Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dan J. Tannacito, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Michael M. Williamson, Ph.D.


Use of discourse markers (DM) in the ordinary conversation of English language learners (ELL) remains a relatively unexplored area. This qualitative research study examines, in unplanned speech, the occurrence and use of DMs which are defined as a set of linguistic items functioning in the cognitive, social, expressive, and textual domains establishing coherence within discourse (Bright, 1992). Grounded in relevancy theory (Sperber & Wilson, 1995) the main goal of this research is to explore the pragmatic use of DMs in the unplanned speech of ELLs with their peers and to investigate a possible connection between second language competency level and the use of the pragmatic elements of DMs in these conversations. Discourse analysis of approximately four hours of talk reveals patterns in the use of discourse markers. The findings in this study contribute to the field of linguistics as the importance of DMs lies in the fact that they add "pragmatic tone" (Beebe & Waring, 2002) to the utterance indicating the speaker's intention and attitude towards the hearer, a vital tool for university ELLs seeking communicative competence.