's

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