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Review of  Los marcadores del discurso y cortesía verbal en español

Reviewer: Zahir Mumin
Book Title: Los marcadores del discurso y cortesía verbal en español
Book Author: Elena Landone
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Issue Number: 22.265

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AUTHOR: Landone, Elena
TITLE: Los marcadores del discurso y cortesía verbal en español
SERIES TITLE: Linguistic Insights. Studies in Language and Communication. Vol. 116
YEAR: 2009

Zahir Mumin, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, University at
Albany, State University of New York (SUNY)

Landone examines the use of discourse markers and verbal politeness in
Peninsular Spanish to determine potential pragmatic functions of discourse
markers in regulating conversational interaction. She also analyzes specific
linguistic structures used in different dialogic contexts to enhance conscious
awareness of the dynamic relationship between discourse markers and verbal
politeness. Most basically, then, this book aims to contribute to Spanish
linguistics with an in-depth study of the aforementioned pragmatic functions and
dynamic relationship.

Chapter 1 discusses relevant terminology and theories related to the use of
verbal politeness in Peninsular Spanish. This chapter fundamentally argues that
although theoretical models such as Grice's (1991) maxims, Locher & Watts'
(2005) relational work, Fraser's (1980) conversational contract, and Brown &
Levinson's (1978-1987) self-face try to precisely define verbal politeness as
accepted well-mannered sociolinguistic and sociocultural norms of a certain
speech community, there is still no generally accepted definition for the
coherent expression of verbal politeness. This difficulty in defining verbal
politeness is primarily due to the fact that conversations take place in a
variety of different contexts and each must be analyzed according to the speech
acts (assertive, directive, declarative, expressive, etc.) manifested between
the interlocutors in addition to the aforementioned norms. For example, Landone
emphasizes in her explanations of speech acts and their relevance to self-face
-- the overall emotional commitment that speakers have to express themselves
according to society's established norms -- that the intentions of a message's
transmitter and receiver are linguistically complex and frequently change
amongst different types of speech acts: ''el territorio del destinatario:
principlamente los actos exhortativos, que pueden ser impositivos (ruego,
súplica, mandato, orden, prohibición, etc.) ... el territorio del emisor: los
actos comisivos, como: oferta, compromiso, promesa, etc.'' (“the addressee’s
territory: principally, the exhortative acts which can be domineering (beg,
plea, command, order, prohibition, etc.) ... the transmitter’s territory: the
commissive acts such as offer, commitment, promise, etc.”, p.53). The
transmitter's and the receiver's conversational territory embodies
characteristics of both negative and positive face. Positive face refers to the
general approval of the values and desires expressed amongst interlocutors and
negative face questions the verisimilitude of these values and desires. Landone
further shows how complex verbal politeness is by examining the tone of
communication between two interlocutors in her discussion of Grice's (1991)
cooperative principle which supports the efficient transmission of relevant
information. The author also argues that there is often ''contextual'' competition
between politeness and cooperation in which politeness ends up being a more
appropriate choice. For example, the following two statements from Escandell
Vidal (1996, p.139) about weight loss are compared to closely examine the
aforementioned competition:

Enunciado cortés: -Sin duda a todos nos convendría hacer un poco más de
ejercicio y perder algo de peso
Statement of politeness:-Without a doubt it would be better for all of us to do
a little bit more exercise and lose some weight.

Enunciado cooperativo: -Estás gordísima
Statement of cooperation: -You are very fat.

Although the first statement, the statement of politeness, violates Grice's
maxims of relevance, quantity, quality, and manner, it is pragmatically
appropriate because it adequately expresses inoffensive feelings. On the other
hand, the statement of cooperation satisfies Grice's maxims, but violates the
use of verbal politeness because of the offensive expression of unhappy
feelings. The author emphasizes that examining the linguistic manifestation of
conversational interaction helps to determine the extent to which verbal
politeness can be achieved in different contexts.

