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

Margaret Winters mewinters at WAYNE.EDU
Sun Nov 12 17:22:34 EST 2017

I've been noticing it for a couple of years at the LSA and other conferences - younger speakers particularly tend to start their talks with 'so' or 'ok'.  I've been understanding it as a semantic inchoative - 'This is an announcement that I am getting going on my talk'.  I once started trying to gather data at a conference (approximate age of speaker, gender, and first word), but got distracted too many times and gave it up.  I don't know of anything has been written on it, but would be interested.


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
Subject: Meaningless "so" at start of reply sentence

Yesterday a friend asked me about something I've noticed for at least a year: On TV and radio I often hear a response to a question begin with the meaningless word so.


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 year or two)?

Gerald Cohen

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

American Dialect Society<http://www.americandialect.org/>
Devoted to the study of English around the world.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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