Pragmatic Aspects of Mægær (‘unless’/’but’) as a Discourse Marker in Persian

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Ph.D. Candidate in General Linguistics, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran.

2 Professor of General Linguistics, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran.

3 Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran.

4 Associate Professor General Linguistics, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran.


Discourse marker is a functional-pragmatic category, not affecting truth conditions of the sentence. These linguistic elements encode procedural rather than representative or propositional meanings. Discourse markers have been the subject of increasing attention in recent years, and have been investigated in different theoretical frameworks. Among the vast variety of approaches toward interpreting the role of discourse markers, one major approach is rooted in Grice's suggestion. By elaborating the concept of conventional implicature along the previously well-known concept of conversational implicature, Grice (1989) treats some discourse markers as being instances of the former. He also conceptualized the concept of non-central or higher-level speech acts to account for the contribution of these discourse markers to the meaning of their host sentence. In this article, we will initially describe the characteristics of the discourse marker "magar" (‘unless’/’but’) in terms of prototypical characteristics of discourse markers proposed by Brinton (1996) and Heine (2013). We then present a diachronic exposition of its semantic development from having a propositional meaning to a word with a textual and expressive function in contemporary Persian. This explanation is in accordance with Traugott’s (1986) analysis of semantic change toward more subjectification. Ultimately, we have applied a Gricean interpretation to this Persian discourse marker, as a higher-level speech act. It is argued that "magar" (‘unless’/’but), in addition to its function as a connective element (which connects two textual units or encrypts the connection between the propositional content of an utterance and its previous context), can help with the performance of a non-central speech act with the illocutionary force of indicating opposition. Given the fact that speech acts, in Searl's terms, are the subject of the quadruple felicity conditions, namely Preparatory, Sincerity, Propositional content and Essential conditions we have shown how these conditions can be actualized (or applied) when it comes to higher-level speech acts.


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Volume 12, Issue 2
December 2022
Pages 123-146
  • Receive Date: 04 May 2021
  • Revise Date: 02 October 2021
  • Accept Date: 06 October 2021
  • First Publish Date: 06 October 2021