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Discourse markers in oral narrative

Neal R. Norrick

pp. 297-327

This chapter seeks to demonstrate that well and but function as a special sort of discourse marker (DM) in oral narratives, and that their functions within the oral narrative context follow neither from their usual meanings nor from their usual DM functions in other contexts. Instead, both well and but are keyed on participant expectations about narrative structures and storytelling procedures. Excerpts from conversational narratives will illustrate how well and but initiate and conclude narrative action, how they guide listeners back to the main sequence of narrative elements following interruptions and digressions, and how listeners can invoke well and but to reorient the primary teller to the expected order of narrative presentation.If, as Fraser (1990, p. 383–395) says, DMs signal a sequential discourse relationship, then specifically narrative DMs provide particularly clear evidence of an independent DM function not related to any lexical meaning. The analysis of well and but in oral narrative shows that DMs enjoy specialized functions in this particular type of discourse due to its highly coded sequentiality and storytelling conventions.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-12616-6_11

Full citation:

Norrick, N. R. (2016)., Discourse markers in oral narrative, in A. Capone & J. L. Mey (eds.), Interdisciplinary studies in pragmatics, culture and society, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 297-327.

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