Sentence-initial And and But in academic writing
Prescriptivists have long proscribed sentence-initial And (SIA), and sentence-initial But (SIB). However, SIA and SIB are increasingly used in newspapers and style guides have softened strictures against their use. Moreover, SIA and SIB are amongst the most frequently occurring sentence-initial connectives within their respective semantic groups of additives and contrastives. Given their use despite prohibitions, this paper examines the patterns of occurrence and function of SIA and SIB in academic writing. The data come from 1 million words of academic prose: 11 journals representing science, social science, and humanities. The data confirm the findings of Biber et al. (1999) that while coordinator and is more frequent in academic prose than but, SIA is much less frequent than SIB. The data also reveal a marked difference between low SIA and SIB occurrences in scientific writing and much higher occurrences in social science and humanities. Plus, SIA is the preferred additive connective compared with moreover, furthermore, and in addition, etc., and SIB is the second most preferred contrastive connective after however. SIA and SIB in academic writing function in three very similar ways: (i) to mark off a discourse unit by indicating the last item on a list, (ii) to indicate the development of an argument, and (iii) to indicate a discontinuity or shift with a previous discourse unit. Whereas the most common function of SIA is that of indicating the last item on a list, the most common use of SIB is in the development of arguments. SIA and SIB perform special functions that the alternatives of asyndetic or “zero” coordination, the use of similar discourse markers: moreover, furthermore, in addition, and however, respectively, or intrasentential coordination cannot perform. These special functions are derived from their particular semantic meanings, their role as coordinating conjunctions, and their reduced phonological prominence. These features allow SIA and SIB to preface a wider range of lexico-grammatical units such as interrogatives, stance adverbs and other discourse connectives and to create a tighter form of cohesion. It is these special features of cohesion rather than a move to colloquiality which are held to explain the occurrence of SIA and SIB in academic writing.
Keywords: Contrastives, Additives, Sentence-initial connectives, Coordination, Cancellatives, Intersentential/intrasentential coordination, Asyndetic or “zero” coordination, Conjunction, Prescription, Colloquiality, Phonological prominence
This article is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) 4.0 license.
Published online: 01 June 2007
Bell, David M.
(1998) Cancellative discourse markers: A core/periphery approach. Pragmatics 8.4: 515-542. BoP
Biber, Douglas, et al.
(2002) Relevance and linguistic meaning: The Semantics and pragmatics of discourse markers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. BoP
(2005) and-parentheticals. Journal of Pragmatics 37: 1165-1181. BoP
Blakemore, Diane, and Robyn Carston
(2002) Thoughts and utterances. The Pragmatics of Explicit Communication. Malden, MA: Blackwell. MetBib
Carston, Robyn, and Diane Blakemore
(2004) Conjunction in sentence and discourse: Sentence initial and and discourse structure. Journal of Pragmatics 36.10: 1761-1779. BoP
Halliday, M.A.K., and Ruqaiya Hasan
(1976) Cohesion in English. London: Longman. BoP
Huttar, Charles A.
Pander Maat, Henk, and Liesbeth Degand
Quirk, Randolph, et al.
(1985) A Comprehensive Grammar Of The English Language. London: Longman. BoP
(1987) Discourse Markers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. BoP
(2005) But me some buts: A multidimensional view of conjunction. Text 25.26: 763-791. BoP
Traugott, Elizabeth Closs
Cited by other publications
Lee, Joseph J., Tetyana Bychkovska & James D. Maxwell
Wu, Xue, Anna Mauranen & Lei Lei
This list is based on CrossRef data as of 29 august 2020. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.