’No vezi dialu ăla?/Do you see that hill?’ A sociolinguistics study on the functions and social impact of the discourse-pragmatic marker no
2022-04-12, 17:00–17:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 3


This research looks at the functional and sociolinguistic uses of the discourse-pragmatic marker na/no during informal social interaction, in the city of Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

This discourse-pragmatic marker is primarily used in informal speech environments and is part of a wider regional dialect of Transylvania, originating from Hungarian-Romanian bilingualism in the area. This is a commonly used regional dialect feature that has not been properly explored previously by the literature. As such, it was previously misclassified as an interjection with an unclear usage pattern, with the role of emphasizing emotions during speech.

Due to the informal nature of this speech particle, the data was gathered through audio-recorded focus groups, with participants that had close social ties and were close in age. Using an adapted version of the sociolinguistic interview, the participants were asked to talk about day to day topics, such as work, community, social relationships, and various anecdotes. Gradually, the questions shifted to more specific language use and the local dialect. For better comparisons between the marked no version and the unmarked na version, the two focus groups belonged to different regions of Romania, one with previous exposure to the marked variant and one without. The recordings were transcribed and analyzed to determine their function in certain linguistic contexts. The second part of the paper is a thematic and content analysis on how the participants view their local community and how the local dialect feeds into the construction of their identity.

This study finds that, contrary to previous beliefs, the particles na/no have very consistent functions that go beyond their role as affective elements. Having reconceptualized them as discourse-pragmatic markers, their function becomes clear and very consistent. No/na function as a repair device that occurs in four linguistic environments: contrastive, elaborative, transitional and quotative. There is evidence that the two forms are diverging into two separate discourse markers, with distinct preferred functions and associated identities. The production of the marked variant, no, is dependent on the way in which participants construct their identity as part of the community in the city of Cluj-Napoca and on their different conceptualizations of that community. Participants who emphasize the necessity for adaptation to already established local customs are more likely to use no, while those who see Cluj-Napoca as an ever-changing community that incorporates a multicultural identity are more likely to use na.
This research explores a discourse-pragmatic feature as an element of linguistic variation and of sociolinguistics, areas that have received very little attention in the field of variationist linguistics (Pichler, 2016). These new methods of understanding discourse-pragmatic variation are applied to an understudied dialect of Romanian, where very little updated literature is available. The findings not only contradict previous sources on the usage of na/no, they also identify a divergence in progress of these two forms that is shaped by shifting sociolinguistic attitudes toward Cluj.


Pichler, Heike. 2016. Discourse-Pragmatic Variation and Change in English: New Methods and Insights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781107295476