Oral Production of Discourse Markers by Intermediate Learners of Spanish: A Corpus Perspective

  • Leonardo Campillos LlanosEmail author
  • Paula González Gómez
Part of the Yearbook of Corpus Linguistics and Pragmatics book series (YCLP, volume 2)


This study describes the oral production of discourse markers by 40 (N = 40) learners of Spanish and compares it with usage by native speakers (N = 4). Our data belong to a learner corpus of oral interviews with university learners from over nine language backgrounds at intermediate level: A2 (N = 20) and B1 (N = 20) (Common European Framework of Reference). Semiautomatic part-of-speech (POS) tagging was used to count and retrieve the discourse markers produced by each group of learners and the group of native speakers. Results show a slight increase in the acquisition of these particles from A2 to B1, although the production is still lower when compared with the group of native speakers. Certain groups of students (especially Chinese learners) show a poorer usage of this category in our data, which could reveal a certain difficulty acquiring fluency at the discourse level. A breakdown of the most used discourse markers in our corpus (in native and non-native speakers, and at A2 and B1) is presented, as well as a distribution across interviews of the ten most frequent markers. Results are discussed comparing the usage data in our corpus with teaching guidelines for Spanish.


Spanish language Second language acquisition Learner corpus research Discourse markers Oral production 



This work was supported by the Regional Government of Madrid and the European Social Fund under a PhD grant; and the Comisión Interministerial de Ciencia y Tecnología (CICYT) [project TIN2010-20644-C03-03]. The authors gratefully acknowledge the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments, and would like to thank T. Shipley and C. Herrero for their assistance in the linguistic revision of the manuscript.


  1. Aijmer, K. (2002). English discourse particles: Evidence from a corpus. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aijmer, K. (2004). Pragmatic markers in spoken interlanguage. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 3(1), 173–190.Google Scholar
  3. Aijmer, K. (2011). Well I’m not sure I think… The use of well by non-native speakers. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 16(2), 231–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aijmer, K., & Simon-Vandenbergen, A.-M. (2003a). The discourse particle well and its equivalents in Swedish and Dutch. Linguistics, 41(6), 1123–1161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aijmer, K., & Simon-Vandenbergen, A.-M. (2003b). The expectation marker of course in a cross-linguistic perspective. Languages in Contrast, 31, 13–43.Google Scholar
  6. Aijmer, K., & Simon-Vandenbergen, A.-M. (2004). A model and a methodology for the study of pragmatic markers: The semantic field of expectation. Journal of Pragmatics, 36, 1781–1805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Aijmer, K., & Simon-Vandenbengen, A.-M. (Eds.). (2006). Pragmatic markers in contrast. Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  8. Aijmer, K., & Simon-Vandenbergen, A.-M. (2011). Pragmatic markers. In J. Zienkowski, J.-O. Östman, & J. Verschueren (Eds.), Discursive pragmatics (Handbook of Pragmatic Highlights, Vol. 8, pp. 223–247). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bachman, L. (1990). Habilidad lingüística comunicativa. In M. Llobera (Ed.), Competencia comunicativa (pp. 105–129, 1995). Madrid: Edelsa.Google Scholar
  10. Bardovi-Harlig, K. (2013). Developing L2 pragmatics. Language Learning, 63(1), 68–86.Google Scholar
  11. Bardovi-Harlig, K., & Mahan Taylor, R. (Eds.). (2003). Teaching pragmatics. Washington, DC: United States Department of State.Google Scholar
  12. Blakemore, D. (1987). Semantic constraints on relevance. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  13. Blakemore, D. (1992). Understanding utterances. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  14. Blakemore, D. (2004). Discourse markers. In L. R. Horn & G. Ward (Eds.), Handbook of pragmatics (Blackwell handbooks in linguistics, pp. 221–240). London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  15. Blum-Kulka, S., & House, J. (1989). Cross cultural and situational variation in requesting behavior. In S. Blum-Kulka, J. House, & G. Kasper (Eds.), Cross-cultural pragmatics: Requests and apologies (pp. 123–154). Norwood: Ablex.Google Scholar
