|Dialogue Design Guide|
Discourse markers are linguistic expressions used to signal the relation of an utterance to its immediate context, with the primary function of bringing to the listener's attention a particular kind of linkage of the upcoming utterance with the immediate discourse context (Redeker, 1990).
Some examples of discourse markers in English are: "well", "now", '"actually", and "OK".
A conversation is "much less lively and less 'personal' without [discourse markers] signalling receipt of information, agreement and involvement." (Stenstrom, 1994:17).
Discourse markers are used in the prompts of automated telephone service dialogues in order to create and maintain this sense of a more lively and personal relationship with the user.
|Some commonly used discourse markers|
The discourse markers below have all been used in recent research into new dialogue designs carried out as part of the SPOTLIGHT project. Click on in the example boxes to hear recorded samples of the prompts in action.
For the hearer, use of "actually" highlights the fact that something is now being said that might not have been expected in this context but that is relevant nevertheless (Lenk 1998:167).
"Actually" can therefore be used to signal to the hearer that although what follows is relevant to the ongoing discourse, it will contain (in the opinion of the speaker) information that the hearer is not expecting.
"OK" at the beginning of a turn expresses agreement, and can also indicate acknowledgement of the preceding utterance.
"OK" in second position following "yes" emphasizes the agreement expressed by "yes". However, that role depends on the intonation of the utterance. For example, " Yes, OK" (spoken with a sigh) potentially indicates reluctant agreement or consent. On the other hand, "Yes, OK" (spoken with stress on "OK") indicates impatience with the interlocutor.
"OK" within the turn finishes a topic, and "OK" at the end of a turn asks for confirmation. (Again depending on intonation).
Lenk, Uta. (1998): Marking Discourse Coherence: Functions of Discourse Markers. Tubingen: Gunter Narr Verlag
Redeker, Gisela. (1990). Ideational and pragmatic markers of discourse structure. Journal of Pragmatics, 14, 367-381.
Smith, Sara W. & Andreas H. Jucker (2000). Actually and other markers of an apparent discrepancy between propositional attitudes of conversational partners. In G. Andersen & T. Fretheim (eds.) Pragmatic Markers and Propositional Attitude. Amsterdam: John Benjamins
Stenstrom, Anna-Brita. (1994): An Introduction to Spoken Interaction. London: Longman