Cue Word (or Phrase) in English

Two men having a conversation in a brightly-lit room.

nappy / Pexels

A connective expression (such as now, meanwhile, anyway, or on the other hand) that links spans of discourse and signals semantic relations in a text.

Examples and Observations

  • "Within a discourse segment, the discourse coherence relations among the situations are often implicit and involve such notions as cause, consequence, claim, reason, argument, elaboration, enumeration, before, and after. . . . On the other hand, many transitions within a discourse structure, especially changes and transitions from one segment to another, are often made overt through the use of 'clue word' or 'cue phrase' expressions that provide information at the discourse level. These expressions include incidentally, for example, anyway, by the way, furthermore, first, second, then, now, thus, moreover, therefore, hence, lastly, finally, in summary, and on the other hand."
    (James E. Hoard, "Linguistics and Natural Language Processing." Using Computers in Linguistics: A Practical Guide, ed. by John Lawler and Helen Aristar Dry. Routledge, 1998)
  • "Once upon a time, there was this boy, and he knew this beautiful woman. It's not you, though. Well, the beautiful woman tells this boy that she has this secret wish, and her wish is that she wants this guy to really like her. So, anyway, the boy makes this huge, personal sacrifice and he gives his wish away."
    (Paul Reubens as Pee-Wee Herman, The Pee-Wee Herman Show, 1981)
  • "Yeah, well, House is straightforward, brilliant and an ass. . . . Whereas you, on the other hand, have a perfect score. You are responsible, nice, human. And yet, you're House's best friend."
    (Mira Sorvino as Dr. Kate Milton in "Frozen." House M.D., 2008)
  • "My mom adopted [Titembay] from Sally Struthers, like, years ago. You know, one of those 'for the cost of a cup of coffee a day' sort of things. Where she's like, 'How can you just sit there and not help the children?' And we couldn't. We couldn't just sit there and not help the children. So we started sending him pictures and letters and stuff for years, but then I got really into ice skating so we sort of forgot about him. Then one day we get this phone call and it's Titembay and he's at the dry cleaners around the corner."
    (Natalie Portman as Sam in Garden State, 2004)
  • "[I]n natural language the connections between enunciations . . . can be signaled by morphemes, that is, cue phrases. Cue phrases express abstract concepts in themselves, that is, they express the concept corresponding to the specific relation that they signify. For instance, the cue phrase 'because' between the enunciations 'I missed the bus' and 'I left home late' expresses a concept of causality, that is, the coherence relation holding between the two spans of text. Obviously, the relation would hold and the concept of causality could still be inferred even if the construction was paratactic, that is, even if the cue phrase 'because' was not there. However, the point is that natural language is capable of directly indicating an abstract concept like causality, entirely independently from the content of the related text spans."
    (Clara Mancini, Cinematic Hypertext. IOS Press, 2005)

Also Known As: clue word

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Cue Word (or Phrase) in English." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 28). Cue Word (or Phrase) in English. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Cue Word (or Phrase) in English." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 8, 2023).