  16. Bouton, L. (1999). Developing non-native speaker skills in interpreting conversational implicatures in English: Explicit teaching can ease the process. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Culture in second language teaching and learning (pp. 47–70). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Briz, A. (1993a). Los conectores pragmáticos en español coloquial. I: Su papel argumentativo. Contextos, 11, 145–188.Google Scholar
  18. Briz, A. (1993b). Los conectores pragmáticos en la conversación coloquial. II. Su papel metadiscursivo. Español actual, 59, 39–56.Google Scholar
  19. Buysse, L. (2007). Discourse marker so in the English of Flemish university students. Belgian Journal of English Language and Literatures, New Series 5: 79–95.Google Scholar
  20. Buysse, L. (2011). The business of pragmatics: The case of discourse markers in the speech of students of business English and English linguistics. ITL: International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 161, 10–30.Google Scholar
  21. Buysse, L. (2012). So as a multifunctional discourse marker in native and learner speech. Journal of Pragmatics, 44, 1764–1782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1(1), 1–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Carter, R., & McCarthy, M. (1995). Grammar and the spoken language. Applied Linguistics, 16(2), 141–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Casado Velarde, M. (1998). Lingüística del texto y marcadores del discurso. In M. A. Martín Zorraquino & E. Montolío Durán (Eds.), Marcadores del discurso. Teoría y análisis (pp. 55–70). Madrid: Arco/Libros, S.L.Google Scholar
  25. Celce-Murcia, M., Dörnyei, Z., & Thurrell, S. (1995). A pedagogical framework for communicative competence: A pedagogically motivated model with content specifications. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 6(2), 5–35.Google Scholar
  26. Council of Europe. (2001). Common European framework of reference for languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. De la Fuente, M. J. (2009). The role of pedagogical tasks and focus on form on acquisition of discourse markers by advanced language learners. In R. P. Leow, H. Campos, & D. Lardiere (Eds.), Little words: Their history, phonology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics and acquisition (pp. 211–221). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Díaz Rodríguez, L. (2007). Interlengua española: estudio de casos. Barcelona: Printulibro Intergrup.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Díez Domínguez, P. (2008). Análisis de los marcadores discursivos más usados en el habla de tres estudiantes extranjeros de E/LE nivel C1 tras una estancia de un mes en España. Master’s thesis, University of Barcelona, Barcelona.Google Scholar
  30. Domenech Val, A. (2008). La conectividad en español no nativo: un estudio sobre hablantes arabófonos. Master’s thesis, University of Barcelona, Barcelona.Google Scholar
  31. Escandell, V. (2004). Norms and principles. Putting social and cognitive pragmatics together. In R. Márquez-Reiter & M. E. Placencia (Eds.), Current trends in the pragmatics of Spanish (pp. 347–371). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fernández Leborans, M. J. (1992). La oración del tipo ‘es que…’. Verba, 19, 223–239.Google Scholar
  33. Fernández López, S. (1990). Problemas discursivos en la interlengua de aprendices de español como lengua extranjera. In S. Montesa Peydró, & A. M. Garrido (Eds.), Proceedings of the second national ASELE conference (pp. 267–278, 1994). Málaga: ASELE.Google Scholar
  34. Fernández López, S. (1997). Interlengua y análisis de errores en el aprendizaje del español. Madrid: Edelsa.Google Scholar
  35. Fraser, B. (1996). Pragmatic markers. Pragmatics, 6(2), 167–190.Google Scholar
  36. Fraser, B. (1999). What are discourse markers? Journal of Pragmatics, 31, 931–952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fuller, J. M. (2003). Discourse marker use across speech contexts: A comparison of native and non-native speaker performance. Multilingua, 22, 185–208.Google Scholar
  38. Fung, L., & Carter, R. (2007). Discourse markers and spoken English: Native and learner use in pedagogic settings. Applied Linguistics, 28(3), 410–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Galindo Merino, M. (2005). La transferencia pragmática en el aprendizaje de ELE. In A. Álvarez et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the XVI international ASELE conference (pp. 289–297). Oviedo: Ediciones de la Universidad de OviedoGoogle Scholar
