Understanding Contrastive Conjunctions as Discourse Markers in Bilingual Discourse

Baltazar Sanchez III

In multilingual settings, speakers use several languages at the same time; this type of discourse is known as code-switching, where speakers may make switches at any point in their conversation between different codes, or languages. Many studies focus on the rules— or constraints, depending on the author’s approach— involved in this type of discourse while some describe the functions of such multilingual language use, in particular the pragmatic and/or conversational effects. The focus of this paper is insertional code-switching, which is a type of code-switching in which single words are inserted as opposed to entire phrases, as a type of discourse marker in conversations between bilingual individuals, in particular with the English word “but” and its Spanish equivalent pero. The inspiration for this comes from Gardner-Chloros, Charles & Cheshire’s (2000) discussion of code-switching in discourse as a further dimension to what may be classified as monolingual discourse marker. More specifically, this paper focuses on managing the conversational floor through contrastive conjunctions— English “but” and Spanish pero. After analyzing cases and data compiled from an online corpus, it becomes clear that contrastive conjunctions have multiple functions, which is a feature that is highlighted once these discourse markers are considered in the environment of code-switches in bilingual discourse. The findings contribute to the current understanding on discourse markers specifically and code-switching more generally, both of which intersect in establishing common ground between speakers.


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