Chapter 2 deals with the use of discourse markers in written and oral monologues
and argues that the functions of the above-mentioned discourse markers are
pragmatically limited to being informative, inferential, and argumentative. The
author begins the chapter by presenting definitions and concepts to describe and
analyze the conversational aspects of discourse markers in different types of
monologues. For example, Landone emphasizes that the functionalist approach
attempts to explain how discourse markers function according to context specific
situations, the discourse analysis/conversational analysis approach examines the
role that discourse markers play in oral discourse, and the contrastive focus
analyzes discourse markers used in two different translated monologues to
compare the functional use of these markers. One of the reasons discourse
markers used in monologues are typically informative, inferential, or
argumentative in Peninsular Spanish is that there is often a lack of active
conversational exchange between two or more interlocutors and the sole speaker
controls the strategic use of discourse markers (Llorente Arcocha, 1996). This
strategic use of discourse markers often subjectively informs readers, makes
unilateral inferences, and one-sided arguments in order to benefit the sole
interlocutor who is telling a story. Although the author does not provide
specific examples of how these discourse markers are used in monologues in this
chapter, she does identify common discourse markers in Peninsular Spanish used
to inform, infer, and argue: es que “It’s just that” (inform), por lo visto
“apparently” (infer), and claro “exactly” (argue). This chapter's focus on the
use of discourse markers in oral and written monologues establishes a solid
pragmatic background for chapter 3's discussion of dialogues.

Chapter 3 focuses on the use of discourse markers in conversational interactions
that deal with written and oral dialogues. The author argues that interpersonal
conversation in dialogue contexts include not only the informative, inferential,
and argumentative aspects of monologue contexts but also relational and
interactive dimensions. The relational dimension refers to the extent to which
the transmitter is able to convey messages that orientate said transmitter and
receiver to the pragmatic context of the conversation. Bustos Tovar (2000)
reemphasizes the importance of relational dialogue in Peninsular Spanish: ''En
términos bajtianianos, la dialogicidad es una orientación: la palabra siempre
tiene una doble orientación, hacia el emisor [y] hacia su destinatario'' (“In
layman’s terms, dialogue is an orientation: the message always has a double
orientation toward the transmitter [and] toward his or her addressee” p.421). In
addition to this two-sided conversational orientation, the interactive dimension
directly relates to the relational dimension because in order for interlocutors
to effectively establish the pragmatic contexts of conversation using discourse
markers, they must keep the conversation more active and lively by using
discourse strategies such as linking broken statements, topicalizing,
extrasentential cohesion, and relevant digressions. Landone further explains in
her semantic chart that the four main purposes of using discourse markers in
dialogical contexts are to structure information, reformulate statements to make
them more pragmatically appropriate, and connect and solidify different
arguments in order to achieve common ground between interlocutors. The
structuring of information is one of the more important purposes of discourse
markers and Calsamiglia & Tusón (1999), Cortés Rodríguez (2001), and Cortés
Rodríguez & Camacho Adarve (2005) provide the following examples of discourse
markers used in Peninsular Spanish dialogue contexts to help initiate, continue,
and close conversations, and attract interlocutors' attention: “¿sabes qué?,
bueno mira, vale, así pues, [and] y ya está ...” (“You know what?, Well look
here, okay, so, [and] and that’s all ...” p.144). The author also argues that in
addition to these examples, there are a lot of other discourse markers which are
used and this use often depends on how interlocutors attempt to, if at all,
express some degree of verbal politeness. Although no extensive pragmatic
connection is made between using discourse markers in dialogues and verbal
politeness, it is clear that the presence of verbal politeness in dialogue
contexts depends on various factors such as dialect, diaphasic, and diastratic

Chapter 4 discusses Caffi & Janney's (1994) and Briz Gómez's (1998)
psycholinguistic theories of proximity and negotiating agreement and Müller
(2006), Verschueren (2002), and Ballesteros Martín (2002) for pragmalinguistic
theories of intensity and specificity. The author argues that the theory of
proximity helps explain why verbal politeness in Peninsular Spanish is very
pragmatically complex because there is no specific way to determine the extent
to which perlocutory acts have been accomplished by interlocutors. To further
explain this, Landone identifies the following two proximity categories that
have shown a pragmatic continuum between the first category and the last
category in previous studies on perlocution: politeness distancing and
politeness closure. In regards to negotiating agreement, the author argues that
the purpose of transmitters is to not only negotiate the pragmatic contexts of
the conversation content but also to convince or persuade receivers of a certain
point of view. The author does not specify the possible effects of verbal
politeness with regard to negotiating agreement, but it is clear that language
behavior of transmitters is primarily characterized by objectives,
argumentation, and negotiation of mutual agreements. On the other hand,
regarding the intensity theory, the author specifically argues that the
pragmatic markedness of varying levels of verbal politeness is often modulated
through the use of different speech acts such as requests and orders: ''Suéltame,
por favor (petición) [and] ¡Suéltame, imbécil! (orden)'' (“Let me go, please
(request) [and] Let me go, imbecile! (order)” p.190). In addition, the author
argues that specificity theory, the extent to which interlocutors demonstrate
referential precision through word use, is more related to proximity theory than
intensity theory because interlocutors often use evidentiary expressions such as
“No sé, Supongo que [and] Parece que” “I don’t know, I suppose that, [and] It
seems that” (p.229) to help them maintain a certain pragmatic distance between
their personal knowledge and specific known or unknown facts. This chapter makes
clear that when these theories are applied to different pragmatic contexts,
there may be varying levels of verbal politeness or no clear expression of
verbal politeness.

