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Cognitive Insights into Discourse Markers and Second Language Acquisition

Edited By Iria Bello, Carolina Bernales, Maria Vittoria Calvi and Elena Landone

This volume employs a range of empirical methodologies – including eyetracking, direct observation, qualitative research and corpus analysis – to describe the use of discourse markers in second language acquisition. The variety of different approaches used by the contributors facilitates the observation of correlations between morphosyntactic, semantic and pragmatic features of discourse markers and enriches our understanding of the cognitive behaviour of L2 speakers, both in the understanding and production of texts. Some of the essays examine the acquisitional paths of discourse markers in instructional and natural contexts, with a particular focus on situations of language contact and social integration; others describe experimental studies that analyse the cognitive processing of discourse markers in L2 learners. All the contributions aim to offer new insights which will expand and develop existing theoretical claims about this area of study and open up avenues for further research.

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6 A pilot study on the use of discourse markers in the oral discourse of language learners of Spanish (An Vande Casteele / Kim Collewaert)


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6 A pilot study on the use of discourse markers in the oral discourse of language learners of Spanish

On the concept of ‘discourse markers’

It is generally acknowledged that the acquisition and the use of discourse markers tend to pose problems for foreign language learners. But, before discussing the peculiarities of discourse markers in language learners, it is necessary to mention that the concept of ‘discourse marker’ itself has been subject to many discussions (cf. Schiffrin 1987; Jucker and Ziv 1998; Martín Zorraquino and Montolío 1998; Martín Zorraquino and Pórtoles Lázaro 1999; Blakemore 2002; Fischer 2006; Pórtoles Lázaro 2007;2 Martí Sánchez 2008; Loureda Lamas and Acín Villa 2010, etc.) and various terms (discourse/pragmatic marker/particle/connective/operator/…) have been adduced to refer to the same concept (see also the Introduction in this volume). In this chapter, the term ‘discourse marker’ will be further employed to refer to the multifunctional linguistic elements which, according to Fraser (1999: 950), constitute a ‘pragmatic class’ of ‘lexical expressions drawn from the syntactic classes of conjunctions, adverbials, and prepositional phrases’. Schiffrin (1987: 328) underlines the extreme diversity in the set of expressions called discourse markers and suggests the idea of a ‘core meaning’. As of their role in discourse, González (2004: 73) distinguishes two major functions. On the one hand, they adopt a structuring role in the discourse and serve to...

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