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International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2009 DOI 10.1163/187730909X12538045489818
An Account of Discourse Markers
Bruce Fraser
Boston University, USA
Discourse Markers (DMs) have been a topic of research for 30 years under many different names.
Te present paper presents an account of one view of DMs with the aim of providing researchers
in the field with a coherent definition of DMs and a presentation of the syntactic and semantic
properties of this functional category that will enable them to compare their work on DMs with
other researchers. In addition, an analysis of the uses of the DM but supports the claim that there
is one core meaning relationship, contrast, with the interpretation of the more than 10 different
uses of but being signalled by context and pragmatic elaboration.
Discourse Markers (DMs), procedural meaning, pragmatic markers, pragmatic elaboration
…though prepositions and conjunctions, etc. are names well known in grammar,
and the particles contained under them carefully ranked into their distinct sub-
divisions; yet he who would show the right use of particles, and what significance
and force they have, must take a little more pains, enter into their own thoughts,
and observe nicely the several postures of his mind in discoursing…neither is it
enough, for the explaining of these words, to render them, as is usual in dictionar-
ies, by words of another tongue which come nearest to their signification; for
what is meant by them is commonly as hard to be understood in one as another
language. Tey are all marks of some action or intimation of the mind; and there-
fore to understand them rightly, the several views, postures, stands, turn, limita-
tions, and exceptions, and several other thoughts of the mind for which we have
either none or very deficient names, are diligently to be studied (John Locke, An
Essay Concerning Human Understanding , 1959: 521).
1. Introduction
Tis paper presents an account of Discourse Markers (DMs), lexical expres-
sions such as those in italics in the following examples.

Most of the examples in this paper are constructed rather than taken from corpora.
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(1) a. Jones died last night. But he had been very ill for a long time.
b. I went to Boston first and later on, went to Cape Cod.
c. Te water wouldn’t boil, so we couldn’t make any tea.
I say an account , not the account , since there is considerable variation in what
might be labelled Discourse Markers. On the one hand, researchers do not
agree what falls under the term “Discourse Markers”. For example, Schiffrin,
motivated by her interest in the coherence of discourse, considered the term
to embrace a large, imprecisely defined group of expressions, including inter-
jections such as oh and now , and non-verbal expressions, whereas Fraser ( 1990 ,
1999 , 2006 ), concerned with the pragmatic role played by terms expressing a
semantic relationship between messages, considered Discourse Markers to be
far more constrained. Blakemore ( 2002 ), while agreeing that DMs signal a
semantic relationship between utterances, was interested in only those which
contained procedural meaning as opposed to conceptual meaning. Te group of
terms labelled as Cue Phrases by Knott and Sanders ( 1998 ) is a subset of those
above plus then again and admittedly…but, not considered by the others to be
DMs at all. And many researchers, interested in the properties of a specific
expression such as well (e.g. Foolen, 1993 ), labelled it as a DM, even though
most researchers wouldn’t consider it as such.
On the other hand, the labels given to the group of expressions generally
considered to be DMs vary widely. For example, one finds Cue Phrases
(Knott and Sanders, 1998 ), Discourse Connectives (Blakemore, 1987 , 2002 ;
Hall, 2007 ), Discourse Markers (Blakemore, 2002 ; Item, 2000; Schiffrin,
1987 ; Fraser, 1999 , 2003, 2007; Mosegaard-Hansen, 2008 ; Lenk, 1998 ),
Discourse Operators (Redeker, 1991 , 1992), Discourse Particles (Schourup,
1985; Abraham, 1991 ; Kroon, 1995; Fischer, 2000; Aijmer, 2002 ), Discourse
Signalling Devices (Polanyi and Scha, 1983 ), Indicating Devices (Katriel
and Dascal, 1984 , 1977), Phatic Connectives (Bazanella, 1990), Pragmatic
Connectives (van Dijk, 1985), Pragmatic Expressions (Erman, 1987 ), Prag-
matic Markers (Fraser, 1996 ; Brinton, 1990 ; Erman, 2001 ), Pragmatic Operators
(Ariel, 1994), Pragmatic Particles (Östman, 1995 ), and Semantic Conjuncts
(Quirk et al., 1985 ), to name just a few.
Moreover, the researchers involved may have used a common term but were
interested in very different goals. Under the term Discourse Connectives Van
Dijk (1979) was primarily interested in showing how semantic and pragmatic
connectives were different, Schiffrin ( 1987 , 2005) was interested in illustrating
their use in discourse coherence, Fraser ( 2006 ) was concerned with their role in
pragmatic interpretation, Sweetser ( 1990 ) was concerned with their function
in pragmatic ambiguity, Ducrot ( 1980 ) used them to illustrate the subtleties of
argumentation, while Blakemore ( 2002 ) was interested in them for how they
illustrate the conceptual/procedural meaning distinction in relevance theory.
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B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28 3
Rather than attempt to sort out these dimensions of names, definitions,
and purposes in a coherent way, if that is even possible, I will present here an
account of Discourse Markers which I have developed over the years, draw-
ing on the research of others to augment and orient my view. In Section 2,
I present a definition of DMs, a definition that provides researchers with the
terms to state clearly what they have found so that their findings may be
compared with those of other researchers. In the next section, Section 3,
I indicate some properties of DMs, which are associated with DMs but not
critical to the definition. In Section 4 I present an account of how the mean-
ing of DMs should be treated within linguistic theory, the most controversial
part of this paper. Finally, in Section 5, I present some issues relevant to
future research.
2. A Definition of Discourse Markers
2.1. Te Framework – Pragmatic Markers (PMs)
I start from the assumption that there is a functional class of lexical expressions
in every language which I have called iiacxaric xaixiis (Fraser, 1996 ).
Tese expressions occur as part of a discourse segment but are not part of the
propositional content of the message conveyed, and they do not contribute to
the meaning of the proposition, per se . However, they do signal aspects of the
message the speaker wishes to convey.

Lexical members of this class typically have the following properties: they
are free morphemes, they are proposition-initial, they signal a specific message
either about or in addition to the basic message, and they are classified as
pragmatic markers by virtue of their semantic/pragmatic functions. Many
PMs have homophonous lexical counterparts which are classified by virtue of
their syntactic function, e.g. however, clearly, allegedly, so , etc.
Tere are four types of Pragmatic Markers. Te first type, nasic iiacxaric
xaixiis (BPMs) , illustrated by the italicised items in (2), signal the type of
message (the Illocutionary Force – cf. Bach and Harnish, 1979 ) the speaker
intends to convey in the utterance of the segment.
(2) a. I promise that I will be on time.
b. Please , sit down. [a request but not a suggestion or an order]
c. My complaint is that you are always rude.

