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Heine, B., Kaltenböck, G., Kuteva, T. and Long, H., The Rise of Discourse Markers

Graham Ranger

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1The Rise of Discourse Markers, coauthored by Bernd Heine, Gunther Kaltenböck, Tania Kuteva and Haiping Long, presents an original and strongly supported alternative to accounts of the development of discourse markers (henceforth DMs) proposed most prominently within theories of grammaticalization and pragmaticalization. The process of “cooptation”, instrumental in the emergence of DMs, is introduced in the first two chapters, respectively, “The Development of Discourse Markers: An Introduction” and “Concepts of Analysis”. The next four chapters are dedicated to a review of the development of a selection of DMs in four languages, English, French, Japanese and Korean, with a view to putting the cooptation hypothesis to the test. “Discourse Markers in Language Contact” (Chapter 7) considers another way in which DMs can develop. Chapter 8, “Discussion”, considers several issues raised in the course of the preceding pages, including the motivating factors behind cooptation, constituent-anchored DMs, imperatives as a source of DMs and hesitation markers. The concluding chapter runs over the ground covered and the main claims of the study.

2We might see the structure of the book as falling into three main parts: the first (chaps 1-2) provides theoretical background and claims, the second (chaps 3-6) tests these against data from four languages, the third (chaps 7-9) discusses related issues in the context of the earlier chapters. Each part occupies roughly a third of the total work, which contains 272 pages of text, a very complete, 25-page references section, and 9 pages of useful indexes by language, name and subject. In the review that follows, I shall present the chapters in order, focussing more closely on the first and third parts, before moving on to a general assessment of the qualities of the book.

3The book begins with a general introduction to the elusive category of DMs, presenting some of the most significant research to have emerged in this very dynamic field of study. DMs are defined, here, according to four criteria: they are invariable, they are semantically and syntactically independent, they are set off prosodically and their function is metatextual (p. 6). The authors' interest is not so much with what DMs are as how they arise. They quote the examples of English still, German sicher and French bien as cases where DMs have emerged from other, non-DM uses of the linguistic items in question. The development from non-DM uses to DMs has often been explained as a form of grammaticalization or, less frequently, pragmaticalization. Processes of grammaticalization have notably been theorised by Lehmann (1982), Hopper and Traugott (1993) and Brinton (1996), in landmark studies showing how lexical items may gradually evolve to develop new grammatical functions. The development can be characterised by a number of typical features, but these have been recognised to apply less successfully to the study of DMs. Brinton, for instance, is quoted as noting that, contrary to normal grammaticalization processes, “DMs do not commonly develop into clitics or inflexions [and] do not typically reduce phonetically [, remaining] independent items” (Brinton 2017: 29 quoted p. 17). In the face of such difficulties in explaining the development of pragmatic items such as DMs within grammaticalization theory, the process of pragmaticalization has been suggested as an independent account (Dostie 2009, quoted p. 20). The problem here, however, is that the development of DMs does display some features of grammaticalization, and so proponents of the latter have seen pragmaticalization as an unnecessary explanatory principle, preferring to tweak grammaticalization theory in various ways (e.g. reduction and expansion) to enable it to account satisfactorily for DMs in addition to more typical grammatical items. In the current volume, Heine et al claim that neither grammaticalization nor pragmaticalization is sufficient to explain the development of DMs, arguing for a process called cooptation, defined as “a cognitive–communicative operation whereby a text segment such as a clause, a phrase, or a word is transferred from the domain or level of sentence grammar and deployed for use on the level of discourse organization” (p. 26). Cooptation is seen as a dramatic step in the development of a given DM, which may undergo other changes, more characteristic of grammaticalization, before the moment when it is “coopted” from sentence level up to discourse level and which will continue grammaticalization after cooptation. The proposed schema for DM development, reproduced from Heine 2013, is represented as “(Grammaticalization >) cooptation > grammaticalization” (p. 27).

