Turn-final Conjunction or as a Discourse Marker in English Conversations

By Chisato Koike.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

‘Or’ is generally considered as a conjunction providing two or more alternatives, used either within or at the beginning of a sentence. However, ‘or’ is also frequently placed at the end of an utterance without providing an alternative in casual American-English conversations. Building on Schiffrin’s (1987) analysis of ‘or’ as ‘an option marker,’ this study investigates the use of the conjunction ‘or’ in the turn-final position using corpus data. The results show that 1) the turn-final ‘or’ was used in interrogative utterances more frequently than in declarative utterances, 2) the interlocutors responded to questions with a ‘dangling or’ as regular yes/no or wh-questions rather than alternative questions, and 3) the turn-final ‘or’ had a reduced pronunciation and a pitch much lower than that of the preceding utterance. These results suggest that the conjunction ‘or’ is grammaticalized to act as a discourse marker, signaling that the turn is yielded and mitigating interactional force when eliciting a response. My analysis sheds light on functions of discourse markers in English conversations by elucidating the interactional aspects regarding the use of the conjunction ‘or.’

Keywords: Conjunction ‘Or’, Discourse Marker, English Conversations, Questions, Corpus

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 9, pp.155-168. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.251MB).

Chisato Koike

Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, California State University, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA


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