  40. Gaviño, V. (2011). Operaciones metalingüísticas del marcador discursive hombre. Marcoele, 12. Accessed 9 Aug 2013.
  41. Gilquin, G. (2008). Hesitation markers among EFL learners: Pragmatic deficiency or difference? In J. Romero-Trillo (Ed.), Pragmatics and corpus linguistics. A mutualistic entente (Mouton Series in Pragmatics, Vol. 2, pp. 119–149). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  42. Gilquin, G., De Cock, S., & Granger, S. (2010). The Louvain international database of spoken English interlanguage. Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses Universitaires de Louvain.Google Scholar
  43. Gozalo, P. (2008). El marcador discursivo hombre y su tratamiento en el aula de E/LE. REDELE, 14. Accessed 3 Sept 2013.
  44. Granger, S. (2008). Learner corpora. In A. Lüdeling & M. Kytö (Eds.), Corpus linguistics: An international handbook (Vol. 1, pp. 259–275). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  45. Granger, S. (2012). How to use foreign and second language learner corpora. In A. Mackey & S. M. Gass (Eds.), Research methods in second language acquisition: A practical guide (pp. 7–29). London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  46. Granger, S., Dagneaux, E., Meunier, F., & Paquot, M. (2009). International corpus of learner English V2. Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses universitaires de Louvain.Google Scholar
  47. Hellermann, J., & Vergun, A. (2007). Language which is not taught: The discourse marker use of beginning adult learners of English. Journal of Pragmatics, 39(1), 157–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hernández, T. A. (2008). The effect of explicit instruction and input flood on students’ use of Spanish discourse markers on a simulated oral proficiency interview. Hispania, 91, 665–675.Google Scholar
  49. Hernández, T. A. (2011). Re-examining the role of explicit instruction and input flood on the acquisition of Spanish discourse markers. Language Teaching Research, 15(2), 159–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Hernández, T. A., & Rodríguez-González, E. (2012). Impact of instruction on the use of L2 discourse markers. Journal of Second Language Teaching and Research, 2(1), 3–31.Google Scholar
  51. House, J. (1996). Developing pragmatic fluency in English as a foreign language: Routines and metapragmatic awareness. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18(2), 225–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Hymes, D. (1972). Acerca de la competencia comunicativa. In M. Llobera (Ed.), Competencia comunicativa (pp. 27–47, 1995). Madrid: Edelsa.Google Scholar
  53. Instituto Cervantes. (2006). Plan Curricular del Instituto Cervantes. Accessed 3 Sept 2013.
  54. Jung, J. Y. (2002). Issues in acquisitional pragmatics. Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics, 2(3), 1–13.Google Scholar
  55. Kasper, G. (1992). Pragmatic transfer. Second Language Research, 8(3), 203–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Kasper, G. (1996). Interlanguage pragmatics in SLA (Introduction to thematic issue). Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18(2), 145–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Kasper, G. (1997). Can pragmatic competence be taught? Honolulu: University of Hawai’i, Second Language Teaching & Curriculum Center. Accessed 3 Sept 2013.
  58. Kasper, G., & Rose, K. (2002). Pragmatic development in a second language. Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  59. Koike, D. A. (1989). Pragmatic competence and adult L2 acquisition: Speech acts in interlanguage. The Modern Language Journal, 73, 279–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Koike, D. A. (1996). Transfer of pragmatic competence and suggestions in Spanish foreign language learning. In S. M. Gass & J. Neu (Eds.), Speech acts across cultures: Challenges to communication in a second language (pp. 257–281). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  61. Lafford, B. A., & Salaberry, M. R. (2003). Spanish second language acquisition: State of the science. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Langer, B. (2001). Teaching pragmatics forms in Spanish. Segundas lenguas e inmigración en red, 5, 5–34.Google Scholar
  63. Liao, Q. (1986). Discourse connectives in modern Mandarin Chinese. Zhongguo Yuwen, 6, 413–427.Google Scholar
  64. Liao, S. (2009). Variation in the use of discourse markers by Chinese teaching assistants in the US. Journal of Pragmatics, 41, 1313–1328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Liu, B. (2009). Chinese discourse markers in oral speech of mainland Mandarin speakers. In Y. Xiao (Ed.), Proceedings of the 21st North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (NACCL-21) (Vol. 2, pp. 358–374). Smithfield: Bryant University. Available at: Accessed 27 Aug 2013.
