March 23, 2023

Discourse markers III

Discourse markers III

By Ruth Oji

WELCOME to the last part of the series on discourse markers. This week, we will consider discourse markers – words that show the connection between what a speaker is saying and what has already been said or what is going to be said, and words that help to make clear the structure of what is being said and indicate what speakers think about what they are saying or what others have said – that help to convey concession and counterargument, contradictions, persuasions, summing up things, and giving examples, among others. For concession, words and expressions such as ‘certainly’, ‘granted’, ‘it is true’, ‘of course’, and ‘if’ can be used, while for counterarguments, ‘nevertheless’, ‘all the same’, ‘however’, ‘still’, and ‘even so’ can be used. How should you use them? First, you highlight a point that states the obvious; second, you introduce your concession, which acknowledges a contradictory fact about the previous point; and third, your counterargument dismisses the contradiction and returns to the original direction of the initial argument. How about sentence examples to make this clearer?

 1. I’m glad to have a business of my own. It’s true it’s a bit small, and it’s somewhat far from my house. Still, it’s my business, and I’m proud to have one.

 2. I wasn’t invited to the party. Granted, I don’t like attending parties, but I feel I should have been informed nonetheless.

 3. Nobody can tell why things are falling apart these days. Of course, things haven’t been going well in the leadership. But hardly can one point to the exact reasons for the ineptitude being experienced. 

Do you see the three-part structure at work in the sentence? Good, now try to construct yours. If you’re having a discussion and you need to introduce specific examples to consolidate your point, you could use the popularly known phrases – ‘for example’, ‘for instance’, and ‘to illustrate’. In the sentences that follow, see how these phrases are used to illustrate some points.

 1. The quality of fabric in the market is on a steady decline. Take the 4 by 6 bedding sets, for example. They used to be of very high quality, but now I can’t vouch for them any longer.

 2. Children like to throw tantrums, and if they are often obliged, it portends problems for their parents. For instance, if a two-year-old insists on having chocolates every time the parents go shopping, it may affect the family budget.

Do come up with better examples to illustrate the use of those expressions, will you? Now, let’s move on to how we can show in discourse the logical consequence of a thing or action. To show that what is said follows logically from what was previously said, use expressions like ‘so’, ‘as a result’, ‘therefore’, and ‘consequently’. Sentence examples now follow.

 1. His marriage wasn’t supported by his children; therefore, he wasn’t welcome to their home.

 2. I am extremely famished, so I have to go look for an eatery.

 3. Henry read a lot for his exams. Consequently, he passed with flying colours.

I’m sure you got that, right?  Great. Let’s now proceed to see how we sum up our thoughts when writing. The following phrases work well – to conclude; to sum up; in short; in conclusion; and all in all. Sentence examples:

 1. In conclusion, wall papers are beautiful to install in the living room of your apartments because they add to the finesse and aesthetics of your home.

 2. She’s beautiful, she’s strong, and she’s bold. In short, she’s dynamic!

 3. To conclude, I would like to reiterate the three key points I have discussed in this thesis. They are ….Now you know better how to conclude your formal writeups, don’t you? The next discourse marker under consideration is that which helps us when we need to show a contradiction of a point made earlier. Use these two phrases – on the contrary, and quite the opposite – when you need to show a different viewpoint from an earlier one. Examples:

 1. Did you say that presentation was successful? In my opinion, it was quite the opposite. It was a total disaster. I think we should call a spade a spade.

 2. Men love to be respected; on the contrary, women prefer to be loved.

 3. I do not allow myself to feel weighed down by the unreasonable decisions made by those around me; on the contrary, I simply forge ahead.

Alright. Let’s now have transition markers that aid showing additions as we write. They help your paragraphs stand out and link your sentences beautifully. Such linking words include the following: also; additionally; in addition; furthermore; more so; moreover; what is more; besides; on top of that; another thing (after using ‘one thing’ or having stated something); again. Examples:

 1. Artificial intelligence is known by many people nowadays; moreover, people can access it if they pay a little amount of money.

 2. ChatGPT is a model that was trained to interact in a conversational way. In addition, it has a dialogue format that makes it possible for questions to be answered by the model, and it can reject any inappropriate requests sent to it.

 3. Furthermore, it is a model that was trained using RLHF, which stands for Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback.

And we can go on and on like that! Link sentences and paragraphs using those connectives to help your expressions stand out and convey the intended meaning. So far in this series we have considered how different discourse markers can serve different purposes. We have seen that there are discourse markers for adding, contradicting, generalising, giving examples, dismissing of previous discourse, changing of subject, returning to previous subject, structuring, conceding and counter arguing, softening and correcting, showing logical consequence, making things clear, and giving details.  I hope you will not only read this post but go on to improve your writing by using the discourse markers shared.    

•Dr. Oji is a Senior Lecturer of English at the Institute of Humanities, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos