Discourse: the way that meanings are organized in the
speech or in the text to convey the message.
For example; Can you lend me some money? (discourse
for requesting to borrow money)
Biraz para ödünç verebilir misin?
Pragmatics: people use language in particular contexts to
achieve particular purposes.
For example; Have you got any cash on you? (requires the
listener to have pragmatic competence to understand the request
to lend money)
e.g. Şu bardağı ıslat da getir bakalım. (from my grandfather)
Examining discourse transfer is important because
cross-linguistic differences in discourse may
affect comprehension as well as production.
When learners violate norms of conversation
in the target language, it causes more serious results
than syntactic or pronunciation errors because such
violations can affect the presentation of the self. That
is, people may be labelled as impolite, rude or so.
In other words, if the native language
patterns affect learners in inappropriate ways, the
language that the learner uses may seem incoherent or
In this article we will look at two areas of discourse;
Violations done in either of these may have dangerous
affects on the individual and the communication.
While politeness is a universal notion, the expression of it changes
form one society or culture to another.
According to Brown and Levinson politeness is related to the concept
of the face.
Face: is something that is emotionally invested and that can be lost,
maintained or enhanced and must be constantly attended to an
Two types of face;
Negative face is the desire to interact without being impeded by
others. It represents the desire for autonomy.
Positive face is related to the desire to be approved of by other people.
It is associated with one’s desire for approval, respect. (Brown and
Brown and Levinson say that to minimize face- threatening acts,
people use strategies below:
1. Positive politeness: aimed at positive face of hearer.
E.g. Close the window, honey.
1. Negative politeness: aimed at negative face of the hearer.
E.g. Would you mind closing the window?
Excuse me, sir, would you mind if I asked you to
close the window?
I'm terribly sorry to put you out, but could you
close the window?
Which strategy will be chosen is determined by the situational
and contextual factors.
For example; in France, people start telephone conversation with an
apologetic statement (negative politeness) but in U.S they may
consider this as strange.
Brown and Levinson suggest that questions are used as a
means of negative politeness whereas statements are used as
positive politeness. This is called as “grammatical mood.”
Moreover, they put these in a scale from the most polite to
the least ;
interrogatives > statements (indicatives)> imperatives
- Would you mind giving me a bar of chocolate?
- I want a bar of chocolate.
- Give me a bar of chocolate.
3. Other speech acts: greetings, proverbs, formulaic
4. Conversational style
People prefer different level of directness in the requests.
For example; Germans allow more directness in requests than English
speakers. Germans prefer using modals suggesting a sense of obligation
and declaratives, but English speakers prefer modals with weaker force
E.g. 1. Du solltest das Fenster zumachen. (German)
(You should close the window.)
2. Can you close the window? (English)
These sentences are not translation equivalents of each other. Thus,
politeness must be interpreted in language- specific terms (House
The speech act of Kasper indicates that speakers of German often
produce requests in ESL that are too direct.
Moreover, Hebrew speakers prefer positive politeness (e.g. directness)
like Germans when social bonds between speaker and hearer are
Furthermore, Russian speakers make direct requests even with
strangers. However, English speakers prefer negative politeness to
For example; Daite sigaretu! (Russian)
(Give (me) a cigarette!)
These examples suggests that speakers of English that are learning the
languages above may have difficulty in making requests that are
considered to be rude in their language. Similarly, the speakers of these
languages especially Russians may seem very rude when they transfer
their discourse for making requests.
Moreover, both first and second language research indicate that
learning full range of formulas often poses problems for less capable
learners like misuse or overuse of simpler forms like “please”.
Apologies show great cross-linguistic variation and causes problems for
the learners. Problems arise from two cross-linguistic differences:
1. Differences in the frequency of use of apologetic forms.
For example; English > Russian > Hebrew
That is, English speakers uses apologetic forms most, Hebrew speakers
2. Differences in the relation between apologies and other speech
For example, “Excuse me” and “I am sorry” are used inappropriately by
Japanese and Thai ESL learners, because of the imperfect matches
between these forms and analogous forms in their native languages.