4The second chapter, “Concepts of analysis”, aims to present the methodological tools the study will deploy, and to confront the mechanisms of grammaticalization and cooptation, already discussed to some extent in the previous chapter, in more detail, looking at how each contributes distinctly to the development of DMs. The framework adopted in this book is diachronic and typological, with the main focus on diachronic development. Chapters 3-6, which look at DMs in four different languages, draw heavily from previous studies, and the corpora and data quoted are accordingly taken from these. The diachronic methodology involves the reconstruction of previous language states and of the transitions that accompany the emergence of DMs. Since cooptation is understood as an instantaneous process, the authors consider the question of how we might, retrospectively, observe such an event, especially as DMs more often arise in spoken contexts, only appearing in written texts once the DM is firmly established in the spoken medium. Such problems are nonetheless considered to be common to studies in cooptation and grammaticalization alike. The authors define the process of grammaticalization as the “development from lexical to grammatical forms and from grammatical to even more grammatical forms” (Heine and Kuteva 2002: 2). This process includes pragmatic, semantic, morphosyntactic and phonetic components. Cooptation, on the other hand, is described as “a fully productive operation whereby a chunk of sentence grammar, such as a word, a phrase, a reduced clause, a full clause, or some other piece of text, is deployed for use on the metatextual level of discourse processing, thereby turning into a thetical” (p. 67). The following constructed examples are given to illustrate the process of cooptation at work in English (p. 65):


You probably know already that our chairman will resign next month.


Our chairman, you probably know already, will resign next month.


Our chairman, you know, will resign next month.

5In (a) you probably know already is a main clause. In (b) you probably know already is a parenthetical clause, coopted to comment on the relevance of its host in the discourse situation. It is not, however, a DM. In (c) you know functions as a DM. The cooptation illustrated in (b) has in (c) been followed by grammaticalization, so that the sequence you know now appears to function as an independent, syntactically mobile DM, that fulfils more than merely epistemic functions of establishing shared knowledge. The change in level at work in cooptation is described as a sort of “quantum leap”, which might also be observed in other cases, such as word class conversion, or code-switching. The distinction between sentence grammar and thetical grammar, implicit in the definition of cooptation, is spelt out more clearly: “Sentence grammar is organized in terms of propositional concepts and clauses and their combination [...] The concern of thetical grammar is with theticals, that is, with linguistic discourse units which have metatextual functions and are immediately anchored in the situation of discourse” (p. 72). Theticals are categorised into various types, including “instantaneous theticals” such as example (b) above, “constructional theticals” (comment clauses, reporting clauses, phrasal appositions), and “formulaic theticals”, which constitute unanalysable expression such as example (c) above. In addition, theticals can target either an utterance, i.e. a higher level entity, or a constituent, at the phrasal level. In the model for the development of DMs proposed here, cooptation may be preceded by a phase of early grammaticalization, and is followed by a phase of late grammaticalization. French à la rigueur or enfin (en fin), for example, had already evolved beyond their purely lexical meanings (in sentence grammar) before being coopted into thetical grammar. Once coopted, DMs may undergo typical effects of grammaticalization including context extension (and new discourse functions), desemanticisation, decategorialisation (and univerbation), erosion, etc. The aim in the next four chapters, the authors tell us, is to test the merits of cooptation theory against genuine linguistic data from four different languages.

6Chapters 3-6 consider in turn the development of a selection of DMs from English, French, Japanese and Korean. The diachronic development of individual markers is described, on the basis of data taken from existing research, and modelled in the framework presented in the first two chapters, i.e. in opposition to an explanation in terms of grammaticalization alone, and in defence of a joint process involving grammaticalization and cooptation from sentence grammar to thetical grammar. I do not propose to consider each chapter or each marker in great detail, since the thrust of the argument is essentially the same in each case.

7Chapter 3, English Discourse Markers, accounts for no fewer than twelve different markers within the framework of the cooptation hypothesis. The markers dealt with are after all, anyway, I mean, if you like, if you will, instead, like, no doubt, right, so to say / so to speak, well and what else. Let us consider the case of after all, by way of illustration.

8The marker after all possesses two clear DM functions in present-day English, namely justificative (often in sentence initial position) and concessive (often in sentence final position). Drawing on Lewis (2000) and Traugott (2018), Heine et al trace the development of the expression, first as a temporal adverbial phrase in sentence grammar, “referring to the end of a temporal succession of immediately preceding speech events” (p. 94). In the seventeenth century, initial after all develops new contrastive meanings, often in association with markers such as but or yet. For the authors, it is no longer a constituent of the sentence, but is set apart, syntactically and prosodically. In the late seventeenth century concessive after all emerges clearly in sentence final position while sentence initial position is reserved for justificative after all. The marker is considered to illustrate the typical schema for development, with early grammaticalization and univerbation of the expression after all, followed by cooptation into thetical grammar, and the emergence of new concessive and justificative functions. The process of grammaticalization continues, post-cooptation, with context extension, desemanticisation, etc. The last paragraph of this case study runs as follows:

To conclude, the DM after all can be understood to be the joint result of grammaticalization and cooptation. Grammaticalization can be held responsible for the emergence of an invariable particle, over time changing from contentful to procedural meaning and acquiring a range of context-induced new functions. With its cooptation and establishment as a DM around 1700 or slightly earlier, by contrast, after all acquired a new set of grammatical properties characteristic of theticals […]. (pp. 96-97).

9Chapter 3 concludes with a consideration of the criteria, often cited in support of grammaticalization, of gradual development and ambiguity between interpretations. The notion of gradualness in the development of DMs is not retained by the authors, as incompatible with the “quantum leap” hypothesis, towards a different level of meaning. For Heine et al, gradualness concerns internal grammaticalization (i.e. inside sentence grammar) but the move toward thetical grammar, the external structure of a given DM, is considered to occur “fairly abruptly […] once they were coopted”(p. 140). As for ambiguity, the authors reject the idea that it might be taken as evidence for gradualness, since the source of the ambiguity is notoriously difficult to reconstruct.

10Chapter 4, “French Discourse Markers”, considers the eight markers à la rigueur, à propos and à ce propos, alors, en fait and au fait, and enfin. Again, the study of each marker enables the authors to conclude that grammaticalization alone cannot account for the passage from sentence grammar to thetical grammar, and that it is necessary to hypothesise the sudden cooptation of the item in question. One reservation about the discussions in this section concerns the marker à la rigueur. It seems inappropriate to consider the occurrence below as an example of this sequence, since la rigueur here is clearly the indirect complement of préférer:

(1) … aussi semble il, tout consideré, que si est il que luy devez faire misericorde, et la preferer a la rigueur de justice [sic].

“… and it seems, all things considered, that you ought to be merciful, and prefer mercy rather than the rigors of Justice.” (J. Juvenal des Ursins, Exortation faicte au roy, 1458)(p. 146) [Prévost and Fagard 2018: 221.]

11Indeed, the authors quoted on this marker, Prévost and Fagard, note that, in their data, “[i]n this period, only three occurrences display a somewhat opaque (i.e. non-compositional) meaning” (2018: 221). In the example they provide, however, the preposition is unfortunately elided:

(2) Toutesfois icelluy grant maistre [...] luy pardonna et ne voult point la sentence donnée contre luy estre [à] la rigueur mise [à] execution. “However this great master [...] forgave him and did not wish for the sentence pronounced against him to be executed in all its rigor” (J. Le Clerc, Interpolations et variantes de la Chronique scandaleuse, 1502, p. 277-278) [Prévost and Fagard 2018:221.]

