Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

New from Wiley!


We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Review of  Discourse and Pragmatic Markers from Latin to the Romance Languages

Reviewer: Magdalena Nigoevic
Book Title: Discourse and Pragmatic Markers from Latin to the Romance Languages
Book Author: Chiara Ghezzi Piera Molinelli
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Historical Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Latin
Language Family(ies): Romance
Issue Number: 26.3050

Discuss this Review
Help on Posting
Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


This volume comprises eleven (11) case studies of distinguished scholars from different theoretical backgrounds examining both the diachronic development and the synchronic properties of discourse and pragmatic markers across the Romance languages. The contributions are brought together by two editorial chapters: the introductory one that explains the origin and gives an overview of the themes represented in the volume and the one that introduces the theoretical and methodological framework adopted in the volume.

The contributions are organized around two thematic parts: the first containing five studies devoted to deverbal markers, and the second consisting of six studies that focus on markers derived from adverbs. The conclusive editorial chapter that summarizes new insights is followed by the extensive list of References, Author index and Subject index.


Chapter 1: Chiara Ghezzi and Piera Molinelli: Discourse and pragmatic markers from Latin to the Romance languages: New insights (pp. 1-9)

This chapter introduces the volume, in which “synchronic and diachronic approaches are balanced in order to describe recurrent morphosyntactic, semantic, and textual properties” (p.1) of different markers in Romance languages. The authors depict several lines of investigation in relation to functional markers: synchronic description of the nature and properties of markers, diachronically-oriented studies which are highly relevant when languages which have all developed from a common ancestor (i.e. Latin) are concerned and analysis which studies the relationship between the diachronic development of markers and their synchronic functions. Through a brief presentation of the case studies that follow, they offer insights into the scholars’ different theoretical approaches and varied terminology for functional markers, as well as their various positions on grammaticalization and pragmaticalization.

Chapter 2: Chiara Ghezzi: The development of discourse and pragmatic markers (pp. 10-26)

This chapter represents an overview of research on the rise of these functional items in Romance and other languages. By exploring the prototypical functional and formal properties of these pragmatic items, the author outlines different theoretical positions on notions, approaches and methodologies that shed light on the synchronic functions performed by these items. The terms ‘discourse marker’ and ‘pragmatic marker’ as used in the volume are defined. She then focuses on the peculiarities of their diachronic developments in Romance languages not only because it is relevant for their polyfunctional nature, but also because of the intrinsic relationship between the pragmaticalized item and its source lexeme. Grammaticalization and pragmaticalization, as well as subjectification and intersubjectification ‒ the processes underlining the developments of functional markers – are briefly discussed and defined.

Part I: Verbs as Pragmatic Markers

Chapter 3: Maria Iliescu: Call markers in French, Italian, and Romanian (pp.29-40)

This chapter analyses call markers derived from verbs of visual and auditory perception in Romanian, French, and Italian from comparative and synchronic perspective. Moving from the already established fact that the verbs of perception, especially in the imperative mood, are often employed as attention getters, the author discusses their morphosyntactic and semantic properties. Through examples taken from written sources as well as from the corpus of spoken language, the author compares the similarities and dissimilarities in all three languages. These verbs all have a primary perceptive meaning and they have developed cognitive meanings. Although the verb sources in the three languages share identical semantic domains, some elements are specific to each language: Rom. possesses two agentive visual verbs ‘a se uita’ and ‘a privy’; Fr. adverbs as ‘voici’ and ‘voilà’ partly block the verb ‘voir’ when used as a call marker; It. visual agentive verb ‘guardare’ and the non-agentive auditory verb ‘sentire’ have undergone cognitive meaning extension and they function as parasynonyms. She shows that, despite the fact that typology of the semantic domains involving the verbs of sense perception is almost identical in the three Romance languages, it is possible to highlight their particularities by comparing the pragmatic functions of imperatives of visual and auditory perception.