Tere are also instances of syntactic and phonological pragmatic markers which I do not
discuss here. See Fraser (1996) for further discussion of this point.
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Te second type, coxxixrai\ iiacxaric xaixiis (CPMs) , signal a comment
on the basis message. Tere are five different sub-types as illustrated in (3-7).
Assessment Markers
(3) a. We got lost almost immediately. Fortunately , a police offi cer happened by.
b. Mary hurried as fast as she could, but sadly , she arrived too late for the
Manner-of-Speaking Markers
(4) a. A: Mark, you’ve got to do something. B: Frankly , Harry, I don’t know
what to do.
b. You got yourself into this mess. Bluntly speaking , how are you going to
get out?
Evidential Markers
(5) a. A: Will he go? B: Certainly , he will go.
b. I have great concerns over this. Conceivably , Tim is right.
Hearsay Markers
(6) a. A: Is the game still on? B: Reportedly , the game was postponed because
of rain.
b. I won’t live in Boston. Allegedly , all the politicians are corrupt.
(Non)Deference Markers
(7) a. Sir , you must listen to me.
b. You jerk , where do you think you’re going?
Te third type of Pragmatic Markers, oiscouisi xaixiis (DMs) , typically
signal a relation between the discourse segment which hosts them and the
prior discourse segment, perhaps produced by another speaker. Tere are three
classes, illustrated in (8-10).
Contrastive Discourse Markers
(8) a. A: Harry is hurrying. B: But when do you think he will get here?
b. Mark, a good guy. On the contrary , he’s a jerk.
Elaborative Discourse Markers
(9) a. John can’t go. And Mary can’t go either.
b. I don’t think it will fly. Anyway , let’s give it a chance.
Inferential Discourse Markers
(10) a. A: I like him. B: So , you think you’ll ask him out then?
b. Sue isn’t here. As a result , we won’t be able to see the video.
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Exclamation particles ( Wow!, Gosh!, Damn!, Yippee!) and interjections ( Hey, You there , …)
are not part of a host utterance, are separate discourse segments, and are treated as pragmatic
Te fourth class of Pragmatic Markers, oiscouisi sriucruii xaixiis
(DSMs), signal an aspect of the organization of the ongoing discourse (Fraser,
2009 ). Tere are three subclasses, shown in (11-13).
Discourse Management Markers
(11) a. In summary , the economy has not flourished under the Bush
b. I add that he will not help you until the last minute.
Topic Orientation Markers
(12) a. Tat’s all there is to say on this for now. Returning to my previous topic ,
I would like to point out that…
b. Now, Mr. Pickard, I want to return to the questions that my now-ab-
sent colleague Mr. Roemer was asking you about your communica-
tions with the field.
Attention Markers
(13) a. We must leave right away. Look , can’t you pay attention to what
I’m saying.
b. Hell will freeze over before that’s likely to happen. Now , since you
haven’t found anyone in London to suit your taste, what about that
nice West girl?
Te canonical sequence of Pragmatic Markers is the following,
(14) DSM (DM (CPM (BPM (Basic Proposition))))
although there are seldom all present. In addition, in general only one token
from each major type is present.

2.2. Te Definition of a Discourse Marker
For an expression to be a DM it must be acceptable in the sequence
S1-DM+S2, where S1 and S2 are discourse segments, each representing an
illocutionary force, although elision may have occurred. Tere are three neces-
sary and suffi cient conditions that a DM must meet.
Condition 1: A DM is a lexical expression , for example, but , so , and in
addition .
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Schiffrin ( 1987 : 41) wrote “I define discourse markers at a more theoretical level as mem-
bers of a functional class of verbal (and non-verbal) devices…”, although she never proposed a
non-verbal DM.

I am using “*” to designate segments which are unacceptable, either syntactically or
While I do not mean to suggest that DMs consist exclusively of lexical
expressions, this condition explicitly excludes syntactic structures, prosodic
features such as stress, pauses, and intonation, and non-verbal expressions such
as a grunt or a shrug. Tis would occur, for example, when a speaker utters “It’s
raining. Ah, go anyway” with the Ah playing the same role as but . I am simply
restricting my notion of DMs to lexical expressions for this paper.

Condition 2: In a sequence of discourse segments S1-S2, a DM must occur as
a part of the second discourse segment, S2.
Tis hosting by S2 occurs whether the segments are combined, as in (15a),
(15) a. We were late, but no one seemed to mind.
b. We were late. But no one seemed to mind.
or there is a full stop, as in (15b). Often, a DM has an intonation contour
which separates it prosodically from the rest of the segment, but this depends
on the particular DM and the linguistic context. While every DM may
occur in segment-initial position, some DMs may occur in the segment medial,
and/or segment final position, depending on the particular DM. Tis is deter-
mined by the DM’s syntactic analysis and what it specifically signals.
(16) A: Everyone started late.
: However/But , we arrived on time.
: We, however/*but , arrived on time.
: We arrived on time, however/*but .
Notice that for the (B
) variation, there is the interpretation that we is being
singled out as different from the others ( everyone ), a reading that requires a
special marked intonation.
Tere are adverbial DMs which occur in medial but not final position, and
vice versa as (17a-b) show, although if the segment subjects are the same, as in
(17c), the DM may not occur in segment-medial position.