12The case studies of DMs in Japanese presented in Chapter 6 concern a selection of seven, to wit, dakedo, demo, douride, ga, jijitsu, sate and wake. I will not dwell on these, except to mention the study of ga, as particularly significant in the light of the arguments pursued in favour of cooptation and against the all-grammaticalization hypothesis for the development of DMs. The marker ga has evolved from a clause final clitic ga1, linking two clauses of a sentence in a relationship that can be contrastive, but is not necessarily so, to an independent sentence initial DM  ga2, with adversative meaning. Such a development runs counter to the predictions of grammaticalization theory, a point acknowledged by Hopper and Traugott (1993: 148-185 or 2003: 210) but apparently subsumed nonetheless in the grammaticalization hypothesis. Predictably, Heine et al criticise this stance:

insisting on grammaticalization as an explanatory notion for ga2, as Traugott (1995: 4) in fact does, would require an understanding of “grammaticalization” that vacuously applies, e.g., to both changes from free form to clitic and from clitic to free form. In sum, the discussion in this section may have shown why the history of the DM ga2 cannot reasonably be reduced to grammaticalization. (p. 180)

13Chapter 6, the last of the case study chapters, looks at DMs in Korean. The chapter begins with an overview of some of their characteristic features, including a large family of DMs derived from kule (“be so”), accounting for no fewer than forty-seven discourse functions, according to Rhee (2019). Interestingly, Korean has also developed a number of DMs from interrogatives via rhetorical questions. Prosody is an important feature to take into consideration in Korean DMs and the authors provide some indications on this topic. The case studies concern four DMs, namely icey, makilay, maliya and tul. Again, I will briefly consider just two of these, by way of illustration.

14The DM makilay (and related forms) has a mitigating function, deriving from clause-like constructions glossed as follows (203, from Rhee [2013: 482]):










15The expression is particularly recent, and apparently associated with the speech of young people. The authors suggest that “these DMs must have evolved from the adverbial makwu not earlier than by the end of the twentieth century or later and that cooptation of the DMs most likely took place at some point in the twentieth century” (p. 203). Interestingly, with the use of such markers, “the speaker adopts an imaginary third-person’s evaluative viewpoint. The speaker aims to foil the addressee becoming displeased by the utterance by quickly intervening with the hypothetical third party’s evaluation expressed by the DMs to the effect that the remark was reckless and thus should not be taken seriously.” (p. 203) The third-person perspective (something like, “they said recklessly”) obviously entails a metadiscursive standpoint and the change in level that characterises cooptation. Grammaticalization intervenes insofar as clause-like constructions undergo internal decategorialisation and univerbation with loss of phonetic substance. Additionally, a new discourse function of attenuation emerges with context extension.

16The DM tul is unusual in that it has developed from a plural suffix, to an independent, mobile DM with a range of functions, and so, like Japanese ga, its development appears to contradict standard grammaticalization theory. It evolved, initially, from a noun to a number suffix (early grammaticalization) and then, in the nineteenth century, to a discourse-structuring device. From there, its functions have extended to include a whole range of possibilities: “from mirativity to feigned mirativity and sarcasm, from irritation to protest and reprimand, and from friendliness to imploration” (p. 209)!

17Chapters 7 and 8 move away from the case studies to consider other pathways in the development of DMs, and more generally, to adopt a broader typological perspective on the question.

18Chapter 7 considers the development of DMs by borrowing in situations of language contact. This pathway does not appeal to cooptation, of course, since the markers in question are already theticals in the donor language. The chapter begins by distinguishing the related concepts of contact-induced replication (a calque of a DM, for example) and borrowing. Both are common in the emergence of new DMs, but replication is hard to reconstruct, and so the authors focus on borrowing and code-switching, since it is frequently impossible to tell which of the two is involved. Before proceeding further, the authors note the unusual case of DMs that are borrowed into a language with functions they did not possess in the donor tongue. Quoting de Rooij (2000), they give the example of the French conjunction puisque (since), which apparently functions as a turn- and utterance-initial DM in Shaba Swahili (Democratic Republic of the Congo). Heine et al's claims concerning the Norwegian DM as if are rather more surprising.

