The conjunction at in spoken language is used as subordinating conjunction in the beginning of a subordinate clause, connecting it to a main clause just like in written language. In spoken language at is realized only with an a-vowel [a]. Below is an example of this realization, where the speaker Asta (AST) states that everybody with a job pays almost the highest tax rates.
SAMTALEBANK | SAM2 | SAMFUNDSKRISE | 190 ((face-to-face))
01 AST: jamen det jo sådan a alle betaler
PRT it.N PRT so that everyone pay-PRS
‘Well you know it is so that everyone pays
almost the highest tax rate’
Here a (’that’) connects the main clause jamen det jo sådan (‘well it is so’) with the subordinate clause alle betaler næsten topskat (‘everybody pays almost the highest tax rates’). The at (‘that’) from written language is transcribed with the vowel a, and the [a]-form is the common way of expressing the subordinating conjunction.
There are special cases in which an [ad]-form occurs, which resembles the written form, and which has the same subordinating function as the a-form. [ad] occurs in connection with hesitation markers in utterances and is transcribed at.
Below is an example from a police interrogation where a police officer is interrogating a young man.
SAMTALEBANK | SAM3 | POLITIFORHØR | 76 ((face-to-face))
01 → P2: så nytter det ikk noget du siger at
then no.use.PRS it.N not anything you say.PRS that
’Then it’s of no use to say,
03 P2: jam det der der har jeg været alene
PRT it there there have.PRS I be.PPT alone
well I was alone in that’
In this case [ad] occurs in line 01 right before a pause, which in spoken language is a hesitation marker
[ad] also occurs before the hesitation marker øh. In the example below Annette (ANN) replies to a question regarding why and for whom she is making recordings.
SAMTALEBANK | SAM2 | ANNE_OG_BEATE | 45 ((face-to-face))
01 → ANN: det er fordi at ø:::h
It.N is.PRS because that ø:::h
03 ham der min vejleder er med i
Him there my-C supervisor be.PRS with in
’my supervisor is part of
05 et national project
a-N national project(N)
‘a national project’
Here [ad] occurs in her explanatory subordinate clause before ø::h in line 45. In addition [ad] can be used to emphasize the content of a subordinate clause. In the following example Lis (LIS) is telling that her grandmother bought a piano on an instalment plan that she couldn’t afford, because she wanted her girls to learn how to play.
SAMTALEBANK | SAM3 | GAMLEDAGE | 212 ((face-to-face))
01 LIS: nej men alene det at hun
No but alone it.N that she
’No but the fact alone that she
Here Lis is emphasizing the subordinate clause, which is that her grandmother did it – she bought a piano in spite of the fact she couldn’t afford it, because she wanted her daughters to learn how to play.
Sources and further readings
Bruun (2018) is a thorough description of og (’and’)/at (’that’).