  66. Llinares-García, A., & Romero-Trillo, J. (2006). Discourse markers in the EFL classroom. In M. Carretero, L. Hidalgo Downing, J. Lavid, E. Martínez-Caro, J. Neff, S. Pérez de Ayala, & E. Sanchez-Pardo (Eds.), A pleasure of life in words: A festschrift for Angela Downing (Vol. 2, pp. 163–176). Madrid: Complutense University.Google Scholar
  67. Llinares-García, A., & Romero-Trillo, J. (2008). The pragmatic role of discourse markers of native and non-native teachers in CLIL contexts. In J. Romero-Trillo (Ed.), Pragmatics and corpus linguistics: A mutualistic entente (pp. 191–204). Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  68. Lorenzo-Dus, N. (2001). Compliment responses among British and Spanish university students. A contrastive study. Journal of Pragmatics, 33, 107–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Lorenzo-Dus, N., & Meara, P. (2004). Role-plays and the assessment of oral proficiency in Spanish. In R. Márquez-Reiter & M. E. Palencia (Eds.), Current trends in the pragmatics of Spanish (pp. 79–98). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Lozano, C., & Mendikoetxea, A. (2011). CEDEL2 (Corpus Escrito del Español como L2): A large-scale corpus for L2 Spanish acquisition research. In M. L. Carrió Pastor & M. A. Candel Mora (Eds.), Proceedings of CILC 2011. Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain). Valencia: Universidad Politécnica de Valencia.Google Scholar
  71. Martín Zorraquino, M. A., & Portolés, M. A. (1999). Los marcadores del discurso. In I. Bosque & V. Demonte (Eds.), Gramática descriptiva de la lengua española (Vol. 2, pp. 4051–4214). Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.Google Scholar
  72. McEnery, T., Xiao, R., & Tono, Y. (2006). Corpus-based language studies. An advanced resource book. London/New York: Routledge Applied Linguistics.Google Scholar
  73. Miracle, W. C. (1991). Discourse markers in Mandarin Chinese. PhD thesis, Ohio State University, Columbus. Available at: Accessed 27 Aug 2013.
  74. Mitchell, R., Domínguez, L., Arche, M. J., Myles, F., & Marsden, E. (2008). SPLLOC: A new database for Spanish second language acquisition research. In L. Roberts, F. Myles, & A. David (Eds.), EuroSLA yearbook (Vol. 8, pp. 287–304). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  75. Moreno, A., & Guirao, J. M. (2006). Morpho-syntactic tagging of the Spanish C-ORAL-ROM corpus: Methodology, tools and evaluation. In Y. Kawaguchi, S. Zaima, & T. Takagaki (Eds.), Spoken language corpus and linguistic informatics (pp. 199–218). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Mukherjee, J. (2009). The grammar of conversation in advanced spoken learner English: Learner corpus data and language-pedagogical implications. In K. Aijmer (Ed.), Corpora and language teaching (pp. 203–230). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Müller, S. (2005). Discourse markers in native and non-native English discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Nogueira da Silva, A. (2011). Enseñanza de los marcadores del discurso para aprendices brasileños de E/LE: análisis de manuales de E/LE y de narraciones orales de aprendices brasileños. PhD thesis, Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca. Available at:
  79. O’Keeffe, A., McCarthy, M., & Carter, R. (2007). From corpus to classroom. Language use and language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Polat, B. (2011). Investigating acquisition of discourse markers through a developmental learner corpus. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(15), 3745–3756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Pons Bordería, S. (1998). Conexión y conectores. Estudio de su relación en el registro informal del la lengua. Valencia: Universidad de Valencia.Google Scholar
  82. Pons Bordería, S. (2006). A functional approach to the study of discourse markers. In K. Fischer (Ed.), Approaches to discourse particles (pp. 77–99). Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  83. Porroche Ballesteros, M. (1998). Sobre algunos usos de que, si y es que como marcadores discursivos. In A. Mª, M. Zorraquino, & E. Montolío Durán (Eds.), Los marcadores del discurso. Teoría y práctica (pp. 229–242). Madrid: Arco/Libros.Google Scholar
