The Use of Discourse Marker ‘so’ in the Malaysian ESL Job Interviews
Keywords:Discourse markers, Conversation analysis, ESL speakers, Job interviews, Spoken discourse
The discourse marker ‘so’ has been identified as being typically high in spoken discourse, but previous studies have been focusing on its use in the oral production of native speakers. This paper explores the use of ‘so’, concentrating on job interview speech in the Malaysian English as a Second Language (ESL) context. It aims to explicate the multifunctional uses of ‘so’ in a self-developed corpus made up of 16 actual job interviews conducted in English, comprising job interviews in two different organizations in Malaysia. In the corpus, ‘so’ is identified as the tenth most frequent word, which also makes it the most-used discourse marker in the job interview speech. The results suggest that ‘so’ in the corpus serves five main functions, namely 1) to introduce summary; 2) to continue previous speaker’s topic; 3) to mark sequential relations; 4) to hold the floor; and 5) to introduce elaboration to justify a prior statement. Interestingly, when ‘so’ is used in turn-initials, it points to a specific function which is 6) to introduce new information. However, it was also found that the high frequency of ‘so’ in the corpus is associated with ‘pseudo-bridging’ whereby ‘so’ is simply used to 7) add new information and making speech seem coherent. The study implies that the teaching of discourse markers in speech, specifically the use of ‘so’ should focus more on the pragmatic functions than on semantic meanings per se, to avoid the inappropriate or overuse of this particular linguistic element.