Discourse particles in corpus data and textbooks: The case of well

Phoenix W.Y. Lam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Discourse particles are ubiquitous in spoken discourse. Yet despite their pervasiveness very few studies attempt to look at their use in the pedagogical setting. Drawing on data from an intercultural corpus of speech and a textbook database, the present study compares the use of discourse particles by expert users of English in Hong Kong with their descriptions and presentations in textbooks designed for learners of English in the same community. Specifically, it investigates the similarities and differences in the use of the discourse particle well between the two datasets in terms of its frequency of occurrence, its positional preference and its discourse function. Results from the analysis show that there are vast differences as regards how the particle well is used in real-world examples and how its use is described and presented in teaching materials. This raises the question to what extent foreign language learners who have minimal exposure to naturally-occurring spoken interactions in English could effectively master the use of discourse particles if they solely rely on these textbooks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-281
Number of pages22
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


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