Plenary Speakers

Professor Yael Maschler is Head of the Department of Hebrew Language at the University of Haifa. Her research on discourse markers has held a prominent position in the field for many years, including a monograph on Hebrew discourse markers (Benjamins, 2009) and collaborative work with Peter Auer and Deborah Schriffrin. Her recent publications include a co-edited volume on discourse markers, published with Peter Auer (de Gruyter, 2016), and a chapter exploring the boundaries between discourse markers, pragmatic markers, and modal particles (Benjamins, in press). She is currently director of the ISF Grant (2016-2020) “The emergent grammar of clause-combining from a cross-linguistic perspective: A contribution to pragmatic typology.” Below is the abstract for her keynote lecture at DiPVaC4.

Projection and the discourse marker - conjunction continuum
Yael Maschler (University of Haifa)

Auer defines projection as “the fact that an individual action or part of it foreshadows another” (2005:8). He distinguishes between grammatical projection (as when, e.g., a preposition projects a noun phrase in English) and interactional projection (as when, e.g., a question projects an answer) and shows that the dividing line between the two is not always unambiguous. In this talk I investigate one such ambiguous case.

In previous work I have argued that discourse markers (DMs) function as interactional projecting constructions employed by participants to foreshadow a new conversational action (Ford and Thompson 1996) in which they are about to engage (Maschler 2009). In the present study I examine the ‘general subordinating conjunction’ she- (‘that/which/who’) in Hebrew conversation. Conjunctions are considered to carry grammatical, not interactional projection by virtue of their foreshadowing an upcoming subordinate clause of some type (relative, complement, or adverbial). Yet the data manifest many instances in which she- carries interactional rather than grammatical projection, foreshadowing a new conversational action and functioning more like a DM in this sense. In other words, I would like to explore here the nebulous boundary between a DM and a conjunction.  

My talk focuses on insubordinate (Evans and Watanabe 2016) clauses in Hebrew conversation. The clauses examined are syntactically unintegrated (unembedded in any matrix clause), or loosely-integrated (cannot be viewed unambiguously as constituting a relative, complement, or adverbial clause), yet they all begin with she-. All 104 insubordinate she- clauses found throughout a 5.5 hour audio-recorded corpus were classified according to their discourse function -- modal, elaborative, or evaluative. Leaving aside the modal type, the remaining insubordinate she- clauses (N=69, 66%) are shown to emerge on-line while speakers are busy performing a variety of tasks and responding to local interactional contingencies. A meta-level action is common to all these tokens: she- is employed as a generic ‘wildcard’ tying back to immediately prior discourse and projecting an elaboration (specification or explication) or evaluation of this prior stretch of discourse, in either same- or other-speaker talk.

For example, in the following excerpt from a narrative, Adva describes getting to work and receiving a phone call from Omer, asking her for the shift schedule:  

23 Adva:   ...'omer mitkasher,


                          Omer calls,

24                    ..she-'ani 'avi         lo       sidur.

                        that-I   bring.fut.1sg to.3sg.m shift_schedule

                   that I get him the shift schedule.

With this she- clause Adva elaborates on the immediately preceding clause ‘Omer calls’ by explicating the reason/purpose for the call, but she also specifies the content of the request made by the caller. This she- clause cannot be considered an object complement according to traditional Hebrew grammar, because the verb mitkasher ‘calls’ takes only an indirect object (mitkasher le- ‘calls to [somebody]’). It cannot be considered an adverbial clause, because of the lack of an adverbial conjunction, such as kedey she- ‘so that’ required in the case of a purpose clause. I classify this case as a loosely-integrated she- clause, because it does not fall clearly in any of the categories -- object complement, adverbial complement (or relative clause). Besides projecting elaboration in this manner, she- at intonation unit 24 serves to attribute the upcoming content to another speaker (Omer), and in this way also projects the action of incorporating another voice for the speaker (Adva). This is reminiscent of what Keevallik (2008) has found for Estonian et and Laury and Seppänen (2008) for Finnish että -- two complementizers which have been shown to function in Estonian and in Finnish, respectively, also as particles.

