Edited by Kate Beeching, Chiara Ghezzi and Piera Molinelli
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 292] 2018
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The evolution of cioè in Contemporary Italian
This chapter analyses the evolution of Italian cioè lit. ‘that is’ in recent diachrony. Cioè developed a social indexicality as in the 1980s it was associated with a young speech style. Through a corpus-based analysis of listeners’ phone-ins to a radio station, this study analyses the functions of cioè in the speech styles of different age-cohorts and its diachronic evolution over the last thirty years. The evolution of cioè shows that speakers employ it creatively, through a progressive bleaching of its original semantic and pragmatic values. The expansion of its functions and contexts of occurrence is so extensive that the expression became stigmatized as a ‘verbal tic’ characteristic of the language spoken by an age-cohort of speakers. These same social values are at the origin of the progressive decline of cioè in new generations of young speakers and in the community as a whole.