Chapter 4: Adriana Costachescu: On disagreement markers in French and Romanian dialogue (pp. 41-60)

This is a comparative and synchronic study that analyses the semantic and pragmatic values of French and Romanian disagreement markers developed from verbal phrases. Adopting a conversational approach, the author examines conversational implications involved in the use of disagreement markers in dialogue. She begins by an overview of analysed markers: Fr. ‘assez’ ‘enough’, ‘ça suffit comme’ ‘that’s enough’, ‘arrêtez’ ‘stop (doing that)’, ‘tais-toi’ ‘be quiet’, ‘zut’ ‘damn’ and Rom. ‘destul’ o ‘ajunge’ ‘(that’s) enough’, ‘gata’ ‘that’ll do’, ‘lasă-o (moartǎ)’ ‘leave it’, ‘taci’ ‘be quiet’, ‘încetează’ ‘stop (doing that)’. She further questions the adequacy of Grice’s conversational theory, since Grice’s Cooperative Principle, along with his maxims, is based on harmony and agreement among the participants in the conversation and it ignores a series of non-cooperative conversations (cross-examination, political debate, trials). For that purpose, she analyses the role of markers expressing disagreement or exasperation using the examples from French and Romanian dialogical texts. The author asserts that the Gricean framework is too strict to cover disagreement; she proposes to enrich it by asserting that the cooperative principle is not violated if the disagreement is explicitly stated.

Chapter 5: Chiara Ghezzi and Piera Molinelli: Deverbal pragmatic markers from Latin to Italian (Lat. ‘quaeso’ and It. ‘prego’): The cyclic nature of functional developments (pp. 61-85)

This chapter contains an exhaustive cross-linguistic comparative study of Latin and Italian courtesy markers. Based on the corpora of Latin and Italian written sources (except for the C-Oral Rom corpus of spoken contemporary Italian), the authors analyse the changes in pragmatic cycle of Latin verb-based courtesy markers ‘QUAESO’ and ‘ROGO’ ‘I ask, I pray’ and the development and Italian ‘prego’ ‘I pray’ and ‘chiedo’ ‘I ask’. Using a number of different parameters, such as morphosyntactic context and the pragmatic, textual and semantic properties of the verbs in question, the authors follow the pragmatic pattern which fosters their gradual pragmaticalization. The results suggest that ‘QUAESO’ is more common in classical Latin while ‘ROGO’ acquires pragmatic values only later. Although in contemporary It. ‘prego’ can even represent an independent turn where it is completely pragmaticalized (‘Grazie. Prego!’ ‘Thank you! You are welcome!), it nevertheless preserves uses connecting with the meaning of the source verb. The Latin courtesy marker ‘QUAESO’ was gradually replaced by ‘ROGO’ in Latin. On the other hand, the frequent use of the root ‘QUAES-’, becoming ‘QUAERO’, gave rise to the Italian ‘chiedo’. The pragmatic value of the ‘ROGO’ was not maintained in Italian, since it was substituted by ‘prego’, derived from another Latin performative verb with a similar meaning (‘PRECOR’). The diachronic reconstruction of courtesy markers in the languages examined suggests the functional and cyclic nature of their pragmatic evolution.

Chapter 6: Michaela Livescu: ‘Mǎ rog’: A pragmatic marker in Romanian (pp. 86-108)

This chapter offers a diachronic and sociolinguistic analysis of the Romanian courtesy marker ‘mă rog’ ‘please’ (< Rom. verb ‘a ruga’ < Lat. ‘ROGO’). The author gives a detailed analysis of the pragmatic development of ‘mă rog’, based on the examples drawn from Romanian 19th and 20th century texts and some newspaper articles. Its pragmatic development can be followed in several phases: it is first used as a courtesy marker in requests, then it gradually acquires circumstantial and modalizing functions and eventually it becomes an attention getter and a verbal tic. From the politeness function other functions progressively emerged, especially those of expressing concession (toning down a previous utterance or clarification of preceding statement) or hedging (a signal of formal assent; a turn-managing, turn-closing or turn-giving device; a hesitation marker). The analysis of contexts of use and corresponding functions shows not only that the marker is today highly polyfunctional and completely pragmaticalized in Romanian, but also that it has been in the language for a relatively long time (since the 19th century) with equal frequency in different regional varieties, although it appears to be more frequent in urban speech.

Chapter 7: Salvador Pons Bordería: Paths of grammaticalization in Spanish ‘o sea’ (pp. 109-136)

The chapter analyses the paths of grammaticalization of the Sp. discourse marker ‘o sea’ (lit. ‘or be-SBJV’). The rise of the reformulative value is best explained by multicausation, which involves several factors: changes in syntax and in the semantics of the disjunctive marker, polyphony, discourse genres, the existence of a previous paradigm of reformulative markers, and the position of ‘o sea’ in the sentence. The author claims that the theory of discourse units can be of great interest for grammaticalization studies. He integrates synchronic description of pragmatic functions of the reformulation marker ‘o sea’ in Modern Spanish with a description of its diachronic development from Early Spanish. Historical data shows that ‘o sea’ not only developed functions in the precise order: paraphrastic reformulator < conclusive < non-paraphrastic reformulator < modal values (stressing and hedging), but this path of grammaticalization depends on its different discourse position and also on the distinct discourse units.

