Vagueness Markers in Italian

Age variation and pragmatic change


Chiara Ghezzi


Moving from a broad socio-pragmatic perspective, this study analyses how speakers of different ages use a class of items and constructions that codify intentional vagueness in Italian.
Items as un po’ ‘a bit’, tipo ‘kind’, diciamo ‘let us say’, così ‘so’, e cose del genere ‘and things like that’, or cosa ‘thing’ constitute a class of linguistically heterogeneous means that often function in conversation as vagueness markers, i.e. elements by which speakers signal that their knowledge or communication are somehow only tentative, approximate, and vague. Their use does not depend on language systemic factors, but is the result of a, more or less conscious, choice of speakers to enhance conversation for different reasons, which include facilitating the flow of conversation, signifying a vague categorization, and, eventually, being polite.
Operating at the pragmatic level, vagueness markers represent elements that are readily available to speakers’ choices and contribute to characterise individual and generational discourse styles. Through a corpus-based analysis of listeners’ phone-ins to a radio station based in Milan, this study investigates how vagueness markers are used by speakers of different ages in 1976 and in 2010, and how Italian discourse styles have evolved in the last forty years.


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Author Biography

Chiara Ghezzi

She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Bergamo (Italy). Her research interests focus on Italian (historical) socio-pragmatics and (im)politeness, discourse markers, diachrony of speech acts, the Italian address system; communities of practice from an historical perspective, especially notarial and Christian communities; digital linguistics and language corpora. She is author of articles in national and international journals and books, she co-edited Discourse and Pragmatic Markers from Latin to the Romance Languages, OUP (2014), Positioning the Self and Others. Linguistic Perspectives, Benjamins (2018), Politeness between Cognition and Culture, special issue of SILTA (2021).


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dicembre 29, 2022

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