Moreover, for example, in Japanese the relation
between thanks and apologies is more overt than it
is in English because if one does a favor a person,
that person becomes debtful, grateful to the one
doing the favor. Thus, their thanking and
apologetic forms are used in the same context.
Thus, a Japanese ESL student may face a transfer-
based difficulty differentiating the expressions “I
have intruded on you”, “thank you” and “I am
For example: ES: I have a present for you!
JS: I am sorry.
Although not overt as it is in Japan, we can see the relationship
between gratefulness and apologies in English French and German.
Both gratefulness and apologies may require the same response like:
A: Thank you so much. A: Excuse me, please.
B: That’s all right. B: That’s all right.
A: Danke schön. A: Verzeihung.
B: Bitte. B: Bitte.
A: Merci Mosieur. A: Excusez- moi.
B: De rien. B: De rien.
As we see in both Japanese and English, French and German examples ,
differences between speech acts in a target langauge will create
problemsfor speakers of a language in which the differences between
the same speech acts are less evident.
1. Greetings: are universal but the rules governing them show
variation from one culture to another.
Moreover, in some cultures, greetings are carried out in variety of
ways like in English but in some there are some fixed patterns like in
Arabic or in Japanese.
For example: In Turkish, we tend to greet people nearly at every
encounter but in U.S people greet each other less. We tend to hug
and kiss each other but in many cultures people just shake hands or
bow each other.
2. Proverbs: their roles varies in polite speech in cultures.
For example: In Middle East and Africa, they are used as aids in arguing,
complimenting, in expressing condolences.
In Turkish we use them to tell morality or to give advice.
Like “Ağaç yaşken eğilir” “Bir elin nesi var iki elin sesi var.”
3. Formulaic statements: Formulaic statements of one
language do not always have close translation
equivalents in other languages. Some may be simple
like “Bon appétit” said at the beginning of the meals in
French but some may be complex like chants of
These language specific acts cause difficulties for
second language learners. Because they are not
universal, learners need to get familiar with not just a
new language but with a new culture.
The more dissimilar two cultures are, the more
learners will need to use speech acts that appear
in one speech community but not in the other.
4. Turn-taking: Turn-taking shows great cross-linguistic
variation, too. Although there may be universal aspects,
much of the turn-taking procedures are culture-specific.
Tolerance level of interruptions changes form culture to
another. These all cause problems for language learners.
For example: According to German sociologists, Turkish
workers in Germany face difficulty in participating in
conversations where turns are exchanged rapidly.
Barkowski, Harnish and Krumm explain this situation in
terms of the norms of rural Turkey. People take extended
turns without having to deal with questions, comments or
Style: the totality of discourse devices that signal the imprint of a specific
culture on an individual ‘s speech.
Formality is the dimension of style that is related to politeness.
Formality is a universal issue in speech but there are cross-linguistic differences
in “when” formal speech is necessary and “what” aspects of language are used
to convey formality.
For example: Acquisition of pronouns is challenge for language learners because
they convey different levels of formality.
E.g. In Turkish, we differentiate “siz” and “sen” in situations where formality is
needed. However, “siz” also carries the meaning of plurality.
The same situation exists in French. In French, “tu” (“you” singular) and “vous”
(“you” plural) but “vous” is also carries formality like “siz” in Turkish. However,
in English no such a difference exists.
Besides pure linguistic elements like pronouns, there are
some paralinguistic elements that serve for
conversational style. These are intonation, loudness,
speech rate, gestures, facial expressions, gestures an so
These paralinguistic elements causes problems for not only
learners to acquire language but also the researchers to
make contrastive analysis. Because they are not completely
language-specific, some of them are universal, too.
Also, smiling generally conveys the same
universal meaning. When looking at a smiling
person, an American and a Japanese can
understand the same thing. In other words, many
people can understand the correct emotional state
of a person irrespective of their cultures.
However, sometimes smiling may insult the person
who are referred to.