[The] English text piece as if is typically associated with sentence grammar uses; yet, it was borrowed in Norwegian as a DM to signal emphatic rejection (Andersen 2014: 18) – in other words, cooptation did not take place in the donor language English but rather appears to have occurred when as if entered the Norwegian language as a borrowing (p. 214).

  • 1 See KPV 5325 in the British National Corpus for an example of standalone as if.

19Indeed, as if can very well function as a standalone DM marker signalling disbelief or rejection in present day English, and I do not imagine that this is the result of a borrowing back from Norwegian!1

20The second section of this chapter provides an overview of borrowing. Formulaic theticals, and especially DMs, are frequently the object of borrowings, as a long list of examples shows. Section 3 looks at why speakers might borrow a DM rather than draw on the internal resources of their native language. Four factors are cited to account for the role of DMs in bilingual situations: formal linguistic factors, text organisation, attitudes of the speaker and speaker-hearer interaction (p. 219). Each factor is considered in turn in greater detail. The formal invariability and detachability of DMs, together with their high frequency, might for example encourage borrowing. In text organisation, the use of borrowed DMs can serve functions of flagging or shifting topics, or gap-filling. In terms of speaker attitudes, borrowed DMs contribute to signalling emotional states, cognitive states, socio-economic values and status. And in speaker-hearer relationships borrowed DMs might be a means to “marshal interaction” (Schreiber 2014: 259 quoted p. 228), as indeed are other theticals.

21The final section of this chapter explains that the different functions performed by borrowed DMs in fact form an interlocking system, and that it is artificial to consider one DM as specialised in one area of the situation of discourse. By way of a case study, they consider the Arabic DM yaa'ni, which has been borrowed into many, non-Arabic languages, within the Islamic world, concluding:

the functions of borrowed DMs, such as those derived from Arabic yaa’ni discussed in this section, are complex, they can be described in terms of a network of the components [of] text organization, speaker-hearer interaction, attitudes of the speaker, and the relations holding among these components. (p. 233)

22An interesting, and critical, point raised in the concluding paragraphs concerns the way in which “a DM arising in language contact tends to remain psychologically linked in some way to its donor language: [its] use may evoke cultural and/or emotional features believed to characterise the donor language community” (p. 235). Surely this is what best distinguishes borrowed DMs from native DMs, in a given situation.

23The final, eighth chapter is reserved for various issues raised in passing but left undeveloped in the course of the previous pages. The first section defends a dualistic model of language. The second reviews a number of factors that might be considered to favour cooptation. The three remaining sections in the chapter consider, in turn, the development of constituent-anchored DMs, the development of DMs from imperatives and the place of fillers or hesitation markers relative to DM theory. The dualistic model of language activity refers back to earlier work (Heine 2019) and to work in progress distinguishing between “a microstructure and a macrostructure of discourse, where the former corresponds to sentence grammar and the latter to thetical grammar” (p. 237). Similar divisions have been theorised in neurolinguistics, notably, the discourse processing of the macrostructure, including DMs, appears to correlate with right hemisphere brain activity, while the microstructure draws on the left hemisphere (cf. Haselow 2019 or Heine 2019). Section 8.2 considers at some length possible motivations for the emergence of new DMs via cooptation, i.e. the passage from micro- to macrostructure. Among the arguments cited are socio-cultural factors, recurrent use, “suitability” and morphosyntactic status, although the authors concede that there is no really conclusive evidence for clear correlations. The nature of the expressions coopted in nine languages is compared in a table which shows that the temporal adverbs corresponding to now and then and imperative forms of verbs of perception frequently provide sources for the cooptation of DMs but again, it seems difficult to define clear constraints, given the large range of possible sources. In comparison, the sources and processes involved in grammaticalization appear far more predictable. Section 8.3 considers constituent-anchored DMs, i.e. DMs that qualify in some way a constituent rather than an utterance. Studies appear to show that such DMs develop from utterance-anchored DMs, in which case they might be considered to represent a case of late grammaticalization, post cooptation. Section 8.4 looks at the common pattern whereby DMs emerge from imperatives, generally involving verbs of perception. Such cases do not require explanation by cooptation, the authors claim, since “[i]mperatives are by definition theticals (Heine 2016) on account of the grammatical properties […] they typically exhibit. Accordingly, their development into DMs, which at least some of them experience, no longer involves cooptation; rather, this development is essentially restricted to late grammaticalization” (pp. 257-258). I find this point very hard to accept and will be returning to it shortly. The final section of this chapter considers fillers or hesitation markers, such as uh in English. The authors distinguish between primary fillers, which do nothing else, and are close to interjections, and secondary fillers, which some languages exhibit and which do service as something else (typically demonstratives). For this second category, the authors again suggest a possible development via cooptation along similar lines to that of the DMs presented in the course of the volume. There is no conclusion or summary to this chapter, presumably because there is no real common denominator in the outstanding questions considered.