  84. Ramírez Verdugo, D., & Romero-Trillo, J. (2005). The pragmatic function of intonation in L2 discourse: English tag questions used by Spanish speakers. Intercultural Pragmatics, 2(2), 151–168.Google Scholar
  85. Romero-Trillo, J. (2002). The pragmatic fossilization of discourse markers in non-native speakers of English. Journal of Pragmatics, 34(6), 769–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Romero-Trillo, J. (2004). Subjective and objective grounding in discourse markers: A cross-linguistic corpus-driven approach. In K. Aijmer (Ed.), Dialogue analysis VIII: Understanding and misunderstanding in dialogue: Selected papers from the 8th IADA conference, Göteborg 2001 (pp. 185–197). Tübingen: Niemeyer.Google Scholar
  87. Romero-Trillo, J. (Ed.). (2008). Pragmatics and corpus linguistics. A mutualistic entente (Mouton Series in Pragmatics, Vol. 2). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  88. Romero-Trillo, J. (Ed.). (2013). Yearbook of corpus linguistics and pragmatics 2013. New domains and methodologies. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  89. Rose, K., & Kasper, G. (2001). Pragmatics in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Santos Río, L. (2003). Diccionario de partículas. Salamanca: Luso-Española de ediciones.Google Scholar
  91. Schiffrin, D. (1987). Discourse markers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Schmer, D. (2012). Un análisis de nada como marcador del discurso en el español coloquial de Buenos Aires. Revista del Instituto de Investigaciones Lingüísticas y Literarias Hispanoamericana (RILL), 17(1/2), 218–227.Google Scholar
  93. Sessarego, C. (2009). Pragmatic language instruction and beginner learners of Spanish: A discourse approach to pragmalinguistics. Estudios de Lingüística Aplicada, 49, 97–120.Google Scholar
  94. Simon-Vandenbergen, A.-M., & Willems, D. (2011). Cross-linguistic data as evidence for grammaticalization. In L. Degand, & A.-M. Simon-Vandenbergen (Eds.), Grammaticalization, pragmaticalization and/or (inter)subjectification: Methodological issues for the study of discourse markers. Thematic Issue of Linguistics, 49(2): 333–364. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar
  95. Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1986). Relevance: Communication and cognition. Oxford: Blackwell’s.Google Scholar
  96. Thomas, J. (1983). Cross-cultural pragmatic failure. Applied Linguistics, 4(2), 91–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Walsh, S. (2013). Corpus linguistics and conversation analysis at the interface: Theoretical perspectives, practical outcomes. In J. Romero-Trillo (Ed.), Yearbook of corpus linguistics and pragmatics 2013. New domains and methodologies (pp. 37–51). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Wei, M. (2011). Investigating the oral proficiency of English learners in China: A comparative study of the use of pragmatic markers. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(14), 3455–3472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Yao, J. (2012). Clasificación de los marcadores del discurso en chino mandarín. In F. J. Rodríguez Muñoz (Ed.), Los marcadores del discurso en español y en chino mandarín. Philologica Urcitana. Revista Semestral de Iniciación a la Investigación en Filología (Vol. 7, pp. 5–20). Almería: Universidad de Almería.Google Scholar
  100. Yoshimi, D. R. (2001). Explicit instruction and JFL learners. Use of interactional discourse markers. In K. Rose & G. Kasper (Eds.), Pragmatics in language teaching (pp. 223–244). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Zhao, H. (2013). A study on the pragmatic fossilization of discourse markers among Chinese English learners. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 4(4), 707–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonardo Campillos Llanos
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paula González Gómez
    • 2
  1. 1.Computational Linguistics Laboratory, Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, Facultad de Filosofía y LetrasUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Language ServiceUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations