Examining discourse markers (Schiffrin, 1987) in two transcribed discussions of controversial issues in an undergraduate ‘critical thinking’ class, we note frequent uses of ‘I’m just saying’ and related metadiscursive expressions (I’m/we’re saying, I’m/we’re not saying, etc.). Our central claim is that these ‘saying’ expressions are pragmatic devices by which speakers claim ‘all along’ to have held a consistent argumentative standpoint, one that continues through the discussion unless changed for good reasons. Through close analysis of a series of discourse examples, we show how these discourse markers are used to display continuity, deflect counterarguments, and acknowledge the force of counterarguments while preserving continuity. In a concluding section we reflect critically on the use of these con- tinuity markers with regard to four pragmatic functions that they potentially serve: to specify and clarify argumentative standpoints, to acknowledge a presumption of standpoint conti- nuity, to acknowledge a normative expectation that discussion participants should have stand- points, and to avoid overt disagreement while saving face.
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