Abstract: Derrin Pinto & Donny Vigil

Spanish clicks and discourse marker clusters
University of Saint Thomas

One line of research on discourse markers (DMs) has focused on markers occurring sequentially in combinations (e.g. Andersen 1996; Andersen et al. 1999; Brizuela et al. 1999; Cuenca & Marín 2009; Cuenca & Crible 2019; Flores-Ferrán, 2014; Fraser 2013, 2015; Koops & Lohmann 2015; Pons Bordería 2018; Raymond, 2018; Roggia 2012; Vicher & Sankoff 1989). These studies highlight different ways in which the functions of multiple DMs can combine and interact to create unique forms of expression. For example, DM combinations can come together to form a complex unit, similar to how morphemes combine to create words, or they can maintain their individual functions as separate elements that appear contiguously. The current study expands this area of research on DM clusters in Spanish to include clicks, a type of non-lexical DM that often co-occurs with other markers.

In previous research (Authors 2018, 2019), we approached clicks as discourse markers with five functions and reported on co-occurring elements such as pauses, fillers and prolonged syllables that were present in both the pre-click and post-click environment. We also examined clicks from a multimodal perspective that included gestures. Until now, one area that we have not investigated in detail is how clicks combine with other DMs.

In this study, we analyze 764 clicks and their co-occurring DMs that form clusters or stacks. In our corpus of interviews in Peninsular Spanish, 60% of the clicks appear in clusters, and on average, a cluster contains a click plus two additional markers, equally distributed before and after the click. The five most common DMs combining with clicks were found to be em/mm, eh, y, pues and entonces. Pertinent to the make-up of these clusters is the use of pauses between elements, and prolonged syllables, two phenomena that we also incorporate into the analysis.

For our theoretical framework, in addition to drawing from the aforementioned body of research on DM combinations, we consider clicks, discourse markers, pauses and prolonged syllables to be collateral signals, markers used by speakers to manage their ongoing performance (Clark, 2004; Clark and Fox Tree, 2002). When taken together, these sequences of elements communicate to the hearer a range of different ideas regarding how their utterance should be interpreted.