Second language discourse markers: the case of pues in Spanish
SYDNEY DICKERSON & LORI CZERWIONKA
Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN
This investigation examines the functions of a Spanish discourse marker, pues, in the interlanguage of intermediate to advanced English-speaking learners of Spanish. Pues is a frequent discourse marker in Spanish, and it is translated in English to ‘so,’ ‘then,’ ‘cos,’ and ‘well.’ Discourse markers like pues provide cohesion in spoken interactions, and despite the lack of attention received in second language research and classrooms, they are important linguistic features for second language users. While several studies have addressed discourse markers by non-native speakers, the present investigation contributes to the scarce body of research on interlanguage discourse marker use in Spanish. Using a native speaker functional framework established by Travis (2005) for reference, the analyses respond to the following questions: In the speech of non-native speakers of Spanish, what are the characteristic functions of pues? How does learners’ functional usage of pues change over short-term study abroad in Madrid, Spain? How does non-native speaker functional usage of pues compare to native speaker usage?
Using oral interviews of 36 non-native (L2) Spanish speakers at the beginning and end of a program abroad and 10 native speakers (NS) of Spanish from Madrid, all tokens of pues were analyzed according to the functional framework (Travis, 2005) (N = 111 L2-pre; 125 L2-post; 217 NS). Analyses revealed infrequent L2 use of pues with a limited set of functions compared to NS data. Pues was employed by learners predominantly to preface an answer to a question and indicate repair. Preliminary individual-level analyses of pues use and function over the period abroad indicated changes for individual learners. The results are discussed in light of previous literature as well as the implications for second language learners and teachers with goals of interactional competence.