E.g. While talking to a group of Indians, some of
my friends got insulted. Because Indians always
smile when they are speaking, and my friends
thought that Indians were making fun of them.
However, acceptable level of shouting or loudness differs
from one culture to another.
E.g. Arabic people speaks loudly to be seem reliable but a
person coming from a Western culture may get insulted by
being shouted at.
Moreover, use of silence causes problems for learners, too.
E.g. Japanese people tend to remain silent for longer
periods. Their silence to talk about their opinions or
feelings may be interpreted as coldness or hostility in a
Western setting. An attempt to make Japanese partner to
speak up may cause frustration for Japanese.
At the same time, Japanese people may prefer a Westerner
to be more silent.
To sum up, we can say that cross-linguistic differences
cause problems for language learners. Because people
have get familiar with the target culture to learn the
Moreover, simultaneous existence of both universal
and language-specific elements in one language make
it difficult for a language learner to become competent
in that language. Furthermore, the difficulty may be
compounded by the learners’ beliefs that their
requests, greetings or so are not arbitrary in the way
that words in their native language are. That is,
learners may suspect that the rules guiding their
interactions are natural and therefore universal.
Differences related to coherence in discourse
•Special problems for learners in their reading
or listening comprehension efforts.
•The members of a speech community to
consider the speech or writing of non-native
Logicality: conversations or monologues may seem
incoherent if they seem to lack sufficiently logigal
relations between ideas, or propositions.
Relevance: conversations and monologues may also
seem incoherent when there seems to be too little
relation between a focus of information and other
informaion in a discurse.
Unfamiliarity with the topic: in some cases, a
particular audience may simply lack sufficient
knowledge of the topic make sense out of a discourse.
Unfamiliarity with the organization:the
information presented through unfamiliar patterns
may be difficult to understand.
Apperaing in almost all societies, narratives allow for
many cross-linguistic comparisons of discourse form.
Some type of narratives with formulaic characteristics
recur in a lot of cultures led to the development of
In story grammars, relations between settings, themes,
plots, episodes, and characters are made explicit
through a series of rules similar to those in generative
descriptions of syntax.
!!! While such rules do not entirely account for the
coherence seen in narratives, they suggest the role that
linguistic organization plays in signaling coherence.
Many of the naratives characterized in story grammars
are quite common in story telling traditions and have a
number of recureent properties.
For example: chronological and causal order of events
as well as narrative tension.
There are culturally specific patterns of narratives and
that cultural differences in narrative form have
consequences for language comprehension.
Experiment results: English speaking
undergraduates had more success in remembering
European than Amerindian folktales.
!!! Criticism: cultural differences in narratives are far
less than what they seem to be (Mandler et al. 1980).
However, it is undeniable that stories from other
cultures may seem strange.
Story from the Kathlemet of the Pacific Northwest
Although the Kathlemet ghost story has formulaic
characteristics, the formula of the story was apparently
hard fro English speakers to recognize (Dundes, 1964).
Two passages in English describing of a wedding in the
USA and a wedding in India.
Results: With familiar type of wedding, subjects -had
less difficulty recalling the gist,
-needed less time to read the text,
-showed fewer distortion from the text.
Culturally specific knowledge can affect the production
of discourse in addition to the comprehension.
Spanish-speaking students wrote longer descriptions of
Don Quixote than their non-Spanish-speaking
counterparts (Winfield & Barnes-Felfeli, 1982).
Kaplan (1966): comparison of writings to categorize
the ESL writing of students from different countries.
In the analysis of this study:
Writing in English resembles a straight line (to the
Writing in Russian is like a zigzag,
Writing in Oriental languages is a “widening gyre”.
Korean writing (p.62):
The focus of information suddenly changes, which is
common in Korean prose (Eggington, 1987).
• Japanese news stories: ki-shoo-ten-ketsu
― In the ten part, there is an abrupt shift from the
Japanese readers more accurately recalled information
written in that style (Hinds, 1983).
