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Doctoral dissertation project of Lisa Gerks

Discourse markers and prominence relations in spoken Spanish and French

Why is a discourse marker an interesting element to analyse in a discourse? What is so special about these elements that are used in a conversation without thinking about it? In what way could it be relevant to carry out another investigation regarding discourse markers? In my project I plan on analyse and describe the relation between discourse markers and prominence relations in spoken Spanish and French. What is special about the Romance language are their tenses, especially the past tenses show an aspectual differentiation between perfective and imperfective tenses. For that reason, it will be a fruitful investigation to find out, for example, if a certain discourse marker indicates a special tense/ aspect construction and further, if that contributes to a certain prominence status.

Discourse markers play a central role in discourse analysis. Discourse markers build relations between different phrases or entities. Discourse markers are linguistic entities that guide the receptor/ hearer, through the discourse or conversation. In that way, the most relevant issue is the context where the discourse marker is embedded in and the relationships that are established by it. Regarding the different relationships in a discourse, the argumentative structure plays an important role because it displays the interaction of speaker and hearer who convey their opinion in a different way.

Discourse markers are closely connected to the argumentative structure and often indicate or reinforce the propositions in a discourse. For that reason, by analysing discourse markers we have also an inherent pragmatic dimension which is displayed in the interaction and expectation-guiding function. The argumentative structuring in discourse means the interaction of a speaker and a hearer or receptor, where the speaker wants the receptor to follow his/her opinion or even direct and control the interpretation of the content.

In this context we also mention the expectation the speaker evokes in the hearer while talking. This expectation is conveyed by discourse markers as they indicate, for example, a reinforced or corrected information. Another factor is the temporal structure that may also interacts with the discourse marker. How this interaction looks like is one of the questions of my project. For that reason, a discourse marker constitutes a relevant linguistic entity that in relation to certain tense/ aspect-forms may give information regarding prominence relations.

Short biography

Lisa Gerks studied German as a foreign language and Spanish at the University of Bielefeld (BA) and Language in Europe at the University of Osnabrück (MA). During her studies, she spent one semester at the University of Málaga, Spain, and another semester at the University of Cádiz, Spain. In her master’s thesis she worked on prosodic focus marking in costa-rican Spanish based on recordings of a small field study in Costa Rica. At the University of cologne she is now part of the Collaborative Research Centre Prominence in Language working in project C02 Tense and Aspect in Discourse.