‘Sorry to muddy the waters’

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In this paper I seek to provide a grammatical account of some aspects of the realisation of speech acts in spoken discourse that are considered formulaic and/or, in some sense elliptical, as described in Biber et al’s (1999) description of the ‘grammar of conversation’. Focusing on apologies involving <i>sorry</i>, I discuss the treatment of formulaic <i>sorry </i>in isolation, together with variants that include it. The discussion is set within the theoretical and descriptive framework of Systemic Functional Grammar (e.g. Halliday and Matthiessen 2004) and the solutions proposed are given in terms of (a) a functionally motivated grammatical structure associated with this framework and (b) system networks that represent the choices available to speakers in a given context.


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