Korean readers were often able to recall more
information when it was presented in non-linear forms
like “ki-shoo-ten-ketsu” (Kaplan, 1966)
The results of these studies suggest that a passage may
be more readable or less readable depending on
readers’ expectations, which are partially shaped by
language and culture.
Cross-linguistic differences and influences:
Bartelt (1983): Negative Transfer Study
- Repetition in the ESL writing of American Indian
(In Amerindian languages like Navajo and
Apache, repetition is often used for emphasis)
Navajo and Apache students writing in English use a
lot of repetition, especially when they have strong
feelings towards a topic:
Carson invaded the Canyon De Chelley to destroyed
Navajo and livestocks and capture or kill the Navajos, so
they burned all their crops and bring all their livestock,
all their livestock.Finally when the Navajos found they
have destroyed all their crops and livestock they shoot
down all their livestock (Bartelt 1983:299)
English uses considerable amount of cleft sentences for
emphasis. Certain languages use cleft sentences more
Irish makes use of cleft sentences, and language
contact situation in Ireland has led to use of cleft
Example: It’s flat it was (It was flat.)
It must be working for her it was (He must
have been working for her.)
The study of apologies in Hebrew by Olshtain (1983):
Comparison of native speakers of Hebrew with
immigrants from the USA and the Soviet Union.
The English and Russian groups differed in their use of
apologies not only from native speaker group but also
1) Overgeneralization: inappropriate discourse may
result from generalizaitons carried too far.
Study of speech acts of German ESL students (Kasper, 1981):
Y: Could you show me the drawings?
Since the norms of politeness in German and English
are not very different, transfer is not a good
explanation for this response.
A subclass of false generalizations probably results
from transfer of training, especially from foreign
Example: Would you like to drink a glass of wine with me?
Can I get you a glass of wine?
2) Developmental Influences: In some respects, the
mastery of writing in a second language resembles the
development of writing in one’s native language.
Example: child and adult preference for simple
syntactic structures (Homburg 1984; Hillocks
Persian makes more use of coordinating conjunctions
than English. Therefore, attributing over use of these
conjunctions may not be explained by transfer of
foreign language instruction.
The frequent use of simple and coordinate sentences is
a common developmental characteristic among both
native and non-native speakers of English.
While the likelihood of positive transfer also being
important is high, most research on contrastive
discourse has not addressed this issue.
The hinderance to doing comparative research is the
lack of information about discourse similarities or
differences in various languages.
There is a need for several kinds of information such as
the teaching of rhetoric for spoken and written
communication, and the influence of English and
other Western languages on discourse of other
Although more research is required, it is proven that
discourse transfer occur in SLA.
As misunderstandings related to politeness and
coherence are especially dangerous, and thus discourse
transfer should be a matter of special concern for
As with other subsystems of languages, transfer is not
the only source of divergences between native
speakers’ and learners’ use of target language
Discourse transfer potentially interacts with other
subsystems, such as syntax.
Discourse analysis is related to the study of both
propositional and lexical semantics.
Discourse involves sequences of statements, so
discourse analysis is related to propositional semantics
which is the study of meaning in statements.
Statements involve sequences of words, so
discourse analysis is also related to lexical semantics
which is the study of meaning in words.
If discourse transfer exists, semantic transfer is likely
What does linguistic relativism claim?
Relation between language and thought= learning
to think in a language
If we want to learn a language, we should adopt a
worldview which, to some extent, is unique to that
• Although there may be differences in the thought
patterns of people from different speech communities, there
are also some universals in cognition.
There are considerable cross-cultural similarities in
human reasoning processes.
An investigation by Hamill (1978):
Subjects’ native languages were either English or
Mende (a West African language)
Little cross-cultural variation in reasoning in
conversations in Mende and in English.
Speakers of both languages showed an awareness
of contradiction which is a basic logical rule: that is,
if a proposition “x” is true, the proposition “not x”,
which is the negation of the first proposition, must be
In other words, the statements Paris is the
capital of France and Paris is not the capital of
France cannot both be true.
In Hamill’s study, both English- and Mende-
speakers made use of this basic rule in their
interpretations of chains of statements.
