CfP: Pragmatic Markers, Discourse Markers, and Modal Particles: What do we know and where do we go from here?

Andrea Sansò asanso at
Fri Mar 21 16:43:55 UTC 2014

International Workshop - Pragmatic Markers, Discourse Markers and Modal
Particles: What do we know and where do we go from here?

Università dell'Insubria, Como (Italy), 16-17 October 2014

E-mail: workshopcomo (at) gmail (dot) com


The workshop aims to contribute to the discussion on the emergence and use
of pragmatic markers (PMs), discourse markers (DMs) and modal particles
(MPs). Although terminologies and classifications dramatically diverge in
this field, for the sake of clarity PMs can be broadly defined as markers
of functions belonging to the domains of social cohesion (the
hearer-speaker relationship, the social identity of H and S, the type of
social act performed; e.g. please, danke, if I may interrupt, etc.), DMs as
strategies to ensure textual cohesion (discourse planning, discourse
managing, information status; e.g. utterance initial usages of but, anyway,
still, etc.), and MPs as signals of personal stance (the speaker's
perspective towards the discourse and the interlocutor; e.g. German ja,
eben, doch etc.). In pragmatics and in grammaticalization studies PMs, DMs,
and MPs have been the object of extensive investigation. However, their
heterogeneous character - along with the fact that they derive from many
different sources, and that these items are often multifunctional - has
often resulted in fragmentary descriptions that fit well the facts of a
given language or group of languages, but may be seriously challenged when
one tries to apply the lessons learnt from the analysis of a single
language to other languages.

The workshop, organized as part of the Italian National Research Program
"Linguistic Representations of Identity. Sociolinguistic Models and
Historical Linguistics" (, welcomes papers providing new
insights into classical issues such as the delimitation and categorization
of the three categories of PMs, DMs and MPs, as well as papers exploring
other crucial (but somewhat less discussed) issues, such as, for instance,
the sociolinguistics of PMs, DMs and MPs. Particularly encouraged are
cross-linguistic or contrastive studies that take into account the
languages of the Mediterranean area, which are the focus of the Research
Program, but contributions on other languages and language families
(especially underdescribed ones) are equally welcome. The following is a
non-exhaustive list of relevant questions, clustering around a few thematic

(i) Universality vs. language specificity: are PMs, DMs and MPs
cross-linguistically relevant (universal) or language-specific categories?
If they are universal, which are the criteria for their classification and
for distinguishing them? Are these criteria formal or functional in nature?
Are they onomasiological or semasiological? Do these criteria apply equally
for the three classes? If they are not universal, which approach to grammar
is the most suitable to model their behavior (e.g. constructionist

(ii) PMs, DMs and MPs and their functional equivalents: some of these
categories are particularly easy to recognize in some languages. A case in
point are MPs in Germanic languages. In other languages, it is more
difficult to single out a class of MPs, DMs and/or PMs. How do these
languages perform the functions carried out by MPs, DMs and PMs in other
languages? Are there any universal tendencies in the (potentially
open-ended) class of functional and formal equivalents of PMs, DMs and MPs?

(iii) The sources of PMs, DMs and MPs: which are the most frequent sources
for PMs, DMs and MPs? Are there any regularities across languages in the
processes leading from definable sets of source items via comparable stages
of development to these three types of markers? Through which path(s) do
verbs (e.g. Italian guarda 'look!'), adverbs (well, eben) and other word
classes develop into PMs? What do comparative diachronic data reveal about
their emergence? Are their paths of development (partially) parallel, or do
they display salient divergences in some cases? Are there any 'pragmatic
cycles', comparable to Jespersen's cycles, that can account for the
diachronic renewal of PMs, DMs and MPs?

(iv) PMs, DMs and MPs in contact situations: how do these markers behave in
contact situations? Are there any borrowability hierarchies among these
types of markers? Are more hearer-sided markers (such as e.g. PMs as
opposed to MPs) more prone to be borrowed in asymmetric contact situations?
Or is borrowability simply a matter of (lack of) syntactic integration?

(v) PMs, DMs and MPs as markers of sociolinguistic identity: to what extent
can these markers function as signals of sociolinguistic identity? Is there
any other type of social significance attached to variation in the use of
PMs, DMs and MPs within a given linguistic community?

(vi) PMs, DMs, and MPs as markers of subjectivity: when and how do they
function to express the speaker's perspective towards the content s/he's
conveying, towards the interlocutor, or towards the communicative
situation? What do we know about markers that are used to build, refine,
negotiate, compare or express the speaker's identity in discourse?

Invited Speakers

Kate Beeching (University of the West of England)
Yael Maschler (University of Haifa)
Mario Squartini (University of Turin)

Call for papers

Authors are invited to submit a one-page abstract (with one additional page
for examples), keeping in mind that the slot for their communication will
last 30 min. including discussion.

Abstracts should be anonymous and should be sent as attachments in PDF
format to: workshopcomo at

Author(s) name(s) and affiliation should be indicated in the body of the
e-mail. The abstracts will be anonymously reviewed by two members of the
Scientific Committee.

The publication of a selection of the papers as a book or a special issue
of an international journal is envisaged.

Important dates:

--- 30 May 2014: deadline for abstract submission

--- 30 June 2014: notification of acceptance; (free) registration starts

--- 9 October 2014: registration ends

--- 16-17 October 2014: workshop

Organizing Committee:

Andrea Sansò (Università dell'Insubria) - andrea.sanso (at) person)
Pierluigi Cuzzolin (Università di Bergamo) - pierluigi.cuzzolin (at)
Chiara Fedriani (Università di Bergamo) - chiara.fedriani (at)
Chiara Ghezzi (Università di Bergamo) - chiara.ghezzi (at)
Anna Giacalone Ramat (Università di Pavia) - annaram (at)
Caterina Mauri (Università di Pavia) - caterina.mauri (at)
Piera Molinelli (Università di Bergamo) - piera.molinelli (at)

Scientific Committee:

Pierluigi Cuzzolin (University of Bergamo), Silvia Dal Negro (Free
University of Bozen), Chiara Fedriani (University of Bergamo), Chiara
Ghezzi (University of Bergamo), Anna Giacalone Ramat (University of Pavia),
Gianguido Manzelli (University of Pavia), Caterina Mauri (University of
Pavia), Piera Molinelli (University of Bergamo), Paolo Ramat (IUSS
Institute), Andrea Sansò (Insubria University - Como), Federica Venier
(University of Bergamo), Alessandro Vietti (Free University of Bozen).

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