“Ah lovely stuff, eh?”—invariant tag meanings and usage across three varieties of English

in Corpus-linguistic applications
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Abstract

Invariant tags, such as huh and innit, are discourse markers that often occur at the end of an utterance to provide attitudinal and/or evidential information above that of the proposition. Many previous studies examined the meaning or usage of these tags in single varieties or dialects of English. Few of these studies, however, have examined variation in invariant tag use. Some studies have investigated sociolinguistic divisions within a dialect, but none have compared usage between varieties. Furthermore, differences in research methodology and aims prevent comparison of the prior results. This study investigates the meaning/functions of four invariant tags—eh, yeah, no, and na—in New Zealand, Indian, and British English. The four most frequent meanings are described in detail. The results show differences in the meanings available as well as in their usage frequencies across both items and varieties. This suggests that varietal differences at the level above propositional understanding could cause problems for intercultural and global communication. This has implications for pedagogy and materials for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and English for Specific/Business Purposes, in that global communication in English requires an awareness of these subtle differences at the varietal level.

Corpus-linguistic applications

Current studies, new directions

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