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This project examines the function of the word ‘question’ in a variety of contexts and introduces the novel term to the growing and flexible class of discourse markers. Discourse markers are function words that contribute to discourse coherence. They connect ideas, situate an utterance within a broader context, and signal the relationship between discourse segments (Fraser 1999). Based on the criteria outlined above, it appears that ‘question’ performs a similar function. In most contexts, ‘question’ initiates and/or interrupts discourse, often signaling a change in the topic of conversation. It also alerts the listener that a response is desired, even when followed by a declarative sentence. The discourse marker indicates the illocutionary force of the upcoming utterance. Lastly, it softens the delivery of a question in a context where an asymmetrical power relationship is evident. This close examination of the varied uses of ‘question’ situates the term among discourse markers and reveals the unique behavior of this newly emerging discourse marker in relation to the behavior of those that have been long established.
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