However, there are also cross-cultural differences
in cognition. Those differences may result from
differences in language.
Whorf (1956) states: “The grammar of each
language is not merely a reproducing instrument for
voicing ideas but rather is itself the shaper of ideas.”
Whorf’s statement shows the relativist position
claiming that language can determine cognitive
Nevertheless, the relativist position has some
problems in it.
If each language was as radically different as the
relativist position claims from each other, the
acquisition of a second language might be imposssible
in some cases.
For example, speakers of a language consisting of
radically different structures from those in English
would find English impossible to learn or vice versa.
However, there is not an absolute “acquisition
barrier” between speakers of different languages.
Although a language never has an absolute impact
on cognition, it may still have an important influence
A contrastive study of English and Chinese
Chinese does not encode semantic differences
associated with unreality whereas English verb system
explicitly codes differences like in If you burned your
finger, it would hurt and If you had burned your
finger, it would have hurt.
While the first sentence “If you burned your
finger, it would hurt” expresses a hypothetical
situation, the second sentence “If you had burned
your finger, it would have hurt” expresses a
counterfactual situation which is an imaginary event
in the past that did not take place.
However, there is not a syntactic device in Chinese
to signal the difference between these two types of
Bloom gave a reading test to Chinese monolinguals,
English monolinguals, and Chinese-English bilinguals.
The passage that was used involved many
counterfactual statements about the effect that a
certain philosopher might have had on the
development of science- but actually did not have.
The questions were designed to establish how well
readers understood that the philosopher had actually
had no effect on the development of science.
The English monolinguals were the most successful
ones while the Chinese monolinguals were the least
Semantic case, or semantic roles, is an important
concept in propostional semantics.
Two syntactically different sentences sometimes
may share an identical proposition. That is, those
syntactically different sentences may share the same
truth conditions , meaning one sentence must be true
if the other is also true, false if the other is also false.
- correspondance between active and passive voice:
Bob stole the tomatoes and The tomatoes were
stolen by Bob
We can explain the semantic relation between these
two sentences with the aid of semantic case analysis.
In both sentences, the noun Bob has the same
semantic case of agent and the noun tomatoes has
the same semantic case of patient.
This kind of analysis helps both understanding the
semantic system of a language and making cross-
linguistic comparisons of morphology and syntax.
- The possessive constructions of English and
los héroes de la nación- Spanish
the heroes of the nation
or - English
the nation’s heroes
There is a morphosyntactic but not a semantic
difference between English and Spanish grammar in
There is genitive construction in both languages; however, in
this construction, English uses both a possessive inflection
(nation’s) and a prepositional construction (of the nation)
while Spanish only uses a prepositional construction (de la
That means, Spanish speakers may encounter some
difficulties with possessive constructions in English.
The same case in Turkish:
Ev- in kapı- sı (possessive inflection) –
The door of the house (prepositional
or - English
The house’s door (possessive inflection)
The notion of case is also useful in the study of the
relationship between propositional and lexical
For instance, there is not a corresponding word to
the English verb have in Irish. The translation of I
have money is
Tá airgead agam.
Is money at-me.
The syntactic forms of the two sentences are very
different although the semantic case relations of both
sentences are identical.
The lexical difference between Irish and English
has grammatical consequences.
J’ai douze ans. - French
I’ve twelve ages
(Ben) oniki yaş-ın-da-yım. – Turkish
The semantic case relations of these two sentences
are identical while the syntactic forms of both
sentences are very different.
Similarities and dissimilarities in word forms and
in word meanings play an important role in the speed
of learning a particular foreign language.
It is believed that the similarity between one’s
native language and a particular foreign language will
facilitate the acquisition of vocabulary in that foreign
e.g. French justifier and English justify
When the success of Finnish- and Swedish-speaking
students on an ESL test is compared, Swedish students
were found more successful in the vocabulary part.
Finnish does not share as much cognate vocabulary
with English as Swedish does.
Ard and Homburg (1983)
When the performances of ESL students speaking
either Arabic or Spanish compared, the speakers of
Spanish were found more successful on vocabulary
Spanish has more lexical similarities with English.
