The speaker’s voice
A diachronic study on the use of well and now as pragmatic markers
In present-day English, well and now function as pragmatic markers with a wide range of text-structuring and interpersonal meanings. Both markers are used as topic-changers and serve as a means to signal speaker-attitudes or to gain a shared level of understanding between speaker and addressee on the interpersonal level. Whereas well is generally back-looking, now directs the hearer to the upcoming topic (e.g. Aijmer 2002). Because well and now have developed from a similar — adverbial — origin, this paper will examine to what extent the propositional source of the two markers serves a role in their later semantic-pragmatic development. Our aim is to examine, by means of a historical corpus study, to what extent the development of well and now has been directed by underlying theories of grammaticalisation — implying semantic bleaching and pragmatic strengthening — and (inter)subjectification (Traugott 1999). Specific attention will be paid to contexts in which speaker and addressee have diverging views and where the use of a pragmatic marker can help in expressing personal stance and in creating interpersonal ties with the addressee. The material for this paper is taken from three historical corpora which contain speech-based data, viz. the diachronic part of the Helsinki Corpus of English Texts (HC), the Corpus of Early English Correspondence (Sampler) (CEECS), and the Corpus of English Dialogues (CED).
Published online: 07 March 2008
Cited by 9 other publications
Rühlemann, Christoph & Martin Hilpert
Traugott, Elizabeth Closs
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