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Interlanguage and interdiscourse system communication approaches to Nordic English: Turn-initial but

Ulla Paatola University of Helsinki, Finland The invasion of the English language in the Nordic countries has increased rapidly. A wealth of Anglo-American loan words has been adapted into the languages spoken in the Nordic region and English is used widely. This presentation is part of a more extensive study in which I am first going to study and describe the adaptation of English as a lingua franca in the Nordic countries and, secondly, the adaptation of English words and structures into the Finnish language from the viewpoints of pragmatics, semantics, morphology and phonology. In Paatola (2002) I discuss the English spoken by Finnish and Swedish businessmen and -women from the point of view of interdiscourse system communication and interlanguage pragmatics in a Nordic company which uses English as the medium of communication. More specifically, I look at the use and the function of the turn-initial particle but. As a reference point, I describe the use and the functions of Finnish mutta `but', Swedish men `but' and English but and I compare their use to the use of but in the English spoken by Finnish and Swedish businessmen and -women (i.e. in Nordic English). The data consist of a video- and audio-taped meeting of six members of a Finnish-Swedish company that I transcribed as part of a project called Suomea, ruotsia vai englantia? Sisäinen viestintä äskettäin fuusioituneissa pohjoismaisissa yrityksissä (`Finnish, Swedish or English? Internal communication in recently merged Nordic companies') at the Helsinki School of Economics (HSE) using the conventions of conversation analysis (CA). Two issues are considered relevant as regards the data. First, English is a lingua franca for the speakers as it is not the native language of any of them. Secondly, the setting is a voluntary goal-directed institutional and professional meeting. There are 323 instances of but in the Nordic English (NE) data of which 167 are analysed as turn-initial. In total, 98 of the 167 instances are identified as absolute turn-initial buts (i.e. they are the first word of the utterance), and 69 as agreement marker + but combinations (e.g. yeah but, no but). Together, the groups represent nearly 52% of all buts in the data. As regards the functions of but, there are important differences in its use if the NE speakers and native English speakers (in the London-Lund Corpus) are compared. My analysis shows that approximately half of the utterances that follow but or agreement marker + but combinations are countering in NE (see Altenberg 1986). However, absolute turn-initial countering is characterised by suggestions, clarifications and relevance-challenging rather than by counter-arguments. This suggests that the function of but in NE is less contrastive than in the English of native speakers. Slightly more than 20% of turn-initial buts introduce topic shifts which are characterised by only very small changes; many times it means staying on the same overall topic. In some cases but precedes an utterance that sums up previous statements or directs the conversation back to a prior topic. There are also a few instances in which but `dangles' in the air (see Altenberg 1986), the utterance consisting of nothing more than but or an agreement marker + but

combination (that might be followed by yet another agreement marker, e.g. yeah but yeah). I show that the functions of turn-initial but in NE should rather be described on a continuum than as separate categories. The functional load of but seems to be rather high, because it has to cover countering, topic shift, topic resumption, and unfinished contrasts; it has to sum up arguments and sub-topics; and it has to catch the attention of the listeners. From another perspective, the pragmatic particles in the NE data seem to reflect parallel overuse and underuse of individual particles in comparison to the English spoken by native speakers. Some of the features of the NE data can be explained by transfer from the speakers' native languages into their English. In addition, there are features in the speakers' interlanguages that cannot be explained by the rules of English, Finnish or Swedish. The Finns and Swedes favour simplified forms of politeness in debating and presenting their opinions in English. In this respect, the English they use is similar to international business English (see Bartlett and Johnson 1997). The preference of but in turn-initial position and the symmetrical relationship and solidarity among the NE speakers visible in their face-to-face interaction could also reflect the efficiency and directness that are supposed to characterise western business culture and professional interaction. References Altenberg, Bengt. 1986. Contrastive linking in spoken and written English. In Gunnel Tottie & Ingegerd Bäcklund (eds.), English in speech and writing. A symposium. Uppsala/Sthlm: Almqvist & Wiksell. 13-40. Bartlett, Catherine & Christine Johnson. 1997. Is business English a pidgin? Language and intercultural training 16(1): 4-6. Brown, Penelope & Stephen C. Levinson .1987 [1978]. Politeness. Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gass, Susan M. & Larry Selinker. 1994. Second language acquisition: An introductory course. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Hansson, Petra. 1998. Diskursmarkörer i spontan dialog: Prosodiska och lexikala korrelat [online]. Unpublished D-level paper. Lund University: Department of Linguistics and Phonetics. Available from: projects/SDS/ [Accessed 19 March 2002]. Paatola, Ulla. 2002. Interlanguage and interdiscourse system communication approaches to Nordic English: Turn-initial but. Unpublished MA thesis. University of Helsinki: Department of English. Schiffrin, Deborah. 1987. Discourse markers. Cambridge, etc.: Cambridge University Press. Scollon, Ronald & Suzanne Wong Scollon. 1995. Intercultural communication: A discourse approach. Cambridge, MA & Oxford: Blackwell. Sorjonen, Marja-Leena. 1989. Vuoronalkuiset konnektorit: mutta. In Hakulinen, Auli (ed.), Suomalaisen keskustelun keinoja I. University of Helsinki: Department of Finnish. 162-176.


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Interlanguage and interdiscourse system communication approaches to Nordic English: Turn-initial but