In this study, Spanish students did especially well
with the words that had identical or similar spellings
to Spanish forms.
e.g. exiled & exilado
Another advantage Spanish speakers have in
learning English is that Spanish speakers will have
more time to focus on unfamiliar vocabulary.
Besides advantages of a common lexicon to two
languages, there are also some disadvantages.
e.g. French prévenir and English prevent seem to
have a cognate relation, but prévenir means “to warn”.
A partial semantic identity of cognates
The translation of English “succeed” into Spanish
as “suceder” is acceptable in some contexts, such as
“Truman sucedió a Roosevelt (Truman succeeded
Roosevelt)”, but not acceptable in others, such as
“Sucedió en su trabajo (He succeeded in his work)”.
e.g. English “make” and German “machen”
Ich mache hausaufgaben
*I make homework
Lexical transfer can also occur when there is no
morphological similarity between words appearing to
be semantically equivalent.
e.g. “dil” for both “tongue” and “language”
* He burned his language.
Grammatical restrictions found in one language
but not in another:
English “to retire” and French “se retirer” form a
true cognate, but the French lexical item has
grammatical restriction that the use of the reflexive
pronoun is necessary in French.
Adjemian (1983) found a cognate problem in the
English of a French-speaking student:
“*At sixty-five years old they must retire
themselves because this is a rule of society.”
Learners will find the language showing many lexical
similarities with their native language much easier to
learn than another language that does not show any
Reading comprehension is the area in which much of
the advantage of lexical similarity is seen.
There seem to be important similarities between first and
second language learners in their patterns of lexical
Strick (1980): Persian speakers’ judgements about the
similarity of English words resembled semantic intiutions
of English speaking children. For example, they tended to
classify the four terms “Mr., Mrs., John, and Mary” on the
basis of a perceptible attribute, like male or female, rather
than on the basis of social affiliation, like formal terms of
address compared to personal names.
There may be universal semantic information which is
accessible to all learners and which may help the acquisition
of new vocabulary.
Some errors seen in lexical semantics, like
overextensions, are the best evidence of the
universality of processes working in all language
e.g. “My father has traveled” in Nigerian English
is equivalent to “My father is away”. (Bamgbose,
The Nigerian use of “travel” cannot have been
resulted from “transfer” but from a natural process of
Bartelt (1982) also notes that an Apache ESL student
described “rotting food” as “dead food”.
This kind of overextensions clearly results from
metaphoric coinages functioning besides accepted
target language form.
This kind of semantic innovations are also seen in
first language acquisition.
e.g. saying “top” for “kavun”
Lexical transfer of cognate forms are generally cases of
both morphological and semantic transfer.
Morphological transfer involving independent words
is very likely to occur; however, there are strong
constraints against the transfer of bound morphemes
which are prefixes, suffixes, and other forms that are
meaningful yet incapable of standing alone.
Thus, Spanish speakers do not have a special
advantage in using the English plural suffix –s even
though the form is almost identical with the Spanish
However, Fantini (1985) found a Spanish-English
bilingual child using “too manys cars”, reflecting a
number agreement rule in Spanish that adjectives
must agree in number with the nouns they modify.
The existence of general lexical similarities is a
major influence on how much transfer of bound
morphemes will occur.
It is a fact that the similarity of bound morphemes
in two languages would facilitate reading and listening
as the similarity of free morphemes does.
e.g. English suffix –ous and Spanish suffix –oso
“scandalous” and “escandaloso” as cognates
Paragmatic failure differs from other types of failure
because the interlocutor may judge the speaker being
impolite or uncooperative or may attribute the
pragmatic errors to the speaker’s personality.
In additon, paragmatic failure is common not only
among learners with low proficiency in the target
language but also among advanced language learners.
The most common explanation for pragmatic failure is
pragmatic negative transfer.
Interlanguage pragmatics focuses on the study of
non-native speakers’ use and acqusition of linguistic
action patterns in a second language.