However, an integrated post-positioned she-clause -- be it a canonical relative, complement, or adverbial clause in a bi-clausal construction --  is of course also an elaboration of immediately preceding discourse. This is because any attribute specifies the head it modifies, and any argument or adverbial complement explicates the action described by the verb -- by spelling out the referents involved in the action and the circumstances in which it takes place. In this sense the syntactically integrated clauses are but a subtype of the syntactically unintegrated cases. In other words, rather than viewing the syntactically un/loosely-integrated cases as imperfect realizations of the canonical type, the canonical type could be viewed as a grammaticization (Hopper 1987) in which elaborative actions have sedimented to form the relative, complementational, and adverbial clause-combining constructions familiar to us from traditional sentence-level grammar (cf. Hopper and Thompson 2008). As Auer observes, “syntax can be seen […] as the historical result of a sedimentation and (partly normative) regularization of certain interactional projection techniques” (2005: 33).

The findings concerning Hebrew insubordinate she- clauses thus question traditional notions of grammatical ‘subordination’ and shed new light on the discourse marker - conjunction continuum.


Auer, Peter. 2005. Projection in interaction and projection in grammar. Text 25:  7-36. 

Evans, Nicholas and Watanabe, Honoré (eds.). 2016. Insubordination. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Ford, Cecilia E. and Thompson, Sandra A. 1996. Interactional units in conversation: Syntactic, intonational, and pragmatic resources for the management of turns. In:  Elinor Ochs, Emanuel A. Schegloff, and Sandra A. Thompson (eds.), Interaction and Grammar.  Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 134-184.

Hopper, Paul  J.  1987.  Emergent grammar.  In: Jon Aske, Natasha Beery, Laura Michaelis, and Hana Filip (eds.), Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society 13:  139-157.  Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society.

Hopper, Paul J. and Thompson, Sandra A.  2008.  Projectability and clause combining in interaction. In: Ritva Laury (ed.), Crosslinguistic Studies of Clause Combining: The Multifunctionality of Conjunctions. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 99-123.

Keevallik, Leelo. 2008. Conjunction and sequenced action: The Estonian complementizer and evidential particle et. In: Ritva Laury (ed.), Crosslinguistic Studies of Clause Combining. The Multifunctionality of Conjunctions. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 125–152.

Laury, Ritva and Seppänen, Eeva-Leena. 2008. Clause combining, interaction, evidentiality, participation structure, and the conjunction-particle continuum: The Finnish että. In: Ritva Laury (ed.), Crosslinguistic Studies of Clause Combining. The Multifunctionality of Conjunctions. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 153–178.

Maschler, Yael.  2009.  Metalanguage in Interaction:  Hebrew Discourse Markers.  Amsterdam/Philadelphia:  John Benjamins.

Professor Terttu Nevalainen is Professor of English Philology at the University of Helsinki and the Director of the Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English. She serves as the series editor of Oxford Studies in the History of English (OUP) and, with Marijke van der Wal, of Advances in Historical Sociolinguistics (Benjamins). She is also the editor-in-chief of Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English, the open-access online series that VARIENG has published since 2007. Her research interests include corpus linguistics, historical sociolinguistics and language change. Below is the abstract for her keynote lecture at DiPVaC4.

(Dis)connecting people? Variation in the sociopragmatics of and and but
Terttu Nevalainen (University of Helsinki)

My paper discusses the variable use in discourse of the two central connectives, and and but. My approach is informed by Agha’s (2007) formulation of discourse types, or registers, as linguistic repertoires used in utterances by particular sociohistorical populations. Linguists often identify such speech forms by the language users’ metapragmatic acts. These acts can be expressed and evaluated, for example, in names for registers and speech genres, by specifying typical speakers, and by positive or negative assessments of the social worth of given registers (Agha 2007: 150-151).

Rather than detailing the linguistic repertoires coindexed with and and but, I will focus on the discourse types that have been metapragmatically associated with the uses and users of these connectives. I will analyse the distributions of the connectives in different kinds of data, both historical and modern, (a) to discuss the extent to which they can be taken to characterize these data sets sociopragmatically at the macro-level, and also (b) to illustrate how speakers assign pragmatic values to these forms to serve their particular communicative purposes at the micro-level.


