Parenthetical “I say (you)” in Late Medieval Greek vernacular
A message-structuring discourse marker rather than a message-conveying verb
In this paper, I argue that the first-person singular of the “ordinary” verb λέγω/λαλῶ (‘I say’) in the thirteenth- to fourteenth-century political verse narratives Chronicle of Morea and War of Troy does not always carry its “normal”, representational content (‘I inform/assure [you]’). Frequently, λέγω/λαλῶ structures the discourse rather than conveying conceptual meaning and, thus, has procedural meaning. In this respect, the verb can be compared to modern discourse markers (i.e., semantically reduced items which abound in spoken language). An important − yet not decisive − criterion to distinguish the conceptual from the procedural use is the position of λέγω/λαλῶ: all “DM-like” examples are parenthetical. As for their precise pragmatic function, these forms are used, in particular, to signal a clarification towards the listener (“I mean”) or, more generally, to grab the attention of the audience. Applied to the modern binary distinction between interpersonal and textual discourse markers, they thus belong to the former category. Finally, I tentatively relate the observation that the procedural parenthetical examples show a marked preference for pre-caesural position to the concept of “filled pauses”, which makes sense given the adopted oral style of the Late Medieval Greek political verse narratives.
Keywords: discourse marker, Late Medieval Greek, interpersonal function, filled pause, political verse
Published online: 28 January 2016
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