Media and Language Change
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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The use of sentence-initial connectives (and, but) in written discourse historically has been disfavored, including by newspaper copy editors who delete them. This article describes changes in the frequency and use of sentence-initial connectives in news stories over the course of the twentieth century, from their relative absence to a semi-conventionalized frequency of use. Connectives have both referential (or semantic) meaning and functional (or pragmatic) meaning, the latter especially associated with spoken discourse. Using data from one community, I show how connectives in sentence-initial position have come to be used by reporters to meet profession-specific communicative functions that override other prescriptive considerations. These functions are mostly pragmatic, rather than semantic, and include goals that are both interactional (managing the interlocutorial distance between reporter and reader, by invoking spoken discourse norms) and structural (delimiting text categories or genres of journalism, and creating coherence in news narratives).


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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