The expectation marker of course in a cross-linguistic perspective

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The study of of course presented in this article has an applied, a descriptive and a theoretical aim. Since of course proves to be very frequent in English, learners will need to know what meanings the item has and in what pragmatic contexts it is used. It has indeed been shown that some learners tend to use of course in contexts where it is felt by native speakers to be inappropriate. In order to explain such inappropriate uses we need detailed descriptions of the semantics and pragmatics of of course. From a theoretical point of view such multifunctional items raise the question of whether semantic polysemy or pragmatic polysemy is the best explanatory account. It is argued in this paper that empirical cross-linguistic work can contribute to providing answers to all three research questions. First, the study of correspondences and differences between languages with regard to the meanings and uses of pragmatic markers is a necessary step in the explanation of learner problems. Second, the bidirectional approach to equivalents, which involves going back and forth from sources to translations, enables us to show to what extent the equivalents have partially overlapping pragmatic functions. An in-depth comparison of the semantic fields in which the translation equivalents operate is the ultimate goal. Third, the translation method helps to see to what extent a core meaning account is justified. In this paper three languages are brought into the picture, viz. English, Swedish and Dutch. The cross-linguistic data have been gathered from three translation corpora, i.e. the English-Swedish Parallel Corpus, the Oslo Multilingual Corpus and the Namur Triptic Corpus.

Keywords: Dutch/English/Swedish; expectation; pragmatic markers

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Ghent 2: Göteborgs Universitet

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • International Journal for Contrastive Linguistics
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