24In the short concluding chapter, the book's authors remind the reader of the main goal of the study, i.e. to reflect on why DMs display the properties they do. The main hypothesis pursued is that DMs develop via cooptation, a process involving a switch between levels of discourse, from sentence grammar (or microstructure) to thetical grammar (or macrostructure). Grammaticalization plays a part in the development, before and after cooptation, but cannot, the authors argue, account for the quantum leap required for an expression to evolve into a DM. One might find the scenario a costly one, since it appeals to two processes rather than one (grammaticalization), but the “all-grammaticalization hypothesis”, as it is termed, would imply an extension in the application of grammaticalization that would make it “a largely vacuous concept, roughly equivalent to 'grammatical change' [and] would also deprive it of its significance to capture a wide range of grammatical regularities and to serve as an important tool of historical reconstruction” (p. 271). Moreover, cooptation is claimed to apply not only to DMs, but to “other kinds of metatextual categories” (p. 268), including comment clauses, interjections or expletives, for example. A slightly surprising, final paragraph, reminds us that the present study makes no contribution to the much debated question of “whether or how discourse markers are related to the expressions from which they are historically derived” (p. 272).

25The Rise of Discourse Markers represents a remarkable contribution to the field of studies in metadiscursive phenomena which is certain to become required reading for any researcher in the domain. It takes into account previous research in the historical development of DMs and presents powerful arguments in favour of rejecting an explanation in terms of grammaticalization theory alone, or in terms of pragmaticalization, in favour of a more nuanced approach that posits the process of cooptation at work specifically in the emergence of metatextual items. While my overall assessment of the volume is highly positive, there are a number of points about which I harbour some reservations.

26The book is handsomely presented, at least in the online reviewers' copy to which Cambridge University Press provides access, but suffers from a number of typing errors or infelicities of expression which might have been avoided with more thorough proofreading (e.g. ontext for context [44], Accordingy [48], by far ×2 [57-58], fufill [106], gammut [122], rigeur [291]).

27More critically, I am not entirely satisfied with the appropriateness of the title and the choice of the term cooptation (although I fully realise that this is not the first time it is used with this signification). The term rise suggests to me a movement from fewer to more DMs, whereas what is involved is in fact the processes by which individual markers emerge, with no implication that the resulting pool of DMs has grown as a consequence. Perhaps emergence or redeployment would be more fitting. As for the term cooptation, I am much happier seeing it applied to agentive subjects, than to inanimates. The same quibble might also apply to the term coercion, as used in construction grammar or cognitive linguistics and these are, all in all, minor reservations.

