Context Construction as Mediated by Discourse Markers

An Adaptive Approach


From a Darwinian perspective, language is rooted in our neurobiology, and the process whereby interpretation is reached – in the case of argumentative sequences – is not dissimilar to that underlying action selection in response to environmental change: indeed, it arguably involves the same type of decision-making (Damasio 1994). Context construction, as construed by Nyan, corresponds to the preliminary stage of decision-making, when the changed environment needs to be categorised. What discourse markers contribute to context construction is an upgraded level of automation, whereby the degree of variation assumed to be present in the interlocutor’s processing context can be brought within a manageable range. How discourse markers influence interpretation is construed in terms of Damasio’s (2010) convergence-and-divergence zone framework.

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Biographical Note

Thanh Nyan, PhD. (1988), University of Paris-Sorbonne, is Senior Lecturer in French and Linguistics at the University of Manchester (UK). Her publications include monographs and articles on discourse markers, context construction, and the structure of utterance meaning from an adaptive perspective.

Review Quotes

Nyan’s book is a valuable and pioneering addition to discourse studies and should be of interest to graduate students and scholars in pragmatics, cognitive linguistics, eco-linguistics and applied linguistics. - Danping Wu, (Zhejiang University, P.R China) in: Discourse Studies Vol 20, issue 1 (2018).


Anyone interested in language as a biological phenomenon, context construction, procedural meaning, discourse markers, argumentation theory, the interface between language and brain systems, decision-making, grounded cognition.

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