College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in English (MA)


Jaeshil Kim


vietnamese, discourse markers, topic markers, information structure, thì, pragmatic markers




This thesis examines the functions of the particle thì in Vietnamese. The previous literature mainly describes thì as a phrasal particle; the inter-clausal thì receives one previous description (Clark, 1992a), but the collected data in this thesis revealed that thì is predominantly used sentence-initially. Among 155 collected tokens of thì, 48 (31%) occurs phrasally, 38 (30%) occurs inter-clausally, and 69 (44%) occurs sentence-initially. The phrasal thì is analyzed as a topic and/or contrastive topic marker (Cao, 1991/2004; Clark, 1992a), or “a discourse template marker” (Tran, Forthcoming). The inter-clausal thì is considered “an inchoative conjunction” (Clark, 1992a). A description and an analysis of the sentence-initial thì remain unaddressed. Thus, this thesis furthers the literature on thì by providing a description of the particle and an analysis of its functions, with focus on the sentence-initial thì. The analysis shows that the sentential thì is best treated as a Discourse Marker (DM), in the spirit of Fraser (2009). With adaptations from Fraser’s framework, the category of DMs provides a unified analysis that can dissect the usages of both the inter-clausal and sentence-initial thì. More specifically, the sentential thì is a Contrastive Discourse Marker (CDM), Elaborative Discourse Marker (EDM), and Logical Discourse Marker (LDM) that signals various semantic relationships between surrounding propositions. The CDM thì indicates a contrastive relationship; the EDM thì is subcategorized into Sequential and Non-sequential EDM and conveys additional details; the LDM thì connects three types of logical relationships: Abductive, Inductive, and Deductive. The framework of DMs allows for a systematic understanding of the patterned usages of thì.

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