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Bianca’s last show as a regular host goes into a rather ambitious topic: discourse particles.  Go listen to the show, because it’s too complicated a subject for me to summarize properly here.  We also feature a natlang going by two names.

Top of Show Greeting: Amjati

Links and Resources:

Featured NATLANG: Nootka and Makah



Hey guys,

So first off let me start by saying we love your podcasts and posts. They provide a great resource to the conlanging community. Me and two other friends who met online through various conlanging forums or Tumblr have started a blog devoted to conlanging, but specifically trying to provide an easy to understand resource for newbie conlangers. We have about 30 or more posts already and one episode of our very own podcast that we are planning on running. We were wondering if you could give our blog/podcast either a mention, or a link on one of your next posts or in your next podcast so we can gain readers and get the word out there that we are a good resource for newbie and veterans alike. Our blog is currently being hosted through Tumblr, and there URL is

We’re just a new blog trying to fill a niche in the conlanging community that we believe is left somewhat unfilled. We by no means want to compete with your podcasts, and in fact we have your blog/podcasts in our resources section as a great site to check out about conlanging. I’m sure there are plenty of your listeners that could also find our blog helpful.

Thanks for any support you can give us!

Creator/Editor, Deconstructing Conlanging

13 Responses to “Conlangery #41: Discourse Particles”

  1. Koppa Dasao

    Interesting topic. Added a new word to Delang, ьаδе (qade) /qade/ – related to previous topic. I took the word from the Latin word for falling, cadens.

  2. Wm Annis

    To explain the Demonsthenes thing (at around 37:30) with an example, rather than my babbling…

    The particle γε ge, a postpositive enclitic, is a selection particle meaning something rather like “at least.” In the phrase “at least into the same city” the particle could go in three different positions in the phrase (I don’t mark the accenting tricksiness that this particle can inflict on previous words):

    εἰς (γε) τὴν αὐτὴν (γε) πόλιν (γε)
    eːs (ge) tɛːn autɛːn (ge) polin (ge)
    into (ge) the-F.SG.ACC same-F.SG.ACC (ge) city-SG.ACC (ge)

    In Homer, it really could only go into the first position.

  3. Matrhew Park

    There was mention about how discourse particles, from a native speaker point of view “have no meaning(on their own)” Which I can understand for the hedging noises people make, um, uh, when they, er, need to make a public speech.

    Since I only know English though, that’s my only source for examples. Of the ones I can think of though, on their own the words do have meaning. For example the word like has several meaning. But in the sentence “Like, I went to, like, a house and, like, it was good” These likes, with maybe the exception of the first, don’t use any of the meanings. The same with things like Anyway (or Anyways), you can use them in a sentence and they are not discourse particles, but as you provided, they can be rendered into them.

    Can, theoretically, any word in a language become a discourse particle if used in the correct (incorrect way) based on syntax? Or does this go into the realm of colloquialism and slang. If I say “Hotdog, that was a good one” is Hotdog a discourse particle, even though literally it is a tube of beef with fixings?

    • Anthony

      I would guess that, since you’re using “hotdog” in a non-eating context, it would be discourse — it’s an exclamation, a note of either surprise or emphasis.

      I assume it would also apply to “Hotdog, that was a good hotdog.”

    • admin

      Technically, any word can become a discourse particle (or practically anything else) through semantic shifts, but I think what you’re talking about is not really about that. Basically, what makes a word a discourse particle is that it is being used not for any semantic meaning, but to make some note about the discourse. In your example, “like” is (at least as far as I know) a hesitation marker, similar to “uh” or “uhm”, in that it tells your interlocutor that you need time to retrieve a word (thus preventing awkward pauses and unnecessary interruptions). We talked a little about uses of “anyway(s)” in the show, though a common use is to change the direction of the discourse, such as “Anyway, I think I’d rather see a movie.”

      I don’t think “hotdog” has any accepted discourse usage, and I can’t really parse it as having any function in your example sentence, so no, you can’t just willy-nilly make a word into a discourse particle. It has to have some discourse function associated with it. To be honest, the first thing I thought of for your sentence was that your “hotdog” could be replaced with “hot dog!” — which is an interjection indicating enthusiasm rather than a discourse particle.

  4. Carsten B.

    This German Wikipedia article on pleonasms I found today has an example of stacked discourse particles in German. The half-sentence they quote there means something like “and presumably are basically reading too much anyway, as we all know,” I think. The bolded part in the quotation in the article are discourse particles, literally “yes well actually also”. Neat.

  5. Kraamlep

    Enjoyed this discussion on discourse particles. The Scandinavian languages have some that are similar to those of German. The best explanation (from an understanding their use point of view) I’ve found is in “Swedish: An Essential Grammar” (Routledge), which describes them as “unstressed modal adverbs, indicating the speaker’s attitude to the utterance”. Edited highlights, omitting the examples given:

    Ju = ‘you know’, ‘of course’, ‘to be sure’. You expect the listener to agree.
    Nog = ‘probably’, ‘presumably’, ‘I daresay’. The speaker injects a note of doubt or conciliation.
    Väl = ‘surely’, ‘I hope’, ‘I suppose’. The speaker hopes the listener will agree.
    Nämligen = ‘you understand’, ‘you see’. New information is provided.

    My conlang Jameld, a West Germanic language, has some words which are sort of similarly used. But now, I need to add one that introduces stuff the hearer won’t like. Thanks for the inspiration on that one.

    Routledge’s “Finnish: an Essential Grammar” has a page on discourse particles that is packed tightly, like fruitcake, with tantalising information, but few examples. It includes the following five types: interjections, dialogue particles (“used as passive comments on something the speaker says”, e.g. really, oh really, yes, OK), utterance particles (“often start the utterance without adding any clear meaning”, kind of like “well” in a neutral use), planning particles (“more or less empty expressions filling the channel while the speaker plans what to say next” – a description that always makes me chuckle – e.g. no but, as if, that is, in some way), and focus particles (“adverbs creating emphasis and directing the attention to specific parts of an utterance”, e.g. also, even, only, especially). Hope that helps someone.

    My favourite bit is this, on planning particles:

    “These elements can be repeated almost at will before the speaker gets anywhere: Joo no tota tota tota noin niinku…

    – which translates roughly as “Well, you see, in some way in some way in some way as if…” Far more creative than “um” 🙂

    • Ossicone

      Oops. I meant to mention ‘ju’ and ‘nog’ as the two I was familiar with in Swedish but it escaped my mind. Of course, I wouldn’t have been very good at explaining them so maybe it’s for the best I forgot. XD

  6. Anthony

    I googled “negative focus particles” and the first result was Tokana.

    …if you don’t count this:
    Scholarly articles for negative focus particle
    The meaning of focus particles: A comparative … – König – Cited by 491
    … -beam gradient force optical trap for dielectric particles – Ashkin – Cited by 2764
    … type particles in a sarcoma-positive, leukemia-negative … – Billiau – Cited by 62

    the whole page of results was informative. thank you.

    • Wm Annis

      Huh. I had better luck with:

          “negative focus” linguistics

      With the quotes around “negative focus.”

  7. Teal Briner

    It seems all three of your resource links have vanished! Here are some archived versions:
    Discourse particles and routine formulas in spoken language translation:

    Ruben Stoel’s paper on Discourse Particles:,%20Focus%20in%20Manado%20Malay,%20Chap-3.pdf

    Chinese discourse particles (under qualitative analysis):

    • admin

      Hey, seeing all of your comments now. Thanks for helping out with the sources. It’s good to have listeners check back on these, as I don’t often have time to do it myself.



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