CTP-marker (ma) arvan (et) ’(I) think (that)’ in directives in Estonian everyday interaction


Keywords: CTP-markers, subjectivity, deontic authority, epistemic authority, opinion, interactional linguistics

This paper targets directive utterances in Estonian everyday interaction that include the CTP-marker (ma) arvan (et) ‘(I) think (that)’. The aim of the study was to find out for what purposes interactants use this marker in directives. The data was drawn from the Corpus of Spoken Estonian of the University of Tartu. For analyzing the data, principles of interactional linguistics and conversation analysis were applied. The study revealed that the main functions of the CTP-marker (ma) arvan (et) in directives are the following:

  • The marker is used for showing that what follows is an opinion;
  • The marker is used for displaying the speaker’s epistemic stance towards the propositional content of the utterance. In some cases the marker expresses the speaker’s uncertainty towards what is being said, in other cases it expresses certainty conveying the meaning ‘in my opinion’;
  • The marker opens up a dialogic space by leaving room for other opinions of other participants;
  • The marker is used for sharing the responsibility for a possible negative outcome of fulfilling a directive;
  • The marker is used for mitigating the directive;
  • The marker is used for emphasizing the authoritative position of the speaker;
  • The marker is used for organizing the course of interaction.

As these functions often occur concurrently in the use of the marker (ma) arvan (et), this marker is multifunctional. The study showed that the functions of the CTP-marker (ma) arvan (et) in directives used in Estonian interaction are broadly the same as the functions of its counterparts in other languages (e.g. the English I think). Differently from previous studies, this study showed that the marker can be used for sharing repsonsibility for the outcome of fulfilling a directive. Also, this study scrutinized the relationship between the discourse marker and speakers’ deontic and epistemic rights showing that in directives (ma) arvan (et) can be used to emphasize the deontic and epistemic authority of the speaker.


Kirsi Laanesoo (b. 1984), PhD, University of Tartu, Institute of Estonian and ­General ­Linguistics, Research Fellow in Estonian Morphosyntax and Pragmatics (Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu), kirsi.laanesoo@ut.ee