The Evolution of Pragmatic Markers
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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This paper investigates the historical origins, both syntactic and functional, of a set of discourse particles commonly used in present-day spoken Swedish: hör du ‘(you) listen’, vet du ‘you know’, ser du ‘you see’, and förstår du ‘you understand’. From a synchronic perspective, the particles seem to be a morpho-syntactically unified phenomenon, and have been treated as such in earlier linguistic works. However, there is no diachronic account of these particles. This paper presents a number of hypotheses concerning the syntactic and functional sources of the discourse particles; we also evaluate the hypotheses against the background of historical linguistic data collected from Old Swedish, Middle Swedish, and Modern Swedish sources. The Modern Swedish period is covered by a large corpus of plays from the 1700s to the late 1900s. Comparisons are also made to Old and Modern Icelandic data. The historical data show that the particle hör du is of imperative, functionally directive origin, while the rest of the particles include a verb in present tense indicative, thus presumably originating from minimal clauses with a declarative or an interrogative function. Hence, historical formal and functional differences are hidden behind the apparent uniform present-day forms and functions of the discourse particles.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): addressing; discourse markers; discourse particles; grammaticalization
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