Agha, Asif. 2007. Language and social relations. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Dr. Heike Pichler is a variationist linguist specialising in discourse-pragmatic and morpho-syntactic variation and change at the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics at Newcastle University. She is a key figure in advancing the study of discourse markers and pragmatic particles within a variationist paradigm. Her books include a monograph on the structure of discourse-pragmatic variation (Benjamins, 2013) and an edited volume on discourse-pragmatic variation and change in English (CUP, 2016). Dr. Pichler is the founder and chair of the DiPVaC network and conference series.

From complexity to uniformity, via (contact-induced) grammaticalization:
tracing the evolution of the London question tag ‘system’

Heike Pichler (Newcastle University)

Since its emergence in the late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries, the system of British English question tags, illustrated in (1)-(3), has been characterized by complex but stable and robust formation rules (Childs 2016; Hoffmann 2006; Pichler 2013; Tottie & Hoffmann 2009). However, in contemporary London English, this complexity is giving way to uniformity: innit, as in (4), is rapidly ousting other tag forms from the system. In order to elucidate the mechanisms driving this dramatic change, I build on previous work that has examined individual variants (i.e., innit and weren’t it, as in (5)) in isolation, and quantified their distribution across selected predictors (Andersen 2001; Cheshire & Fox 2009). I include in the variable context all negative-polarity question tag variants (N=2395) extracted from the socially stratified Linguistic Innovators Corpus (collected in inner- and outer-London in 2005-2006; Kerswill et al. 2007), which allows me to: (a) situate ongoing changes in the use of individual variants in relation to the broader system in which they occur; (b) operationalize multiple measures of grammaticalization for quantitative analysis; and (c) explore which of these changes are internally-motivated or contact-induced.

  1. Oh, I missed out, me, didn’t I?
  2. But runner beans are our favourite, aren’t they?
  3. London can be posh, can’t it?
  4. Cos we rob them, innit?
  5. Cos I stopped bunning, weren’t it?

The quantitative data analysis confirms the gradual nature of the observed changes: a system dominated by a wide range of full variants whose occurrence is strictly conditioned by syntactic-semantic factors, as in (1)-(3), is being supplanted by the invariant use of one coalesced variant, i.e., innit as in (4), via a system of functionally-conditioned variation between full variants, reduced variants (e.g. in’t it, din he), and innit. This rapid and large-scale reconfiguration of the system is made possible because innit – due to its reanalysis as a single unit – undergoes both decategorialization and semantic-pragmatic context expansion: it spreads across syntactic-semantic contexts and increases its functional versatility. I will provide new cross-dialectal and cross-linguistic evidence to argue that internal and external factors conspire to bring about these dramatic changes: while the phonetic reduction of isn’t it to innit is internally-motivated, the form’s spread across syntactic-semantic contexts is contact-induced, as first hypothesised by Hewitt (1987). I will also demonstrate that the spread of innit at the expense of other variants, notably weren’t it whose invariant use seems short-lived, can be linked to patterns of mundane everyday mobility among London adolescents.


Andersen, Gisle. 2001. Pragmatic Markers and Sociolinguistic Variation: A Relevance-Theoretic Approach to the Language of Adolescents. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Cheshire, Jenny & Sue Fox. 2009. Was/were variation: a perspective from London. Language Variation and Change 21(1): 1-38.

Childs, Claire. 2017. Variation and change in English negation: a cross-dialectal perspective. Unpublished PhD thesis, Newcastle University, UK.

Hoffmann, Sebastian. 2006. Tag questions in Early and Late Modern English: historical description and theoretical implications. Anglistik 17(2): 35-55.

Kerswill, Paul, Jenny Cheshire, Sue Fox & Eivind Torgersen. 2007. Linguistic Innovators: The English of Adolescents in London: Full Research Report. ESRC End of Award Report, RES-000-23-0680. Swindon: ESRC.

Pichler, Heike. 2013. The Structure of Discourse-Pragmatic Variation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Tottie, Gunnel & Sebastian Hoffmann. 2009. Tag questions in English: the first century. Journal of English Linguistics 37(2): 130-161.

