What are Discourse Markers/fillers?
Discourse markers are an extremely dynamic group of words or phrases that serve as linguistic mechanisms to fill, pivot, connect, link, and give space and rhythm to a spoken conversation. You surely have discourse markers in your native language.
This definition probably sounds complicated, but now we’ll present a comparison of two sentences: one with discourse markers (Example A) and the other, which is the nearly the same sentence, without them (Example B). Listen and see how they each flow and try to feel the difference in meaning. The difference is subtle, but it is significant.
Example A (with Discourse Markers):
So, Look, you see, I’m not like totally fluent in Italian, you know, but it’s kind of similar to Spanish. Well, I mean, they aren’t exactly the same, but they have kind of likesimilar grammatical structures, you know?
Example B (without Discourse Markers):
I’m not totally fluent in Italian, but it’s similar to Spanish. They aren’t exactly the same, but they have similar grammatical structures.
You can argue that example B is way more objective, grammatically correct, and clear, but I would like to emphasize that native speakers don’t speak like this because fluent English speakers do not speak like robots.
We are human, and we need these spaces to think, reflect, change direction, and communicate delicate, intangible, and ambiguous points.
I’ll admit that example A is an exaggeration of the use of discourse markers. If you speak with too many discourse markers, you either seem like an adolescent
Knowing how to use discourse markers competently is very important for fluent communication.
Native speakers use discourse markers ALL THE TIME, and without a doubt you use these in your native language. They give us time to think, to flow, to fill the spaces, to change the subject, and to connect with the subjective feel of communication.