In this article we investigate how speakers manage discourse expectations in dialogue by comparing the meaning and use of three Dutch discourse particles, i.e. wel, toch and eigenlijk, which all express a contrast between their host utterance and a discourse-based expectation. The core meanings of toch, wel and eigenlijk are formally distinguished on the basis of two intersubjective parameters: (i) whether the particle marks alignment or misalignment between speaker and addressee discourse beliefs, and (ii) whether the particle requires an assessment of the addressee's representation of mutual discourse beliefs. By means of a quantitative corpus study, we investigate to what extent the intersubjective meaning distinctions between wel, toch and eigenlijk are reflected in statistical usage patterns across different social situations. Results suggest that wel, toch and eigenlijk are lexicalizations of distinct generalized politeness strategies when expressing contrast in social interaction. Our findings call for an interdisciplinary approach to discourse particles in order to enhance our understanding of their functions in language.
- corpus research
- discourse particles