A Semantic Analysis of Interchangeability and Synonymy of Selected Discourse Markers

Hassan Fartousi


The commonsense notion that words have synonyms or might be used interchangeably is the most difficult to substantiate objectively so much so that many philosophers have despaired the task and declared synonymy an impossibility except in the most highly formalized languages where a rigorous definition of the notion of identity could be given. Two hypotheses, synonymy and non-synonymy are presented for the study. An attempt has been made to substantiate or reject the principled points of the hypotheses. The research tries to offer real life responses to the research questions. In doing so, the primary methodological rationale for this research is to exemplify and advocate the use of real ' performance' data called from a large corpus of written language (Time magazine corpus) representing actual native-use English language. This research deals with the delicate category of synonymy and interchangeability of selected troublesome discourse markers from the point of view of the concepts of ' invariant meaning' and 'markedness theory'. The theoretical and methodological foundations underlying this investigation are invariant meaning, markedness and distinctive feature theory, survey, and discourse analysis. Two reliable dictionaries, American Heritage Dictionary and Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English have been employed in this research. In addition, two survey questionnaires have been designed and administered to grade 9 and 10 students of the International Islamic School Malaysia. This thesis serves as an endeavour to contribute to ESL and advocate the use of discourse analysis in Semantic and Semiotic disciplines where not many studies have been carried out. This research exploration intends to drive researchers towards targeting school youngsters as informants and to ponder over the challenges that school-aged youths are faced with, in regards to the accurate use of the English language.

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