Introduction: demonstratives in Discourse

Åshild Næss, Anna Margetts, Yvonne Treiss

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Other


Over the last decades, there has been extensive discussion in the typological literature of the functions and uses of demonstratives. It is well established that
demonstratives are not restricted to referring to items in situational use based on concrete spatial parameters, but that discourse deictic, anaphoric/tracking, and recognitional uses are also common, if not universal, functions of demonstratives (see Himmelmann 1996; 1997; and Diessel 1999 for systematic overviews).
Studies have shown that many parameters beyond location and configuration
of referents and speech-act participants play a role in demonstrative choice. In
particular, directing the addressee’s attention towards a target entity and prior
knowledge of a referent either through the previous discourse or from the real
world have been identified as relevant (see e.g. Burenhult 2003; Dawuda 2009;
Diessel 2006; Enfield 2003; Hanks 1990;1992; 2005; 2009; Küntay & Özyürek 2006; Özyürek 1998). The diachronic development from demonstratives to other types of markers with grammatical and discourse functions has also been extensively discussed (see again Himmelmann 1996; 1997; Diessel 1999). This volume investigates discourse functions of demonstratives, that is, the type
of functions demonstratives perform when they develop into discourse markers.1
The notion of discourse marker is not very clearly defined, and the question thus
arises which functions they comprise, how they can be described, and to what extent demonstratives and their functions match this description. In a broad-brush
approach, discourse markers can be described as morphemes which deliver a
meta-commentary on the discourse and establish and negotiate intersubjectivity.
That is to say, discourse markers perform functions like directing attention as a
means of establishing and maintaining joint attention, enabling the addressee to
track participants through the discourse, indicating which parts of the discourse
the speaker seeks to foreground and which are to be taken for granted, but also
indicating the interlocutors’ epistemic stance towards or evaluation of a particular portion of discourse (Englebretson 2007). Discourse markers communicate
information like hey, I’m starting something new here, or you know this already, or this is the important bit, and here is what I think about this. They aid interlocutors in managing and navigating the discourse and in positioning themselves with regards to what is being said.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDemonstratives in Discourse
EditorsÅshild Næss, Anna Margetts, Yvonne Treis
Place of PublicationBerlin Germany
PublisherLanguage Science Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783961102860
ISBN (Print)9783961102877
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameTopics at the Grammar-Discourse Interface

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