Accepting while Shifting: The Discourse Marker tov ('okay, fine', lit. 'good') in Israeli Hebrew Talk-in-Interaction

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The Hebrew word tov is listed in Even-Shoshan's dictionary (1986) as an adjective meaning good, as an adverb, a noun, a verb, and as a word of agreement and affirmation meaning eyes, fine. The present study focuses on this last meaning of tov in Israeli Hebrew casual conversation, as well as on another meaning, not listed in any of the dictionaries. In both of these uses, tov comprises a discourse marker (Maschler 2002). In the corpus examined, 46.7% of tov tokens are employed by the addressee and function in the interpersonal realm as (1) agreement, (2) acceptance, (3) third turn receipt, (4) concession, or (5) ironic agreement, i.e. disagreement; while 38.3% of tov tokens are employed by the speaker and function in the textual realm to mark transitions (1) at beginnings of major narrational or elicitational topics (Chafe 1994), (2) between episodes or sub-episodes of a narrative, (3) returning to an interrupted action, or (4) at the end of a topic/action. Another 15% of the tokens perform both interpersonal and textual functions simultaneously. Those tokens functioning simultaneously in both realms are particularly illuminating for my research on discourse markers, as close examination of the contexts in which they occur suggests how a particular marker might come to serve both interpersonal as well as textual functions. This study, then, explores the functions of tov in Israeli Hebrew casual conversation in order to reveal the functional itinerary followed by this discourse marker, thus contributing to cross-language studies of grammaticization of discourse markers (e.g., Fleischman & Yaguello 1999, Traugott & Dasher 2002).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-228
JournalTexas Linguistic Forum
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2004


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