Part II: Adverbs as Discourse Markers

Chapter 8: Maj-Britt Mosegaard Hansen: Cyclicity in semantic/pragmatic change: The medieval particle ‘ja’ between Latin ‘IAM’ and Modern French ‘déjà’ (pp. 139-165)

This chapter proposes a corpus-driven account of the development of the Medieval French particle ‘ja’ from Latin ‘IAM’ ‘now, as of this moment’ to Modern French ‘déjà’. Through the analysis of examples taken from a historical electronic database, the author discusses the overall diachronic evolution of ‘ja’ in terms of its polifunctionality. She identifies a total of eleven functions of medieval French ‘ja’. However, its range of functions only partially overlaps with those of its Latin etymological source and those of its modern French descendant. The author assumes that the basic meaning of ‘ja’, the temporal sense, is historically prior to other, aspectual and non-temporal (assertive discourse particle) uses. After representing a hypothetical network of uses of Medieval French ‘ja’, she elaborates on motivations that led to the disappearance of ‘ja’ in modern French, i.e. its surviving only as an etymological component of other temporal/aspectual adverbs in Modern French (e.g. ‘déjà’ ‘already’ and ‘jamais’ ‘(n)ever’). Considering the evolution of these particles, which evolved from a basic, very similar temporal/aspectual sense but with their own discourse functions, although not always corresponding ones, she also suggests the existence of cross-linguistic cycles of pragmaticalization.

Chapter 9: Chiara Fedriani and Emanuele Miola: French ‘déjà’, Piedmontese Italian ‘già’: A case of contact-induced pragmaticalization (pp. 166-189)

The authors analyse a specific case of contact-induced pragmaticalization undergone by some adverbs meaning ‘already’ in Piedmontese Regional Italian (PRI), French and some neighbouring varieties. These functional units, labelled by authors as ‘Erinnerungsfragepartikeln’ (EFP(n)), literally ‘interrogative particles of remembering’, fulfil discourse-related values as turn-managing devices and politeness-motivated face-saving tools. On the basis of different source adverbs and semantic implications, the authors identify three main categories of EFPn (iterative, inchoative and cumulative) attested within European languages. Following the peculiar areal distribution, they frame the subsequent discussion of the pragmatic values acquired by the Fr. ‘déjà’ and its PRI cognate ‘già’, both descendants of Latin ‘(DE) IAM’ meaning ‘already’. On the basis of the historical textual date and the examples from the contemporary spoken varieties, the authors focus on the development of ‘già’ ‘already’ as EFP in PRI. The pragmatic value developed by PRI ‘già’ has to be understood in terms of the process of pragmaticalization induced by contact with French (and indirectly with German). Furthermore, the authors discuss the pragmaticalization of ‘già’, ‘déjà’ and other EFPn in the light of Lehmann’s (2002) traditional parameters of grammaticalization, highlighting their inadequacy in capturing the patterns of pragmatic development of such linguistic items.

Chapter 10: Mario Squartini: The pragmaticalization of ‘already’ in Romance: From discourse grammar to illocution (pp. 190-210)

This contribution compares the discursive functions of the French temporal-aspectual adverb ‘déjà’ to its cognate form ‘già’ in the regional variety of north-western Italian (i.e. Piedmontese Regional Italian), both descendants of Latin ‘(DE) IAM’ ‘already’. Using mainly internet data collected for the purpose of the present study, the author demonstrates that, despite areal similarities, the pragmatic uses of French ‘déjà’ and north-western Italian ‘già’ show significant differences. The synchronic comparison is diachronically reappraised by contrasting their pragmatic functions, especially in regards to information flow and their uses as backchecking devices in direct questions. He concludes that the main functional category of the north-western Italian ‘già’ concerns its role as a marker of information state, while the French ‘déjà’ seems to be predetermined by its general role as an illocutionary marker. These functional discrepancies are interpreted in a diachronic perspective as indicative of different stages of the same pragmaticalization path, which suggests a gradual evolution from discourse grammar to pragmatics.