It presents two characteristics which are common in
other areas of second language development:
1. The ideal monolingual native speaker is held up as the model
of pragmatic competence for L2 users and deviations from the
native speaker norm are considered examples of pragmatic
failure. Grosjean and Cook (1992) have criticisized this
‘monolingual prejudice’ and proposed the notion of
2. The direction of influence is from the L1 to the L2. However,
Kecskes and Papp (2000)point out that L2 can also have an
influence on the L1. According to them, the ‘Common
Underlying Conceptual Base’ ( a container of represantations
that comprise knowledge and concepts that are either language
and culture neutral or language and culture specific) can
explain the specific characteristics of multi-competence and
the interaction btw the different languages.
The interaction btw the L1 and the L2 at the pragmatic
level has been reported by Blum-Kulka (1992) by
proposing ‘Intercultural Style Hypothesis’.
This hypothesis defines the development of an
intercultural pattern that reflects bi-directional
interaction btw the languages.
To confirm this hypothesis, a research study was
carried out by Jasone Cenoz.
Do learners of English present differences when
formulating requests in the L1 and L2 or do they
develop an intercultural style for the two languages?
Are there differences between the requests formulated
in the L1 by speakers who differ in the level of
proficiency in a foreign language?
69 students from the University of Basque Country
14.7 % male, 85.3 % female
Age mean: 20.68
Two groups: fluent in English vs. non-fluent in English
Instruments and procedure:
The data was obtained via a general background
questionnaire and a discourse completion test, based
on the Cross-cultural Speech Act Realisation Project
‘Fluent in English’ group=> in Eng and Spa
‘Non-fluent in English’=> only in Spa
4 request situations were used:
1. A teacher asks a student to get a book from the
2. A student ask a fellow student for handouts given in
a previous class (student/student)
3. You ask a colleague to make a long-distance phone
call from his/her apartment (colleague/colleague)
4. A traffic warden asks a driver to move his/her car
5 elements were examined:
1. Alerters: are used to draw the hearer’s attention and include
titles/roles, first names, surnames, nicknames, pronouns,
endearment terms, offensive terms, attention getters or
combinations of these elements, such as John, eh, you…
2. Resquest strategies: refer to linguistic elements used to
convey the head act of the request. The most common
strategies are the conventionally indirect ones include want
statements ( I’d like to), suggestory formulas (How about?)
and preparatories ( Can I/ Could I?)
3. Syntactic downgraders: mitigate the request by using
interrogatives (Can I?), the past tense (I wanted to),
conditional clauses, etc.
4. Lexical and phrasal downgraders: are used to mitigate the
impositive force of the request such as please, I’m afraid, you
know and will you
5. Mitigating supportives: include justifications, promises of
reward and preparators ( I’d like to ask you…)
Q1: Do learners of English present differences when
formulating requests in the L1 and L2 or do they
develop an intercultural style for the two languages?
For ‘Fluent in English’ group, no significant difference
btw Eng and Spa in these 5 elements
Only exception was the fourth request
situation.=>More syntactic downgraders in Spanish
Answer to Q1: NO. People with a high level of fluency
in the L2 make requests in their L1 and L2 in
essentially the same way.
Q2:Are there differences between the requests formulated in
the L1 by speakers who differ in the level of proficiency in a
There were no significant differences btw the requests
produced by ‘fluent in Eng’ group and ‘non-fluent in Eng’
in terms of total number of elements, although in the case
of syntactic downgraders the differences are marginally
There were significant differences btw the two groups in
some of the measures corresponding to request in
situation 1 and 4: preparatory strategies, syntactic
downgraders and lexical downgraders.
In addition, the differences btw the two groups are
marginally significant for alerters.
When the cases in which the differences are significant
are analysed, it can be observed that the ‘non-fluent
in Eng’ group uses
more alerters (R4)
more preparatory strategies (R1)
fewer syntactic downgraders (R1)
more lexical downgraders (R1)
fewer lexical downgraders (R4)
Main difference btw the two groups:
‘Fluent in Eng’ group used their interlocutors’ first name more
frequently than ‘non-fluent in Eng’
Sandra, I’d like to phone my parents and it’s a bit expensive. So, I’ll
phone and give you the money. (fluent in Eng)
Podrí hacer una llamada al extranjero? (non-fluent in Eng)
(Could I make a phone call abroad?)