Chapter 5 discusses the direct relationship between discourse markers and the
aforementioned theories (see above), arguing that in addition to the pragmatic
use of discourse markers, the syntactic structure and lexical repetition of
these markers and changes of contexts in conversations amongst interlocutors
demonstrate different aspects of proximity, negotiating agreement, intensity,
and specificity and sometimes enhance the expression of verbal politeness. The
author provides many examples from use to support this argument. For example, in
the case of proximity theory, the author provides these examples from Fuentes
Rodríguez (1990) & Matte Bon (1992). Here, the discourse marker ''fíjate'' is used
at the end of a sentence to confirm known information and at the beginning of a
sentence to focus attention on details:

Tu padre quizá no lo sepa todavía, fíjate (p. 252)
Your father perhaps still does not know about it, you know what I mean.

Y fíjate que está esperando que la llames ... Si no ¿por qué me dijo eso? (p. 252)
And as I thought, he is waiting for you to call her ... if not, why did he tell
me that?

Although these two examples do not appear to overtly express verbal politeness,
the first clearly shows a case of politeness closure while the second
demonstrates politeness distancing. Overall, this chapter enhances the book by
developing explanations of dialogue contexts to explain how psycholinguistic and
pragmalinguistic theories are related to discourse markers and verbal politeness.

Chapter 6 concludes by discussing the importance of applying psycholinguistic
and pragmalinguistic theories to the use of discourse markers and verbal
politeness. The author argues that one should not assume that discourse markers
automatically denote some level of politeness or impoliteness: ''un marcador,
como todo recurso lingüístico, no es inherentemente cortés o descortés. Más
bien, es el hablante quien lo asocia, más o menos convencionalmente, a sus
intenciones de cortesía verbal'' (“a marker, just like any other linguistic
resource, is not inherently polite or impolite. More importantly, it is the
speaker who associates it [the discourse marker] more or less conventionally to
his or her intentions of verbal politeness” p.338). The discourse marker itself
cannot always determine the presence of verbal politeness; the interlocutor's
communicative competence regarding a certain speech community's linguistic,
cultural, and social norms determines how receivers pragmatically decode any
possible expression of verbal politeness.

Chapters 1-3 provide readers with ample and precise definitions and descriptions
that help to ground the book's analysis of discourse markers and verbal
politeness in chapters 4 and 5. For example, in chapter 1 when Landone argues
that verbal politeness includes the subcategories of formulaic politeness and
non-formulaic politeness, she precisely defines the former as unmarked shared
social conventions amongst interlocutors and the latter as marked strategic,
flexible, and creative social conventions that may not be shared amongst
interlocutors. Chapter 2 provides another excellent example by using Portolés
Lazaro's (1993) semantic/pragmatic list to describe different types of discourse
markers: “marcadores de digresión, marcadores de inferencias paralelas,
marcadores de inversión referencial ...” (“markers of digression, markers of
parallel inference, and markers of referential inversion ...” p.109). Chapter 3
also provides readers with descriptive lists, but these examples describe
different types of dialogues included in the relational dimension of oral and
written dialogue analysis: “interactividad simultánea y espontánea ...
interactividad no espontánea o no simultánea ... interactividad monogestionada
simultánea ... interactividad monogestionada no simultánea ...” (“simultaneous
and spontaneous interactivity ... non-spontaneous and non-simultaneous
interactivity ... simultaneous mono-gesture interactivity ... and
non-simultaneous mono-gesture interactivity ...” (pp.133-134). Although these
three chapters provide readers with solid concept definitions and descriptions,
they are lacking examples of oral and written monologue or dialogue contexts
that can enhance the explanation of these concepts.

This book deals extensively with psycholinguistics, pragmalinguistics, and
verbal politeness in Chapter 4 without taking into account the
pragmatic/interactive relationship between verbal politeness and discourse
markers. Chapters 4 and 5 could have been combined to let readers internalize
how this pragmatic/interactive relationship relates to psycholinguistic and
pragmalinguistic theories. For example, in the case of “¿Me puedes dejar los
apuntes del tema 2?, por favor” “Can you let me borrow the notes from topic 2,
please?”(Díaz Pérez, 2003, p.214) when ''por favor'' is used as a discourse marker
in chapter 5 to express verbal politeness, the pragmatic/interactive
relationship between discourse marker and verbal politeness relates to the
psycholinguistic theory of proximity. The transmitter strategically distances
him/herself from his/her knowledge about the notes according to the
interactional contexts in order to attempt to persuade the receiver to take on
the obligation of providing notes for the transmitter.