(17) a. Te trip was tiring. Despite that , he ( *despite that ) remained cheerful
( despite that ).
b. Te electricity went off. Terefore , we ( therefore ) couldn’t make dinner
( *therefore ).
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c. We know that the employees cannot make changes to contracts with-
out agreemtents. *We, on the other hand , realize how diffi cult it is to
use the law to bring these rogue employees to task.
Condition 3: A DM does not contribute to the semantic meaning of the seg-
ment but signals a specific semantic relationship which holds
between the interpretation of the two Illocutionary Force seg-
ments, S1 and S2.
Tis is in contrast to other pragmatic markers such as I promise , frankly , alleg-
edly , and incidentally , which like DMs, are not part of the propositional mean-
ing, but make a qualification or a specific comment on S2 (Fraser, 1996 ). I shall
say more below about the types of semantic relationship signalled by DMs.
Te three Conditions on the definition of a DM exclude the following types
of expressions, either because they do not represent a semantic relationship
between adjacent Illocutionary Act segments, S1 and S2, as in (18),
(18) a. Interjections ( damn , hey , wow , gosh ,…)
I like it here. Damn! I really like it here.
b. Sentence adverbs ( certainly, surely, definitely ,…)
John is very nice. Definitely , we should invite him over.
c. Modal particles (few in English; German: doch, ja, eben ,…)
She is pretty. Indeed , she is.
d. Focus particles ( just, even, only ,…)
Everybody is ready. Even Harriet is on time.
e. Evidential adverbs ( allegedly, reportedly, according to ,…)
People are angry. Allegedly , it’s because of Bush.
f. Attitudinal adverbs ( frankly, stupidly, cleverly ,…)
Te weather is lousy. Frankly , I don’t care.
or the relationship is grammatical or discourse, not semantic, as in (19).
(19) a. Complementizers (grammatical relations such as that, in order that, so
as, for ,…)
I believe that John is right.
He fixed the door in order that the cat could get out.
b. Topic Orientation Markers (discourse relations specifying relation-
ships within the discourse such as first, later, incidentally, oh that
reminds me ,…)
Susan had to do the dishes. First , she did the glass, as she had been
I have to go now. Oh, that reminds me , we were invited to John’s for
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2.3. Special Case: Absent S1 and/or S2
Tough not the canonical form of DM use, one or both of the discourse seg-
ments S1 or S2 may be absent, with the segment replaced by an assumption
derived from the linguistic and/or situational context. Many DMs may occur
without the presence of the initial S1, just in case the non-linguistic factors
provide the suitable context, as the examples in (20) indicate.
(20) a. Context: Joel, on seeing his bike being taken by a stranger.
Joel: But that’s my bike!
b. Context: John, on seeing his roommate walk in smiling.
John: So , you aced the exam.
c. Context: Father, after a teenage boy has just left the dinner table in a
Father : And where do you think you’re going, young man?
Discourse segment S2 may be empty, with only a DM present, as illustrated
in (21), with the implied S2 question in brackets.
(21) a. A: I’ll have another piece of cake. B: But ? [Who gave you per mission?]
b. A: We’ll arrive late, I’m afraid. B: So ? [What do you want me to do
about it?]
c. A: John will not take his medicine. B: And ? [What do you want me to
do about it?]
Tis use of a DM for the entire S2 is very restricted.
And, both S1 and S2 may be empty, as the following examples illustrate.
(22) Context: John, seeing someone taking his bike.
John: But !
Context: John, upon suddenly encountering his girlfriend embracing
his best friend.
John: So !
2.4. Classes of DMs
Given the above definition, the DMs of English naturally fall into three func-
tional classes:
coxriasrivi xaixiis (CDMs), where a CDM signals a direct or indirect con-
trast between S1 and S2 ( but, alternatively, although, contrariwise, contrary to
expectations, conversely, despite ( this/that ), even so , however, in spite of ( this/that ), in
comparison ( with this / that ), in contrast ( to this/that ), instead ( of this / that ), nevertheless ,
nonetheless , ( this/that point ), notwithstanding , on the other hand , on the contrary ,
rather ( than this/that ), regardless ( of this/that ), still , though , whereas , yet …)
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B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28 9
iianoiarivi xaixiis (EDMs), where an EDM signals an elaboration in
S2 to the information contained in S1 ( and , above all, after all, also, alterna-
tively, analogously, besides, by the same token, correspondingly, equally, for exam-
ple, for instance, further ( more ) , in addition, in other words, in particular, likewise,
more accurately, more importantly, more precisely, more to the point, moreover, on
that basis, on top of it all, or, otherwise, rather, similarly , that is to say ).
ixiiiixriai xaixiis (IDMs), where an IDM signals that S1 provides a basis
for inferring S2 ( so , all things considered, as a conclusion, as a consequence
( of this/that ), as a result ( of this/that ), because ( of this/that ), consequently, for this/
that reason, hence, it follows that, accordingly, in this/that/any case, on this/that
condition, on these/those grounds, then, therefore, thus ).
Te first marker in each class ( but, and, so ) is what I call the primary DM
of the class and has the broadest meaning of all the DMs in a class. To date,
I have not found a DM that falls into more than one class.

3. Incidental/Non-Defining Properties of DMs
I will now present a variety of properties, more or less associated with DMs,
which do not play a role in their definition. Tese might be thought of as
“incidental properties” or “non-definitional properties”.
First, nearly all DMs can be absent from a S1-DM-S2 sequence in which
they might occur, with the relationship between the segments remaining unal-
tered. For example, in the following sequences,
(23) S1: Tis flight takes 5 hours.
: Tere’s a stopover in Paris.
: After all , there’s a stopover in Paris.
: Because there’s a stopover in Paris.
: So , there’s a stopover in Paris.
: But there’s a stop-over in Paris.
: And there’s a stop-over in Paris.
the DM in each can be absent with the sequence retaining the interpretation
it had if the DM had been present, although the prosodic features of the sec-
ond segment are often altered to signal the absent DM. Te conclusion to be
drawn from this, as Schiffrin ( 1987 ) proposed, is that a DM does not create
the relationship between two successive discourse segments, but it provides

Tese three classes closely parallel those of Blakemore ( 2002 ) who writes that DMs fall into
three groups,
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i) By allowing the derivation of a contextual implication (e.g. , so, therefore, too, also );
ii) By strengthening an existing assumption by providing better evidence for it (e.g. after all,
moreover, furthermore );
iii) By contradicting an existing assumption (e.g. however, still, nevertheless, but ) and have rough
parallels to the analysis in Halliday & Hasan ( 1976 ) and to Quirk et al. ( 1985 )

Adherents to relevance theory would reject as a result , among others, from being a DM
because it contains conceptual rather than procedural meaning. I address this issue in Section 4.
clues which inform the hearer of the relationship intended by speaker. To be
sure, in some cases it is unlikely that a relatively implausible relationship would
be recognized, absent the appropriate DM, but that doesn’t bear on the defi-
nitional issue.
Tere are, however, a few cases such as those in (24),
(24) a. Fred, a gentleman? On the contrary , he’s a bastard.
b. Harry didn’t arrive on time. In addition , the meeting was late in
c. We don’t like Harry. On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to care.
d. He arrived well after the start time. As a result, the Committee can-
celled the meeting.
where the absence of a DM leaves an odd, if not unacceptable, sequence.
Second, some researchers have proposed that the fact that a DM does not
contribute to the truth conditions of the host segment should be part of its
definition (e.g. Schourup, 1999 ). Tis claim is superfluous. Since DMs func-
tion as a relationship between two segments, not as part of the meaning of
either, it follows that a DM does not contribute to the truth conditions of the
host segment.
Tird, in some cases the meaning of a DM is exactly the same as the expres-
sion when it is used as an adverb, for example in (25).

