Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1387-6759
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9897
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Canonical question tags feature prominently in spoken English, where they display great versatility. At face value they are meant to elicit a response from a co-participant in the form of (dis)agreement with the proposition to which the tag has been added. Their pragmatic scope is, however, considerably broader: they serve as politeness strategies but also emphasize the speaker’s convictions or mark accusations. Like many other languages, Dutch does not have a similar structure, which raises questions as to what devices Dutch employs to serve the same purpose as question tags. This contrastive study examines such correspondents in a parallel corpus of English novels and their Dutch translations. Three structures can be identified: pragmatic markers, clause-final parentheticals and combinations of these. The data indicate a preference for pragmatic markers (most notably and ), which predominantly appear either as invariant tags or clause-medially, indicating subtle shifts in utterance interpretation.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): English/Dutch; fiction; parallel corpus; pragmatics; question tags; translation
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