Chapter 6 appropriately summarizes the content of the previous chapters by
discussing the relevance of pragmalinguistic and psycholinguistic theories and
the potential interrelatedness of discourse markers and verbal politeness in
different contextual situations of monologues and dialogues. The author provides
useful research questions that could lead to future projects: “¿Por qué el
hablante selecciona un marcador del discurso y no otro dentro de una estrategia
de cortesía verbal?” (“Why does the speaker select one discourse marker and not
the other within a strategic framework of verbal politeness?” p.337). In order
to be able to answer this question, quantitative and qualitative studies of
Peninsular Spanish will need to be conducted across different speech
communities. This would determine not only if there is sociopragmatic variation
in the choosing of certain discourse markers that express verbal politeness in
certain contexts, but also how social factors such as age, sex, education level,
and social class affect interlocutors' discourse marker choices.

This book overall provides a solid descriptive pragmatic background dealing with
discourse markers, verbal politeness, and psycholinguistic and pragmalinguistic
theories. It targets readers interested in sociolinguistic or sociopragmatic
studies that can help explain why and how interlocutors use discourse markers to
express verbal politeness.

Ballesteros Martín, Francisco José (2002) Mecanismos de atenuación en español e
inglés: implicaciones pragmáticas en la cortesía. Círculo de Lingüística
Aplicada a la Comunicación Volume 11 supplement. Available at

Briz Gómez, Antonio (1998) El español coloquial en la conversación: esbozo de
pragmagramática. Barcelona: Ariel.

Brown, Penelope & Stephen Levinson (1978-1987) Politeness: Some Universals in
Language Use. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Bustos Tovar, José Jesús de (2000) Gramática y discurso. In Manuel Alvar.
Introducción a la lingüística española. Barcelona: Ariel. 407-432.

Caffi, Claudia & Richard Janney (1994) Towards a pragmatics of emotive
communication. Journal of Pragmatics 22, 325-373.

Calsamiglia, Helena & Amparo Tusón (1999) Las cosas del decir: manual del
análisis del discurso. Barcelona: Ariel.

Cortés Rodríguez, Luis (2001) Conectores, marcadores y organizadores como
elementos del discurso. In José Jesús de Bustos Tovar et al. Lengua, discurso,
texto: I Simposio internacional de análisis del discurso. Madrid: Visor. Volumen
1, 539-550.

Cortés Rodríguez, Luis & María Matilde Camacho Adarve (2005) Unidades de
segmentación y marcadores del discurso. Madrid, SP: Arco Libros.

Díaz Pérez, Francisco Javier (2003) La cortesía verbal en inglés y en español:
actos del habla y pragmática intercultural. Jaén, SP: Universidad de Jaén.

Escandell Vidal, María Victoria (1996) Introducción a la pragmática. Barcelona:

Fraser, Bruce (1980) Conversational mitigation. Journal of Pragmatics 4/4, 341-350.

Fuentes Rodríguez, Catalina (1990) Apéndices con valor apelativo.
Sociolingüística Andaluza 5, 171-196.

Grice, Paul (1991) Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.

Llorente Arcocha, María Teresa (1996) Organizadores de la conversación:
operadores discursivos en español. Salamanca, SP: Universidad de Salamanca.

Locher, Miriam & Richard Watts (2005) Politeness Theory and Relational Work.
Journal of Politeness Research 1, 9-33.

Matte Bon, Francisco (1992) Gramática comunicativa del español. Madrid, SP: Edelsa.

Müller, Andreas (2006) La cortesía conversacional: análisis secuenciales. In
Martina Schrader-Kniffi. La cortesía verbal en el mundo hispánico. Madrid, SP:
Vervuert Iberoamericana. 156-182.

Portolés Lazaro, José (1993) La distinción entre los conectores y otros
marcadores del discurso en español. Verba: Anuario galego de filoloxia 20, 141-170.

Verschueren, John, Elisa Baena & Marta Lacorte (2002) Para entender la
pragmática. Madrid, SP: Gredos.

Zahir Mumin teaches Spanish courses at the University at Albany, State University of New York and conducts research in the field of linguistics. His primary research interests include sociolinguistics, phonology, phonetics, translation, language acquisition, language contact, bilingualism, multilingualism, language change, and historical linguistics.

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