(25) Te meaning of DM and a homophonous form are the same:
a. DM: He didn’t brush his teeth. As a result , he got cavities.
b. Adverbial: Te substance suddenly hardened. Tis wasn’t what we
expected as a result of our work.
In other cases, the meaning of the DM and its homophonous form is quite
(26) Conceptual meaning of DM and a homophonous form are different:
a. We stopped. On the other hand , there was little point in continuing.
It doesn’t feel right. Try it on the other hand .
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Te verbs say , look and see are not DMs according to the definition used here.
b. We started late. However, we arrived on time.
You should get there however you can.
Finally, there are a number of DMs which have no homophonous form, for
example, nevertheless , on the contrary , moreover , and conversely . To what degree
this meaning difference is discrete or represents a cline is an open question.
Fraser ( 1990 : 393) is probably too strong in suggesting that it is a cline.
Fourth, there are a number of DMs which have more than one meaning/use
when used as a DM (e.g. but , so , instead ,…). However, there appears to be no
case where a sequence is ambiguous due to a DM and a homophonous non-
DM form with a different meaning occurring in the same context.
(27) a. I expect him to come. However , he will have to get here however
he can.
b. A: It’s snowing outside.
B: So I guess we’ll have to leave early so as to get there on time.
c. In addition , John was quite skilled in math, especially in addition .
Fifth, DMs constitute a functional class, a heterogeneous syntactic group.
Tey are drawn primarily from
(28) a. cox;uxcrioxs ( and, but, or, nor, so, yet, although, whereas, unless,
while ,…)
b . aoviiniais ( anyway, besides, consequently, furthermore, still, however ,..)
c. iiiiosirioxai iuiasis ( above all, after all, as a consequence (of that),
as a conclusion, as a result (of that), on the contrary, on the other hand, in
other words, rather than that, regardless of that ,…)
and very seldom from nouns, adjectives, verbs, or prepositions.

Sixth, while many DMs are mono-morphemic (e.g. but , so , and thus ), there
are those which are polymorphemic (e.g. furthermore, consequently, neverthe-
less , and moreover ) and still others which consist of an entire phrase (e.g. as a
consequence, in addition ). For DMs which take the form of prepositional
phrases, there are three variations, as in (29).
(29) a. DM of Fixed Form: above all, after all, as a conclusion ,…
Mary can open the safe. After all , she knows the combination.
b. DM+ this/that (where this/that refers to S1): despite this, in spite of that,
in addition to that,…
She wasn’t very pretty. Despite this , she was extremely popular.
c. DM+ of this/that (where this/that refers to S1): as a result of ( doing ) this/
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Tere are a number of other, relatively insignificant features of DMs, stated in the negative.
For example, DM cannot be modified ( *as a perfect result ), emphasized (*It was, extremely how-
ever , a good idea), coordinated (* But and on the other hand , she could be the one to do it) or the
focus of a cleft sentence (*It was however , that we went home).
that, because of ( doing ) this/that, instead of ( doing ) this/that…
Canonical Form: John didn’t take the letter. Instead , he left it.
Inverted Form: Instead of taking the letter, he left it.
Notice that the members of (c), above, are fashioned from a DM plus an ana-
phoric prepositional phrase. Tese are meaning preserving variations (trans-
formations) of the canonical (basic) form. In these cases, the form of the DM
is altered ( instead/instead of ) but the overall interpretation of the S1-S2
sequence is not altered when the transformed DM occurs in segment-initial
position of what would ordinarily be S1.
Seventh, DMs are likely to take a “comma pause” when they begin a sepa-
rate S2, as in (30),
(30) a. I was tired. But/However , I went anyway.
b. He was tired. So/As a result , he went home.
and the primary DMs of a class ( but , and , and so ) permit an emphatic stress
not typically permitted for the other members of the class.
(31) a. You will have to take the chairs. BUT/*HOWEVER , don’t touch
those chairs over by the wall.
b. He was very enthusiastic of the project. AND/*IN ADDITION , he
had money to fund it.
c. Te water won’t boil. SO/*THUS , we can’t make tea, can we?
Eight, the number of speakers required differs depending on the DM. For
example, when on the contrary is used in metalinguistic negation, only one speaker
is possible, as illustrated in (32a). On the other hand, when but is used in the cor-
rection sense (Iten, 2000 ; Hall 2007 ), two speakers must participate, as in (32b)

(32) a. I’m not happy. On the contrary , I’m ecstatic.
b. A: I enjoyed meeting your sister.
B: She’s not my sister but my daughter.
Finally, in the view of DMs presented above, where the DM signals a seman-
tic relationship between adjacent discourse segments, the scope of the marker
is typically the segment before and the segment which hosts the DM. However,
just as there are cases of empty S1, S2, or both, so there are cases where the
DM’s scope is extended. Te first is illustrated in (33),
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(33) He drove the truck through the parking lot and onto the street. Ten he
almost cut me off. After that, he ran a red light. However , these weren’t
his worst offences.
where the three segments – referred to by these – are all embraced in the scope
of however . Te second case is where the scope consists of the prior segment
and segment hosting the DM, but subsequent segments as well, as in (34).
(34) S1: Te boss is on vacation today and everybody played.
S2: So , let me guess: John stayed home; Jane went to the movies; and
Harry and Susan reported to work but did nothing.
Tere may be multiple arguments for both S1 and S2, but I have not found
any to date. I suspect they would be rather cumbersome.
Te third case is where S1 is interrupted by another segment, either spoken
by the speaker of S1, as in (35a), or another speaker, as in (35b).
(35) a. I don’t want to go. It’s such a nice day outside. However , I really do
have an obligation to show up.
b. A: I don’t want to go.
B: Well, why don’t you stay home?
A: But I have an obligation to be there.
Lenk ( 1998 ) suggests that there is the relationship of DMs proposed to distin-
guish between iocai couiiixci, relationships between adjacent segments
(with the alternatives just presented above), and cionai couiiixci, relation-
ships to segments mentioned earlier or intended to follow. However, her defini-
tion of DMs is far broader than the one proposed here and I will not address it.
4. Te Semantic Meaning of DMs

4.1. Framework
I now turn to perhaps the most controversial aspect of DMs, their meaning.
I start from what is known as a semasiological approach, whereby one takes

One approach was suggested by Grice ( 1989 ), who noted that DMs such as but , moreover ,
and on the other hand , do not contribute to the propositional meaning of what is said, but seem
to convey information about non-central or higher-level speech acts , which comment on the
interpretation of the ground floor speech acts. For example, in “Tree is a prime number but four
is not”, the function of but , what Grice calls a conventional implicature , is to signal that there is a
contrast between the interpretation of the two segments. It has been pointed out that this con-
trast notion of but would not cover all the uses, and that this use of the term speech act is very
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14 B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28
different from the usual use. Iten ( 2000 : 203) suggests that “Grice might have seen but an indi-
cating the performance of an illocutionary act of contrasting”, but provides no further commen-
tary. I will not pursue this alterative.
a specific linguistic form and investigates the range of meanings or functions
the form may fulfil. Tis is in contrast to an onomasiological approach, whereby
one takes a predefined set of (discourse) functions, and investigates how these
functions might be expressed linguistically. Tis latter approach has been used
by researchers of Cue Phrases (Knot and Sanders, 1998).
In investigating the meaning of DMs, my approach has been to take a spe-
cific DM, such as but , so, and, however, thus, moreover and examine what
semantic relationship(s) it signals between adjacent discourse segments.
In examining a particular DM, I am interested in only its use as a DM and not
its use as any other expression, however they are used. Tus, I am concerned
with the first examples but not the second examples in (36).
(36) a. Pi is a rational number but it’s not even.
John is but a child.
b. Te time is getting late so we shouldn’t stay much longer.
Te bench is about so high.
c. I didn’t like the food, and I absolutely detested the cool aid.
Gin and tonic is a favourite summer drink.
Mosegaard-Hansen ( 2008 ) proposes several types of relationships between
the different uses of a single expression. With homonymy , for each different use
there is a different lexical item , a different meaning, and any connection
between the uses is arbitrary. Te different use of “bill” as (1) a piece of paper
currency, (2) a receipt for goods, (3) the beak of a bird, and (4) a piece of leg-
islation, is an example.
With monosemy , there is a core meaning compatible with all uses, where
pragmatic elaboration, based on the context, both linguistic and situational,
makes clear the particular use on a given occasion. Tis mode of DM meaning
was proposed earlier, among others by van Dijk ( 1979 ), who suggested that
there were two types of connectives. He wrote:
we assume that each connective has a certain (minimal) meaning which may be
further specified depending on its semantic or pragmatic use. At the same time,
semantic conditions may underlie conditions of pragmatic appropriateness. Tus,
denoted facts may be normal conditions for the possible execution of subsequent
speech acts…we assume that each connective has a certain (minimal) meaning
which may be further specified depending on its semantic or pragmatic use.
(1979: 449)
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B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28 15

Relevance theory also takes the view of monosemy (though researchers don’t label it as
such) but with the provision that the single procedural meaning of Contradiction & Elimination
can be used to account for all DM uses of, for example but . I specifically reject this claim.
Sweetser ( 1990 ) also took this position for her discussion of DMs, as in
(37), though she didn’t explain how one was to distinguish between the three
(37) a. Content Causation: fact of S2 caused fact of S1.
He came back because he loved her.
b. Epistemic Causation: belief in S2 caused conclusion of S1.
He loved her because he came back.
c. Speech Act Causation: fact of S2 gave reason for speech act of S1.
Would you like to go out for dinner tonight, because I know you’re
With polysemy , a single expression has more than one semantic meaning but
these meanings are related in a motivated, if not fully predictable way. Tese
related meanings may reflect a chain, a radical category, or a network of inter-
connected nodes (Mosegaard-Hansen, 2006). One challenge of this approach
is to separate out the different uses of a DM so that it is the meaning of the
DMs which is different, not the context. In the three approaches just dis-
cussed, it is essential that the tokens under consideration be all of a single
syntactic/functional category. If not, then a fourth approach, heterosemy , a
type of polysemy, can be employed, where the phonetic form remains the
same but the syntactic analysis changes.
I am treating DMs as monosemous since most DMs have a single meaning
relationship and for those which have more than one, it appears at this point
that they can be dealt with by pragmatic interpretation. Te challenge for
those DMs that have more than one use, for example but , so, instead, and
rather , is to determine a single core meaning that can be further elaborated on
by rules of interpretation, yet not be so broad as to be meaningless. In these
cases, I attempt to create a path guided by linguistic context and pragmatic
principles to signal which of the uses of the DMs is occurring on a given

In agreement with Blakemore ( 2002 ) and other relevance theory adherents,
I assume that meaning involves (at least) two types: procedural and conceptual
(Blakemore, 2002 ; Hall, 2007 ). However, I am in strong disagreement with
Blakemore, Hall, and others who consider every expression as having either a
conceptual meaning, or a procedural meaning, but not both. With regard to
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16 B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28
DMs, they argue that DMs are only expressions such as but, however, so, nev-
ertheless, and thus which allegedly are without any conceptual meaning, for
example, you can’t say what they mean or combine them with other expres-
sions (Rouchota, 1998 ). Tey specially exclude as DMs the many expressions
such as in contrast, as a result, after all, as a consequence, and furthermore which
have conceptual meaning as well as procedural meaning, and in some cases,
precisely that same uses as their “procedural” brothers. Tey conclude that
because of this difference among “DMs”, they do not form a meaning func-
tional class, a counterintuitive conclusion to my mind (Blakemore, 2002 ).
It is my view that the mutual exclusion proposed by relevance theory is too
strong and misguided, and that each expression in a language may have both
conceptual and procedural meaning, some having a greater emphasis on pro-
cedural meaning (e.g. the past tense marker – ed ), some a greater emphasis on
conceptual meaning (e.g. the noun justice ). I analyze DMs as potentially hav-
ing both conceptual and procedural meaning, though not in equal propor-
tions ( as a result would have far more conceptual meaning than thus ). Both the
DMs as a result and thus would contain procedural information to the effect
that both DMs signal that “S1 is the cause of S2”, or that “S2 was caused from
the action/state of S1”, but thus would have the added conceptual require-
ment that the causality is assumed to follow logically. I see no way to incorpo-
rate the logical requirement of thus into a procedural instruction without
reference to the concept logical .
Armed with both the assumption of a core meaning from which variations
of use are derived through pragmatic elaboration, and the assumption that a
DM can potentially contain both procedural and conceptual meaning, I now
present what the semantic meaning and pragmatic interpretation of but might
look like.
4.2. Te DM but
I propose that the DM but signals the semantic relationship coxriasr.
follows that for every use of but as a DM, there is a contrast to be found
between the segments of the S1- but -S2 sequence. Of course, the segments
which are compared and contrasted are not always the same. Sometime they
are the explicit interpretations of S1 and S2, which I shall call “direct con-
trast”, sometime one or both of the segments involved in the comparison are

Blakemore makes the same claim using the term “contradiction” rather than “contrast”.
In the following discussion, I hope to make clear why I have selected “contrast”.
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B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28 17

Tese set members are not antonyms, as Lakoff ( 1971 ) would have it, but characterize dif-
ferent descriptions, more or less complex, grouped under a general category label.
an implication, which I shall call “indirect contrast.” For example, in (38a)
the interpretation which emerges from contrasting explicit S1 and S2 is that
speaker of S2 is challenging the accuracy of S1, while in (38b), the contrast
between the presupposition of S1, a logical implication (“Tere is a King”),
and the explicit S2 is an indirect contrast with the interpretation that the
speaker of S2 considers S1 as defective.
(38) a. A: My father is a professor. B: But your father is NOT a professor.
b. A: Te King is dead. B: But there is no King.
As an aide to talking about contrast, I will use the concept of Semantically
Contrastive Sets (SCSs). Tese sets, characterized by a hypernym, such as sports,
toys, my friends, or Boston politicians, consist of the names or descriptions for
each member of the set, with some members being different and thus in con-
trast, some not. For example, if we consider the set sports, golf and baseball would
be viewed as a contrast while golf and the game of Tiger Woods would not.

