English Grammar: Discourse Markers

Discourse is the term used to denote pieces of speech or writing that are longer than a sentence. They are markers because they help to point out the structure of discourse. They make clear the connection between what we are going to say and what has come earlier. They are used to focus attention and to signal what we are going to talk about.

Such discourse markers will often be found at the beginning of a sentence. They are all fairly formal in tone and characteristic of formal or written discourse.

Example: A Service Desk Manager is replying to an inquiry of his staff.

We should discuss two major issues in today’s agenda. First, is the question of non-taxable nightshift allowances. And second, is the productivity bonus. Now, with regard to / in connection with / concerning the former, the position of this organisation is quite clear….

Take note that you may use in regard to, as regards or regarding. The use of the plural regards in the phrases ‘in regards to” and ‘with regards to’ is incorrect. Each phrase shows its speaker regarding just one issue — the regard is singular.

You could also add with reference to as a further alternative and this would perhaps be most formal of all. This expression is frequently used at the beginning of business letters:

Dear Mrs. Reyes,

With reference to your email of yesterday, I am pleased to inform you that….

Note that expressions like as far as… is/am/are concerned and as regards link discourse in a similar way, but these are slightly less formal and more characteristic of spoken discourse:

There is no doubt that in this country water-borne diseases such as dengue fever and cholera are on the increase, but as far as conjunctivitis is concerned / as regards conjunctivitis, there are clear signs that it is on the wane.

The expression as far as I’m / we’re concerned is also used colloquially to indicate that you are stating your own position on something:

  • As far as we were concerned, there was no point in staying here at Australia.
  • As far as I’m concerned, you can go to Malaysia for Christmas. I shall be quite contented here at home.

A final note about use of concerning. When placed later in a sentence, it is sometimes used as an alternative to about or regarding:

  • Jheng refused to answer any questions concerning her maternal life.
  • There was much discussion in Matteo’s baptismal concerning the choice of his religion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s