Chapter 11: Ana Cristina Macário Lopes: ‘Aliás’: A contribution to the study of a Portuguese discourse marker (pp. 211-221)

This chapter considers the diachronic development of the contemporary Portuguese discourse marker ‘aliás’, originating from the Latin adverb alias meaning ‘another time, another moment’. By demonstrating its inherent polyfunctional behaviour throughout history, the author questions the traditional view of the unidirectional pathway of discourse marker development. The diachronic analysis shows that ‘aliás’ displays a range of different functions, encoding different meanings in different periods of the history of the Portuguese language: adverb of manner, reformulation/rectification connective, negative hypothesis connective, comment marker. Some of its old usages have disappeared in contemporary Portuguese (i.e. ‘aliás’ as an adverb of manner and ‘aliás’ as a discourse connective marking negative condition), while only two functions are attested in Modern European Portuguese: a digressive comment and a rectification marker. Since the procedural and pragmatic meanings are already present in the oldest occurrences of ‘aliás’, the author suggests that the hypothesis within the grammaticalization theoretical framework thatdiscourse markers developed from content to procedural meaning , i.e. a horizontal, gradual and unidirectional change, should be reconsidered.

Chapter 12: Mihaela Popescu: Romanian ‘atunci’ and French ‘alors’: Functional and discourse properties (pp. 222-236)

This chapter proposes the discourse-pragmatic behaviour of the contemporary Romanian adverb ‘atunci’ ‘then’ (< Latin phrase *‘AD-TUNC-CE’ ‘at that moment’) and of corresponding French adverb ‘alors’ (< Latin ‘ILLA HORA’ ’at that hour’). The synchronic and contrastive analysis shows that both linguistic items are frequently used in argumentative structures, where they perform different pragmatic functions related to discourse structuring. Regarding their pragmatic functions as markers, they usually serve as markers of topic opening or closure with different values assumed (phatic markers, presentational markers, focalizers, floor-holding devices). The author concludes that, apart from a certain degree of functional equivalence of these items, Fr. ‘alors’ in spoken contemporary French has acquired a higher degree of polyfunctionality. Rom. ‘atunci’ is less pragmatically marked than Fr. ‘alors’ in the range of argumentative functions, especially in its metatextual values. Along with a greater number of pragmatic uses, Fr. ‘alors’ seems to have a freer positioning within the utterance, while Rom. ‘atunci’ tends to be placed in initial position. The anaphoric temporal meaning leads to multiple pragmatic values as a result of a radial evolution.

Chapter 13: Corinne Rossari: How does a concessive value emerge? (pp. 237-260)

This chapter investigates French adverbial items with a concessive value, ‘certes’ ‘certainly’, ‘en effet’, ‘effectivement’ ‘actually’, ‘d’accord’ ‘OK’, and ‘soit’ ‘granted, so be it’, in order to explain how their concessive, pragmatic value derived from their semantic meanings. As concessive markers, they can be considered as both a pragmatic marker, specifying a discourse relation of counter-argumentation, and a discourse marker, focusing on interaction alluding to a possible previous discourse. They can express an agreement in dialogical contexts and a concession in monological context. Even if they can be interchangeable in many different contexts, they differ regarding the way they react to the information state expressed by the addressee’s utterance and regarding the level of the utterance to which they react. Synchronic perspective is then integrated with diachronic data in order to interpret the emergence of concessive values. The basic key to explaining this process of evolution is that discourse markers acquire the pragmatic function through an increasing subjectivity. The analysis supports the idea that linguistic change can also comprise wider extra-linguistic phenomena such as stylistic habits.

Conclusion: Piera Molinelli: The development of functional roles and Romance languages: Processes and patterns (pp. 261-271)

In the concluding chapter, one of the editors of the volume appropriately summarizes the content of the previous contributions by discussing the main topics of the present volume. The studies gathered here examine the developments and the present status of discourse and pragmatic markers in Romance languages, by applying different approaches and following diverse lines of research. In accordance with the aim of the volume, the chapter discusses “ relevant implications deriving from analysis of both processes (mechanics), properties and patterns (mechanisms) involved in functional pragmatic changes in genealogically related languages” (p. 261). Three different groups of topics, which draw together these proposals, are considered: (a) the synchronic description of the functional markers’ nature and properties, (b) the role of diachronic developments in the account of the multifunctional nature of many markers, and (c) the relationship between the diachronic developments and their synchronic function. The author also highlights the new insights that this volume brings to the scientific debate.