Segments being compared for an assessment of contrast sometimes have one
SCS, which means that each segment contains one member in the same syn-
tactic functional location (e.g. subject, action, etc.), and sometime there are
two SCSs. In all cases, the segments are typically declarative or imperative, and
parallel in structure (e.g. active-active, cleft-cleft). In (39), with one SCS being
that of friends, the other being sports, (39a) constitutes a meaningful contrast
while (39b) does not, there being no meaningful contrast between tennis and
the sport that made Billy Jean King famous.
(39) a. John plays golf but Susan plays tennis.
b. *John plays tennis but Susan plays the sport that make Billy Jean King
Tere are other cases of meaningful contrast which do not involve SCSs.
Tese cases arise when one or both of the segments being compared for pos-
sible contrast are relatively vague, and do not contain obvious SCSs. In (40),
(40) a. We arrived late for the dinner party, but everyone seemed to
ignore this.
b. People can’t stand latecomers to a dinner party.
when S2 is compared with (40b), a possible implication (assessable assump-
tion) from S1, there are no SCS members to compare yet there is a sense
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18 B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28

I have included the other contrastive DM such as in contrast to reinforce what is clear to me
that examples like these are really in contrast.
contrast, a sense of incompatibility. I shall use this somewhat weaker notion of
“incompatibility” in these less precise cases of comparison of implications.
In the following I present many uses of but as a DM, attempt to make clear
what linguistic context characterizes a specific use, and to identify what inter-
pretation emerges. Te examples are fairly straightforward and more complex
ones may give rise to issues I have not considered. I take no credit for “discov-
ering” these uses and present them for others to assess and refine. Te order of
presentation, having the direct contrast before the indirect contrast, is not
intended to suggest any theoretical priority, nor is the order within the groups.
I have labelled the explicit contrast examples EC-1, EC-2,… and the implicit
contrast examples IC-1, IC-2,… and appended the names often given in the
research literature, where relevant.
4.2.1. Explicit Contrast
Tese uses of but all involve the explicit contrast of the interpretation of seg-
ments S1 and S2 but in different linguistic contexts.
EC-1 (Simple Contrast). In examples such as,
(41) a. Tree is [Positive] a prime number. But ( in contrast ), four is not .
b. Exterior paint is very tough but ( in comparison ), interior paint is rela-
tively soft .
c. John likes to dance, but/whereas I like to read .
d. A: What we gain in speed we lose in sensitivity . B: But ( c onversely ),
what we gain in sensitivity we lose in speed .
(41a), for example, there is one speaker, the segments are declarative, are paral-
lel in form (active-active), and there are two SCSs for comparison, shown in
italics in the example. Te interpretation for these examples is that S1 and S2
are in contrast.

Abraham ( 1979 : 112) discusses sequences like,
(42) a. Tere was no chicken but I got some fish.
b. He doesn’t have much endurance, but (to make up for that), he has
long legs.
which have 2 SCS each. He suggests a different use of but , calling it “compen-
satory”, or “negatively concessive” with the but being translated by dafür in
German. He further suggests that the predicate of the second clause is sig-
nalled as preferred to that of the first, and the second clause is “dominant,”
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B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28 19
i.e. the second clause “receives the stronger accent of the two events” (Abraham
1979 : 113). Tat may be the case, but I find no evidence for it in English, nor
do I find these examples different than the other one-speaker contrast cases
just discussed (Iten, 2000 : Ch. 5).
EC-2. In the following examples,
(43) a. He plays basketball but he also plays ping pong.
b. Jones works as an engineer. But, in addition , he consults for the FBI.
c. I like Bach, but I like Te Beatles, too .
there is a single speaker and one SCS. A comparison of S1 and S2 results in a
meaningful contrast (Note: the DM also does not play a role in this determi-
nation) but this contrast would ordinarily result in an unacceptable sequence
with but (though it is acceptable with and ), for example,
(44) *He plays basketball but he plays ping pong.
since but precludes positing contrasting properties of the same object. However,
in these sequences there is a second, Elaborative DM, ( also, in addition, too, as
well, neither ,…) which signals that what was expressed in S1 is not a unique
case. Here the interpretation of the but sequence, taken with the EDM, is that
the segments are in contrast but are compatible.
EC-3. In examples (45),
(45) a. A: John is brilliant. B: But he is NOT brilliant.
b. A: We are not going to move to the library. B: But we ARE going to
move to the library.
there are two speakers but one SCS: polarity. S2 and S1 are in contrast. S2
denies S1, with the interpretation that the speaker of S2 is posing a challenge
to the message of the first speaker.
EC-4 (Correction). A fourth case is shown by (46),
(46) a. A: I’m going to a conference in Berlin tomorrow.
B: Tat conference is not in Berlin but Boston.
b. A: I see you brought your niece with you today.
B: She’s not my niece but my daughter.
c. A: Oh, my, Nancy fell down.
B: Nancy didn’t fall down, but tripped.
where it is the prior contribution from speaker A who, in the view of B, makes
a factual mistake. Te second speaker, in uttering S1, rejects the mistaken
information, using an explicit (not incorporated) negative, and S2 provides
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Tis use of but , which is rendered as sino rather than pero in Spanish, as sondern rather than
aber in German, has been examined by Schwenter ( 2002 ), among others. Tere is an interpreta-
tion of rather in all these cases, giving rise to the speculation that an alternative form would have
rather in it, for example, “Tat conference is not in Berlin. Rather , it’s in Boston.”

Notice that except, with the exception of, apart from, aside from, excluding, save, among oth-
ers, may be used in this construction without any meaning change. Teir status as DMs has not
be examined to my knowledge.
the correct answer in a truncated form. Here, again, S1 and S2 are in (albeit
elided) contrast, with the interpretation that this use of but signals that S2
should be considered a correction of an earlier mistake.

EC-5. In the examples (47),
(47) a. A: He likes yogurt. B: But he likes ice cream even more .
b. I dislike carrots and also turnips. But what I like least is brussel
c. Tanks are due to John and Jim. But above all , I want to thank
there is one SCS and one or two speakers, and but combines with a Relative
Degree Form such as even more/less, what he likes best/least, and above all . Like
in EC-3, there is contrast between S1 and S2 but, in addition, the degree
expression signals that one segment is more/less highly valued than the other.
EC-6 (Exception Use). Te sixth use is shown in the following examples,
(48) a. Everyone left on time but John.
b. No one said a word but me.
c. Come anytime but don’t come right before dinner.
where there is a single speaker and two SCS (for example, in (48a), the set of
all relevant people; polarity). Te member of the SCS in S1 is at the extreme
value ( any, anyone, everyone, everything, nothing, no, no one, all,… ), and S2 has
a polarity opposite from S1 and is usually truncated (“John” as opposed to
“John did not leave on time”) and has numerous variations.
S1 and S2 are in
contrast and the interpretation of this sequence is that there is an aspect of S2
which is exceptional when compared to S1.
4.2.2. Implicit Contrast
Each of the following cases has at least one implied segment for comparison
rather than the explicit interpretations of S1 and S2 of the prior examples. Te
contrast in these cases is often the weaker “incompatibility” rather than the
“explicit contrast” of two members of a SCS.
IC-1 (Contradiction and Elimination). Te first case, illustration by (49),
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B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28 21
(49) a. We started late. [We will arrive late] but we will arrive on time.
b. It’s very cold in here. [Please turn up the heat] but please don’t turn up
the heat.
c. He’s a University Professor. [University Professors are smart] but
I think he’s stupid.
is what Lakoff ( 1971 ) calls Denial of Expectation and what relevance theory
calls “Contradiction and Elimination”. In this case, S2 is compared with some
implication (an assessable assumption according to Hall, 2007 ) derived from
S1 (I/S1), with the result being incompatibility. Te interpretation is that the
implication, I/S1, is eliminated from further consideration in the discourse
and S2 is validated.
It should be noted that many of the EC-1 cases of simple contrast might be
interpreted as IC-1, if the situation is appropriate. For example, consider (50).
(50) A: You are aware that John and Joe always drink the same thing.
B: Well, today John drank beer but Joe drank wine.
In this context, S2 is in contrast with the implication “Joe drank beer”, with
the result that the implication is eliminated.
I want to take a slight diversion here and consider the position of Blakemore
( 2002 : 100; 2005) and Hall ( 2007 ). For them, every DM use of but is cap-
tured by some variation of contradiction and elimination, that has just been
discussed, which means that there is no contrast meaning for but .
Consider, however, the example in (51) taken from Saebo ( 2003 ).
(51) a. Some talk. But most listen to the young woman at the piano.
b. Te volcano has been simmering. But it hasn’t yet erupted.
c. Te driver should have seen the stop signal. But he didn’t.
What assumptions of S1 in these sequences could be contradicted by S2?
What is to be eliminated?
Hall ( 2007 ) argues that if but’s core meaning is coxriasr , this meaning
should work anywhere but can occur. But that argument presumes that the
meaning of but doesn’t change in virtue of the context in which it occurs. If,
as Hall argues, the core meaning is contradiction and elimination, it should
work anywhere, as well. But clearly it doesn’t, as the explicit contrast uses of
but , discussed above, illustrate. She says,
My proposal is that, rather than activating the contradiction and elimination of
an assumption, but indicates that what follows is cutting off a line of inference
opened up by the previous clause. What gives rise to the different interpretations
of but is the salience of some particular conclusion that is undermined, and this
depends on the relation between the two conjuncts. (Hall, 2007 : 168)
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No details to support this proposition are provided.
IC-2. Now consider the three sequences in (52).
(52) a1. Harry died, but this was a blessing, since he had been ill a long time.
a2. Harry died, but this was a blessing.
a3. Harry died, but he had been ill a long time.
Te first sequence, (a1), is a straightforward case of S2 (“Tis [his death] was
a blessing…”) contrasting with the implication of S1 (“His death was not a
blessing”) with the interpretation that S2 is validated. Similarly with (a2) in
which the reasoning for S2 is missing.
Te third example poses a different problem. Tere is no viable contrast
resulting from a comparison of S2 with S1, or S2 with I/S1. However, a rea-
sonable implication to be derived from S2 is that, given the reason presented,
“His death was a blessing”. When compared with I/S1 (“His death was not a
blessing”), these two implied segments are in contrast, with the S2 implication
being preferred, given that there is justification provided for it.
IC-3. Consider the examples in (53).
(53) a. A: Brighton used to be a nice city. [It’s no longer nice] B: But it’s still nice.
b. A: Take an orange. [Take some apples] B: But don’t take any apples.
c. A: He’s a professor [Professors are smart] B: But I think he’s stupid.
Here there are two speakers, and S2 contrasts with an implication of S1, much
the same as in EC-3 where the rejection was of S1 itself. In this case, the inter-
pretation is that the speaker of S2 is challenging the implication of S1, but not
eliminating it, as in prior IC cases.
IC-4. Te examples in (54) illustrate what may occur when a felicity condi-
tion on the illocutionary act conveyed by S1, a logical not a contextual impli-
cation, is contrasted.
(54) a. Statement: statement is true.
A: John is brilliant. B: But that’s not true.
b. Offer: object/action is desired.
(John, on being offered a drink) But I don’t want it; I don’t drink
c. Request: hearer can perform the requested act.
A: Please bring me the stool. B: But I can’t do that. [why are you
asking me?]
In each case, S2 explicitly denies a felicity condition of S1, and a contrast
exists. Te resulting interpretation is that the speaker of S2 is claiming that the
act conveyed in S1 is infelicitous. Again, no implication is eliminated.
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B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28 23
IC-5. Te next use of but involves two additional logical implications.
(55) Challenge to entailment of S1.
A: John murdered Smith. (E=> Smith is dead) B: But Smith is not dead.
A: Some of the boys left. (E=> At least two boys left) B: But only one of
the boys left.
A: Consider this bicycle. (E=> A bicycle has two wheels) B: But this bike
has 3 wheels.
(56) Challenge to presupposition of S1.
A: Damn the King of France. (P=> Tere is a King) B: But there is no
King of France.
A: Has John stopped smoking. (P=>John smokes) B: But John doesn’t
A: All the boys left. (P=> At least 3 boys left) B: But only two boys left.
Here, as in IC-4, S2 denies the entailment or presupposition of S1, thereby
creating a contrast between the two. Te resulting interpretation is that the
speaker of S2 is implying that the act conveyed by S1 is defective. Again, noth-
ing is eliminated.
IC-6. Te final set of examples, in (57), are similar to IC-2 in that there are
three variations.
(57) a1. Tom is supposed to be here, but he isn’t, since he missed his train.
a2. Tom is supposed to be here, but he isn’t.
a3. Tom is supposed to be here, but he missed his train.
S1 consists of a (usually positive) segment, which contains a verb of desiring
( wishing, wanting, hoping ), of expecting ( supposing ), or conditional modals
( would, could ), and the full S2 consists of the implied negative assertion that
corresponds to S1, followed by a justification for this negative assertion. For
the first two variants of (57a1-a2), S2 (“he isn’t”) contrasts with an implication
of S1 (“he is here”).
Te third variant must be handled differently. S2 in the sequence (57a3),
“He missed his train”, implies that “Tom is not here”. When this implication
is compared with the implication of S1 (“Tom is here”), there is a contrast.
Te interpretation is that the S2 implication is validated, given there was a
justification to support it.
4.2.3. Some Other Cases
I want to briefly mention several other cases which don’t seem to fit within the
contrast meaning of but . Te first is the topic change use of but (Bell, 1998 ;
label it as Discourse or Sequential but , as illustrated in (58)).
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24 B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28
(58) a. A: I had a lovely evening last night with Harry. B: But did he repay you
the money?
b. It’s good to see you so well, Jane. But let’s talk about the real reason
I came by.
Te fact that there is no contrastive result from comparing S1 and S2 follows
from the fact that this case is not a DM use of but . Whereas DM signals a
semantic relationship holding between S1 and S2, the but in these examples is
signalling a change in discourse topic, not a semantic notion. Tis but is analo-
gous to pragmatic markers such as incidentally, on another topic, to return to the
former topic, etc. (cf. Fraser, 2009a).
Te examples in (59),
(59) a. It’s unbelievable, but John got married last night.
b. You may not be aware of this, but Mark is a very fine pianist.
c. I’m reluctant to say this, but I don’t like the dinner Mary has planned.
pose a very interesting case. Tey have been considered by Lauerbach (1998)
and Fretheim ( 2005 ), the former not considering the specific meaning of but ,
the latter attempting to place these examples within the relevance theory of
contradiction and elimination, but with a lack of success. What is to be con-
trasted is not clear to me, if this use of but is even a DM.
Te final case is illustrated in (60), a case for which I have no adequate
(60) a. A: Is it done? B: But of course it’s done.
b. A: He doesn’t want to leave. B: But of course he doesn’t. Would you?
c. A: Can I help? B: But of course you can.
where the but may or may not be functioning as a DM and it requires the of
course to accompany it with this use.
I list here for the sake of completeness a number of additional sequences
containing but which I, at the moment, do not have acceptable analyses for,
whether they be DMs or otherwise.
(61) a. Te tyranny of the multitude is but a multiplied tyranny.
b. He would have gone, but for the mess on the garage floor.
c. She speaks either French or German, but I don’t know which one.
d. Who arrived at the stroke of midnight but the long lost relatives.
e. He has all but / nearly clinched the championship.
f. It never rains but (that) it pours.
g. He is but a child. ( only, simply, just, merely )
h. I’ll get you but good .
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B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28 25

