Laurel Brinton at LEL Research Seminar (Feb 23)

Posted on February 13, 2017 by



Laurel Brinton will be the first speaker invited to the LEL Research Seminar in the spring semester. Her talk takes place on February 23 (NB Thursday, not Tuesday!). Laurel is a Professor of English Language at the University of British Colombia, and is currently co-editor of English Language and Linguistics (together with Bernd Kortmann and Patrick Honeybone). Here is the abstract:


The pragmatic marker whatever: its source(s) and history

(Laurel J. Brinton, University of British Columbia)

Whatever may be used as pragmatic marker expressing indifference or dismissiveness, as illustrated below:

(1)       Yeah, I’m fine. Whatever. Do whatever you want with it. Place is a dump anyway. (2008 SOAP: GL)

(2)       Blah, blah, blah. All right. Whatever. Suit yourself. But you’re missing a great opportunity here. (2005 SOAP: YR)

In its use as a pragmatic marker whatever carries distinctive prosody (Benus et al. 2007) and is seen as characteristic of teen language (Tagliamonte 2016). It has been discussed in online sources but receives only passing mention in treatments of pragmatic markers. This paper presents a corpus-based, diachronic study of whatever. The earliest instances can be traced back to the mid-1960s and early 1970s, but its syntactic source is unclear. This paper examines four potential historical sources for the pragmatic marker: (i) the general extender (or) whatever, (ii) whatever you please/like/choose), (iii) whatever you say, and (iv) whatever you think proper/best, etc. All of these express the sense of ‘acceptance’ and ‘indifference’ that we see in the pragmatic marker. This paper argues that despite similarities between the general extender and the pragmatic marker, the more plausible source is second-person clauses of preferring or saying (or thinking) as they occur in the same syntactic context (initially or independently rather than clause finally) and in the same discourse context as the pragmatic marker. In respect to our understanding of the sources of pragmatic markers in general, it would appear that not a single source but a range of related constructions must be postulated for the pragmatic marker whatever. Hence the development of whatever represents a case of “multiple inheritance” as understood in Construction Grammar (e.g. Trousdale 2013).


Please join us in attending the talk and discussing ‘whatever’ over some wine and crisps.

Event details:

Location: Ellen Wilkinson Building, room A2.6

Date and time: Thursday, Feb 23, 4.15pm-5.30pm

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