Discourse markers are a feature of everyday conversation – they signal attitudes and beliefs to their interlocutors beyond the base utterance. One particular type of discourse marker is the invariant tag (InT), for example New Zealand and Canadian eh. Previous studies of InTs have clearly described InT uses in individual language varieties. Such studies have focused on sociolinguistic features and on sociolinguistic functions of single markers. However, InTs as a class have not yet been fully described, and the variety of approaches taken (corpus- as well as survey-based) means that cross-varietal or cross-linguistic comparison cannot be conducted with the results thus far.
This study investigates InTs in five varieties of English from a corpus-based approach. It lists the utterance-final InTs available in NZ, British, Indian, Singapore and Hong Kong English through their occurrences in their respective International Corpus of English (ICE) corpora, and compares frequency of usage across the varieties. The quantitative analysis offers a clearer overview of the InT class for descriptive grammars, and clarifies some usage aspects for ESL/EFL pedagogy. Finally, the results offer an insight into the global status of InTs in English.