28With respect to the cooptation hypothesis itself, I find appealing the notion that the exceptional status of DMs and metatextual elements in general should call for explanations of a different type to those provided by grammaticalization. The all-grammaticalization hypothesis is, as the authors argue, inadequate to explain many features of DMs, if we take grammaticalization in its generally accepted meaning. If we attempt to tweak it to include counter-examples, however, we run the risk of transforming the concept and reducing much of its explanatory force in areas where it has proved its worth. The rhetoric against the all-grammaticalization hypothesis is a little overplayed and many of the key arguments are repeated, both between chapters one and two, and in many of the concluding paragraphs of the case studies in chapters three to six. This is unfortunate, although understandable since the authors might wish to ensure that each chapter will contain the key points.

29One of the arguments invoked in favour of cooptation, contra all-grammaticalization, is that of gradualness. Grammaticalization, the authors claim, is a gradual process (e.g. p. 57) but cooptation “is an instantaneous operation” (p. 57). From instantaneous, the text moves to abrupt,

These effects, that is, the emergence of a set of new grammatical properties, have the appearance of abrupt change, contrasting with the gradual step-by-step changes to be observed in grammaticalization. (p. 71)

30And later, from abrupt to fairly abrupt (p. 140, p. 169). Now, I am unsure what it means for a linguistic change to happen instantaneously. Presumably, any cooptation of a given expression happens in a unique speech situation, and is in this sense, instantaneous. But the same could surely be said of processes of grammaticalization. Perhaps, then, the notion of abrupt versus step-by-step change can be measured in terms of frequencies over a given time span. But to prove this would require a very different method from the meta-analysis carried out in chapters three to six, and would involve comparably compiled, diachronic corpora of suitably annotated historical data. The chapters in question are extremely interesting, in the way they place a range of data from different languages in the context of the cooptation hypothesis, but the approach does not, in my view, warrant conclusions in terms of the abruptness or otherwise of the documented changes.

31In chapter 8, the authors consider, among other points, the frequent pattern of emergence of DMs from imperatives. This is not seen as a case of cooptation, however. To quote again,

[i]mperatives are by definition theticals […] on account of the grammatical properties in (15) they typically exhibit. Accordingly, their development into DMs, which at least some of them experience, no longer involves cooptation; rather, this development is essentially restricted to late grammaticalization (pp. 257-258).

32I find this very puzzling. The imperative listen, for instance, can be used clause-initially as a DM, as a way of claiming a turn, focussing new information, etc. but it is also quite possible to imagine listen being used independently as an injunction to pay attention to some element of the extralinguistic situation, i.e. in a use which would qualify in my view as sentence-grammar. The properties mentioned above in (15) are entitled “Thetical properties characterizing canonical imperatives” [my italics, i.e. the properties are apparently presented as if they apply to all imperatives] and include “Function: Their function is metatextual, that is, rather than in the structure of a text they are immediately anchored in the situation of discourse, and more specifically in speaker-hearer interaction” (p. 257). To be sure, imperatives involve speaker-hearer interaction, and so indexical reference to the discourse situation but they do not necessarily involve reference to discourse as a constitutive element of the discourse situation, and it is this autoreferentiality that characterises DMs (and indeed, more generally, the authors' “theticals”, on my reading of the sentence-grammar / thetical-grammar opposition, cf. p. 72 “theticals, that is, with linguistic discourse units which have metatextual functions and are immediately anchored in the situation of discourse”).

33These comments should not detract from the many qualities of the book which marshals a wealth of fascinating content and cross-linguistic analyses in the service of a genuinely innovative theoretical proposition. The Rise of Discourse Markers raises important questions about the development of metalinguistic markers across languages and proposes an alternative hypothesis that represents a powerful challenge to much previously accepted theory.

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1 See KPV 5325 in the British National Corpus for an example of standalone as if.

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Graham Ranger, « Heine, B., Kaltenböck, G., Kuteva, T. and Long, H., The Rise of Discourse Markers »CogniTextes [En ligne], Volume 24 | 2023, mis en ligne le 30 décembre 2023, consulté le 27 février 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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