Te sequence of but … however does not occur for most people.
5. Future Areas of Research on DMs
Tere are several areas where the researcher interested in DMs might make
considerable headway in addition to pursuing further their meaning and how
best to account for it. Te first area is the sequencing of DMs. Recall that
within the three classes of DMs, there is one term I identify as the primary
DM for the class: but , and , and so , with the other members of the class being
labelled secondary. In general, the primary member of a class can occur, pre-
ceding a secondary member, as in (61).

(61) a. He didn’t try to climb up but instead just sat there and sulked.
b. Te rain was coming done hard so we didn’t have the picnic as planned,
as a result .
c. I wouldn’t try that and furthermore , I wouldn’t encourage you brother
to try it either.
In many cases, the secondary DMs may occur in the S2-final position as well,
as in (61b). When there is a pair of DMs, the primary DM retreats to its core
function ( but : contrast; and : elaboration; so : cause) and the secondary DM is
the one that signals the intended S1-S2 relationship. What combinations of
Primary-Secondary are permitted has not been studied.
In addition, there are some cases of two secondary DMs from the same
class, for example,
(62) Well, on the one hand, I’ve confided in my mother. I know she wants to
help me and is worried about me. However, on the other hand I think she
is angry with me. I’m making her look like a bad mother.
Te order is fixed in these cases and only specific DMs combine. Tese, also,
await study.
Ten there is a combination of a Primary DM from one class with a
Secondary DM from another class, as in:
(63) a. Tey loaded the pallets onto the trailer, but, in addition , they strapped
them down.
b. He didn’t move from his rocking chair and, instead , gestured to his
assistant to do it.
c. John went swimming. So, in addition , he won’t be home for dinner.
How the signals from each affect the DM interpretation is yet to be studied.
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26 B. Fraser / International Review of Pragmatics 1 (2009) 1–28
Another area is the extent to which all DMs operate in the three domains
proposed by Sweetser ( 1990 ). While most DMs appear to, there are some such
as for example, as a result, in contrast, that is to say , and moreover for which
I cannot find sequences in which they function in the epistemic and/or speech
act domain.
Finally, a third area worth looking at is the extent to which at least the pri-
mary DMs ( and, but, so ) have the same uses across languages. I have con-
ducted a preliminary investigation into this matter with but , using sequences
which favoured the different interpretations of but as a DM in English, such
as the examples in (64).
(64) a. John is tall but Mary is short.
b. I left the house late but I arrived on time.
c. She’s not my sister but my mother.
d. It’s unbelievable but no one in the class has a middle name.
e. I would kiss you but I can’t.
f. Jack is but a child.
Te results from over 20 languages indicate that they all share the functions of
but illustrated in (64a-b), most use but for (64c) although some languages
have an alternative form for but (Spanish: pero , German: aber ), but the lan-
guages vary considerably for the other functions which were discussed above.
A more thorough, systematic study should be conducted to ascertain just how
universal the functions of the Primary DMs are.
To conclude, in the foregoing I have attempted to sketch out an account of
DMs with suffi cient precision that researchers working in this area will be able
to assess and compare their results with others. Te section on the meaning of
but is a first attempt to set out an alternative to relevance theory and certainly
will undergo revision. Indeed, it is possible that data from other languages will
cause revision of parts of my account presented here. I certainly hope not.
However, I do hope this paper will be the basis for a more productive analysis
of DMs than we have experienced to date.
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