This volume offers a wide spectrum of approaches to identifying different classes of functional markers in relation to their lexical sources and to discussing the development of discourse and pragmatic markers, underlining, in a contrastive perspective, the regularities of processes in different languages, to account for the role of both the synchronic and the diachronic dimension, and also for their integration.

Each chapter presents case studies in different Romance languages and deals with a number of issues relating to various topics: pragmatic polyfunctionality of the items, diachronic patterns of evolution and their morphosyntactic properties. Several authors follow the diachronic (and contrastive) development of pragmatic functions of markers (e.g. Ch. 5, Ch. 9). Some of them employ synchronic (and contrastive) approach (e.g. Ch. 3, Ch.4), while the others combine the two paths (e.g. Ch. 7, Ch. 8). Nevertheless, they generally provide the relationship between the diachronic development of the particular marker and its synchronic status, the functions performed at the discursive and interactional levels, and the morphosyntactic properties of source lexemes. These proposals also apply a pragmatic perspective to linguistic phenomena usually explained on a morphosyntactic basis.

By redefining terms and processes on the basis of formal peculiarities and similarities in developments of different sources (i.e. verbs and adverbs), the volume also provides an important step towards identifying the boundaries between different functional markers. One of its important achievements is a thorough distinction (clearly stated in the very title of the volume) between discourse markers and pragmatic markers; the two terms are conventionally used as synonyms in the literature. The functions of the markers are clustered around three main macro functions: textual cohesion and coherence, social cohesion, and speaker’s personal stance (see Ch. 2) in order to demonstrate how the classification depends on the particular functions performed by these markers. Thus, the first (discourse markers) relate to the structure of discourse and guarantee textual cohesion and coherence, and the latter (pragmatic markers) have (inter)personal value and serve interactive goals.
However, there are some inconsistencies which need to be pointed out. Although highly appreciated reviews are present throughout the volume (e.g. see pp. 91, 169, 191, 240), the topics of several papers intersect (e.g. grammaticalization and/or pragmaticalization) and the volume would have benefited from more cross-references. Questioning and re-examining the process of grammaticalization, as in Chapter 11, seems to be superfluous, especially considering the focus of the present volume – development of functional markers, and the fact that the notions of grammaticalization and pragmaticalization have been widely debated in previous studies (Traugott 2010, Diewald 2011) and in the introductory chapter. Furthermore, there are two different references to the same article: Hansen (2000) in the References, and Hansen (2002) in the text (see Ch. 10).

Generally, the major contribution of this volume is its search for a “holistic way” to analyze discourse and pragmatic markers, by integrating both synchronic and diachronic approaches to a group of Romance languages. The fact that diachronic studies and synchronic descriptions are used to provide explanations for cross-linguistic phenomena could be used as a model for a similar approach to functional markers in another genealogically related language group (e.g. Slavic languages).


Diewald, Gabriele. 2011. Pragmaticalization (defined) as grammaticalization of discourse functions. Linguistics 49(2). 365-390.

Hansen, Maj-Britt Mosegaard. 2000. La polysémie de l’adverbe ‘déjà’. In: Andersen, Hanne Leth and Anita Berit Hansen (eds.), Le français parlé: corpus et résultats. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum. 157-177.

Lehmann, Christian. 2002. Thoughts on Grammaticalization, vol. 2. Erfurt: Seminar für Sprachwissenschaft.

Traugott, Elizabeth Closs. 2010. Grammaticalization. In: Andreas H. Jucker and Irma Taavitsainen (eds.), Historical Pragmatics. Berlin / New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 97-126.
Magdalena Nigoević (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Split; [email protected]) obtained her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Zadar (Croatia) with a dissertation about discourse markers in Croatian and Italian languages. She received her M.Phil. in General Linguistics from the University of Zagreb (Croatia). She teaches linguistics courses at the Graduate and Post-graduate Degree of the Department of Italian Language and Literature, at the Music Department of the Academy of Arts and at the Doctoral Degree Program in the Humanities of the University of Split. Her research interests are discourse studies, linguistic pragmatics, semantics, sociolinguistics and media language.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9780199681600
Pages: 384
Prices: U.K. £ 75.00