Jan-Ola Östman is a professor emeritus from the University of Helsinki. He is the current president of the International Pragmatics Association. His work constitutes some of the early research on pragmatic particles, starting in the 1980s with the monograph You Know: A discourse functional approach. Since, his research interests have grown to include theoretical issues in pragmatics, dialectology, the sociology of language, and construction grammar. Since its launch in 1995, he has been a co-editor of Handbook of Pragmatics. Below is the abstract for his keynote lecture at DiPVaC4.

Pragmatic particles, constructions, and responsibility
Jan-Ola Östman (University of Helsinki)

In the mid-1970s neither “pragmatics” nor “particles” belonged to the “mainstream” of what the scientific study of language should concern itself with. Apart from the odd article in other disciplines, these were largely uncharted territories. This was the backdrop against which I started to analyze “small words” in Finnish, Swedish, and English in the late 1970s, and the same questions have followed me ever since. See e.g. Östman 1981, 1982, 1987, 1995, 2006.

In this presentation I want to give my perspective on the development of approaches to discourse during the last forty years. The common linguistic thread of discourse will be precisely pragmatic particles, a.k.a. discourse markers, IFIDs, attitudinal adverbs, discourse connectives, modal particles, etc. I will also bring in a constructional approach to particles in order to pay tribute to the ever-important quest for and importance of systematics in linguistic study. Cf. Fried & Östman 2005.

My third – and ultimately the most important – perspective I want to bring in is that of responsibility. Pragmatics is the study of what happens between the lines of what we propositionally say, and of how we implicitly anchor what we communicate to our historical and cultural contexts, to our social and interactional settings, and to our attitudes and emotions. What takes place implicitly, i.e. between the lines of what we say, are aspects we are not propositionally responsible for; pragmatic particles, in turn, constitute one type of anchors that guide us in our search for, and understanding of, what really goes on under the surface in a communicative situation.

I will suggest that “context” is part of grammar (not outside it) and show how this can be dealt with systematically in Construction Discourse (cf. e.g. Östman 2015). I will also suggest that the very concept of responsibility (with its multitude of perspectives; cf. Östman & Solin 2016) can offer a more dynamic approach to our understanding of the world (of communication and discourse) than ideology can do, and that the pragmatic particles constitute the “grease” that sees to it that the human communication machinery works and runs smoothly – also below the surface.


Fried, Mirjam & Jan-Ola Östman, 2005. Construction Grammar and spoken language: The case of pragmatic particles. Journal of Pragmatics 37(11): 1752-1778.

Östman, Jan-Ola, 1981. You know: A discourse-functional approach. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Östman, Jan-Ola, 1982. The symbiotic relationship between pragmatic particles and impromptu speech. In Impromptu speech: A symposium (147-177), ed. by Nils Erik Enkvist. Åbo Akademi university: The Research Institute of the Åbo Akademi.

Östman, Jan-Ola, 1987. Pragmatic markers of persuasion. In Propaganda, persuasion and polemic (90-105), ed. by Jeremy Hawthorn. London: Edward Arnold.

Östman, Jan-Ola, 1995. Pragmatic particles twenty years after. In Organization in discourse (95-108), ed. by Brita Wårvik, Sanna-Kaisa Tanskanen & Risto Hiltunen. Department of English, University of Turku: Department of English.

Östman, Jan-Ola, 2006. Constructions in cross-language research: Verbs as pragmatic particles in Solv. In Pragmatic markers in contrast 2 (237-257), edited by Karin Aijmer & Anne-Marie Simon-Vandenbergen. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Östman, Jan-Ola, 2015. From Construction Grammar to Construction Discourse ... and back. In Konstruktionsgrammatik V: Konstruktionen im Spannungsfeld von sequenziellen Mustern, kommunikativen Gattungen und Textsorten (15-44), ed. by Jörg Bücker, Susanne Günthner & Wolfgang Imo. Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag.

Östman, Jan-Ola & Anna Solin (eds.), 2016. Discourse and responsibility in professional settings. Sheffield: Equinox.