[Ads-l] Meaningless "so" at start of reply sentence

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 12 18:46:39 EST 2017


I either mentioned this or intended to mention it a few years ago when I
first heard it.

A state archaeologist in Colorado began conversing with me by saying "so."
It seemed weird.

But cf. the frequent incipit of jokes:

"So a billionaire, five sex workers, and a spy walk into a hotel room..."

For some reason, the syn.transitional "so anyway" doesn't sound nearly as
weird.

JL

On Sun, Nov 12, 2017 at 5:59 PM, Barbara Need <bhneed at gmail.com> wrote:

> I have taken it to be a discourse particle—which, I think, explains my
> students' tendency to put a comma after it.
>
> Barbara
>
> Barbara Need
>
> On Sun, Nov 12, 2017 at 5:22 PM, Margaret Winters <mewinters at wayne.edu>
> wrote:
>
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> > -----------------------
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       Margaret Winters <mewinters at WAYNE.EDU>
> > Subject:      Re: Meaningless "so" at start of reply sentence
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > -------------------
> >
> > I've been noticing it for a couple of years at the LSA and other
> > conference=
> > s - younger speakers particularly tend to start their talks with 'so' or
> > 'o=
> > k'.  I've been understanding it as a semantic inchoative - 'This is an
> > anno=
> > uncement that I am getting going on my talk'.  I once started trying to
> > gat=
> > her data at a conference (approximate age of speaker, gender, and first
> > wor=
> > d), but got distracted too many times and gave it up.  I don't know of
> > anyt=
> > hing has been written on it, but would be interested.
> >
> >
> > Margaret
> >
> >
> > ----------------------------
> > MARGARET E WINTERS
> > Former Provost
> > Professor Emerita - French and Linguistics
> > Wayne State University
> > Detroit, MI  48202
> >
> > mewinters at wayne.edu
> >
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of
> > Cohen,=
> >  Gerald Leonard <gcohen at MST.EDU>
> > Sent: Sunday, November 12, 2017 5:12 PM
> > To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> > Subject: Meaningless "so" at start of reply sentence
> >
> > Yesterday a friend asked me about something I've noticed for at least a
> > yea=
> > r: On TV and radio I often hear a response to a question begin with the
> > mea=
> > ningless word so.
> >
> > E.g.:
> >
> > Question: Did the Democrats have a good turnout?
> >
> > Answer begins: So let's look at the figures.
> >
> >
> > Has this feature been treated yet in any linguistic discussions?  And is
> > my=
> >  impression correct that it is a relatively recent development (the past
> > ye=
> > ar or two)?
> >
> >
> > Gerald Cohen
> >
> >
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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>



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