No differences btw the utterances produced in Eng and Spa by the
same subjects in the fluent group.
Hey, Mike, would you lend me your lecture notes? (fluent in Eng)
Oye, Mikel, podrí as pasarme los apuntes de ayer? (fluent in Eng)
(Listen, Mikel, could you lend me the class notes you got
Do you use alerters while making requests in your L1
Though the preparatory strategy is the prefered strategy by
both groups, there are interesting differences when other
strategies are used.
The ‘non-fluent in Eng’ group tends to use more direct
strategies than the others, particularly in R2 andR4.
Excuse me, could you move your car? (Fluent in Eng)
Mueva el coche señora, aquí está prohibido aparcar. (non-
fluent in Eng)
(Move your car, madam. Parking is not allowed here)
No differences were observed in the strategies in Eng and
Spa by the same subjects.
Excuse me, could you move your car? (Fluent in Eng)
Le importaría moverse, señora? Está prohibido dejar el
coche aparcado aquí? (fluent in Eng)
(Would you mind moving on, madam? Parking is not
The main difference is that, while the ‘fluent in Eng’
group uses a wide range of syntactic downgraders
(aspect, tense, conditional clause, interrogatives), the
other group tends to use a single type of syntactic
downgrader, the interrogative.
Do you use a variety of syntactic downgraders while
making requests in your L2 or do you generally use a
The ‘fluent in Eng’group uses a wider range of lexical
downgraders (understaters, politeness markers), and
the ‘non-fluent in Eng’ group tends to use a single type
of lexical downgrader, politeness marker.
Sandra, I really need to make a phone call to Spain if
you don’t mind. I’ll be trying not to be long. (fluent in
Por favor, te importaría dejarme llamar por teléfono al
extranjero? (non-fluent in Eng)
(Please, would you mind allowing me to phone
The ‘fluent in Eng’group uses a wider range of
mitigating supportives (prepator, reward, grounder),
and the ‘non-fluent in Eng’ group tends to use a single
type of mitigating supportive, grounders.
Sandra, I have to make a phone call to Spain and I
know it is expensive but could I? I’ll pay you the call.
(fluent in Eng)
Tengo un problema, podrí a hacer una llamada al
extranjero? (non-fluent in Eng)
(I have a problem, could I make a phone call abroad?)
Results show that subjects whose L1 is Spanish and who are
fluent in Eng do not exhibit differences when they make
They tend to use a similar number of alerts, preparatory
strategies, syntactic downgraders, lexical downgraders and
In addition, they tend to use the same type of elements when
formulating requests in Eng and Spa. The use of similar
paralinguistic elements in the two languages is due to transfer
from the L1 (Spa) into L2 (Eng)!!!
The existence of pragmatic transfer from the first language into
the second language does no exclude the possibility of a more
complex bi-directional interaction btw the two languages .
According to Intercultural Style Hypothesis, Eng could also
influence the production of speech acts in Spa.
Speakers who are fluent in Eng use their interlocutors’
first name more often, use more indirect strategies and
have a wider range of syntactic downgraders, lexical
downgraders and mitigating supportives. These
findings support the Intercultural Style Hypothesis
because they show that learners who have a high level
of proficieny in Eng seem to have developed an
similarity btw Eng and Spa
an intercultural pattern
difference from native speakers of Spa
There is an interaction btw the languages spoken by a
multilingual speaker, so that not only can we refer to
cross-linguistic influence from Spa into Eng but we
also have a bi-directional relationship btw the two
languages. This interaction is compatible with
‘Common Underlying Conceptual Base’.
This interaction has also implications on multiligual
competence. If the L1 is affected by L2/L3, multilingual
speakers present specific characteristics that differ
them from monolinguals.
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