Pragmatics in Second Language Acquisition Research Marcus

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					           Pragmatics in
Second Language Acquisition Research


                 Marcus Callies
          Philipps-Universität Marburg
1. Pragmatics is language use in context
  To fully understand the meaning of a sentence, we must understand
  the context in which it is uttered. Pragmatics is concerned with how
  people use language within a context and why they use language in
  particular ways.

  Student:      Is Prof. Plag in?
  Assisstant:   Well, the lights are still on in his office.

  Student 1:    So, did you like my party?
  Student 2:    Oh yes, it was great! (thinks: It was in fact dead boring…)

  Pragmatics broadly defined:
  the study of language from the point of view of the users, especially
  of the choices they make, the constraints they encounter in using
  language in social interaction, and the effects their use of language
  has on the other participants in an act of communication
  (Crystal 1997:301)
1. Pragmatics is language use in context ctd.
  Two components of pragmatics:
  a) the study of language from the viewpoint of a language's
  structural resources;
  b) those pragmatic studies which examine the conditions on
  language use which derive from the social situation (adapted from
  Crystal 1997:301)

   • Pragmalinguistics: Refers to the linguistic side of pragmatics,
     that is the range of structural linguistic resources from which
     speakers can choose when using language in a specific
     communicative situation
      Linguistic means to perform a speech act (speech act verbs,
     imperatives, politeness markers, other pragmatic markers)

   a)   Could you please take the garbage out? Thank you!
   b)   The garbage isn't out yet...
   c)   Well, the kitchen garbage already smells, you know.
   d)   Take the garbage out!
1. Pragmatics is language use in context ctd.

   •   Sociopragmatics: Relates to the social setting of language use,
       including variables such as the cultural context, the social status
       or social distance of interlocutors
        When and how to perform a certain speech act

       Imagine you need a book from the library very urgently, but the book has
       been borrowed by someone else. Take a look at the following sentences.
       In what situation would they be appropriate?

   a) I was wondering if you could you possibly return the book in the very near
      future. I need it urgently for my term paper. Thank you!
   b) I need this book urgently, so could you please return it as soon as
      possible?
   c) I really need the book and it„s overdue, you„ve had for too long anyway.
      So why don„t you return it as soon as possible?
   d) Dude, can I have the book now? I really need it.
2. Pragmatics in SLA research
• The study of pragmatics as a domain within SLA research:
  Interlanguage Pragmatics (ILP)
• ILP defined:
    • "the study of nonnative speakers' comprehension, production, and
      acquisition of linguistic action in L2" (Kasper 1995:1)
    • "the study of nonnative speakers' use and acquisition of L2 pragmatic
      knowledge" (Kasper and Rose 1999:81)
• Modelled on cross-cultural pragmatics, adopting its research topics,
  theories and research methodology
• Predominantly concerned with issues of cross-cultural politeness
• Scope of inquiry:
    • Non-native speaker comprehension and production of a small number of
      speech acts, such as requests, apologies, refusals, complaints,
      compliments and compliment responses
    • Use of internal and external modification to speech acts and learners' use
      of semantic formulas or lexical downgraders
    • Only recently: Discourse/pragmatic markers in NNSs (Fuller 2003,
      Müller 2004)
• Findings compared with native speaker performance
3. Pragmatics in SLA: A case study –
Compliment responses by German and Spanish EFL-learners
Questions:
• Are advanced EFL-learners able to respond appropriately to a
  compliment in a certain sociopragmatic context?
• Do these learners differ from native speakers of English in their
  strategies in responding to a compliment?
General hypotheses:
• Sociocultural norms and values (e.g. politeness, modesty) of the
  source language (L1) influence learners‟ performance in the target
  language (L2)
• In compliment responses, the speaker is faced with a conflict of the
  maxims of agreement and modesty
• Differences in L1 and L2 may lead to communicative
  misunderstandings

1. Research methodology (Data collection techniques)
2. Findings
3.1. Research methodology: Written (pseudo-oral setting)
1. Discourse completion (different formats)
Here: first turn given, open response, no rejoinder
3.1. Research methodology: Written (pseudo-oral setting) ctd.
2. Multiple choice
3.1. Research methodology: Written (pseudo-oral setting) ctd.
3. Rating of responses
3.1. Research methodology: Spoken
4. Interview (actual purpose concealed)

Sequence for the interview
1. Ask the informant in.
2. Greet the informant.
3. Offer him/her a seat.
4. Pay the compliment (exact formula!):
    “You‘ve got (a) really nice X(es). It/They look(s) great on you.“
5. Wait for a compliment response.
6. Begin with the interview.
   Topic: “What do you think is the most debated issue in German universities
   lately?“
7. Finish the interview: “Thanks, that‟s enough.“ - “I enjoyed listening to you.“
8. Pay a compliment on informant’s English: “By the way, your English is
   really good.“
9. Wait for a compliment response.
3.2. Findings: Making sense of the data


Compliment Responses – A Classification of Strategies (Chen 1993)

1. Thanking               Oh, thank you !
2. Agreeing               Yeah, I like it, too.
3. Expressing Gladness    Nice to hear that.
4. Joking                 Yeah, I look pretty cool, don‘t I ?
5. Returning              You look good, too !
6. Offering               You can borrow it if you want !
7. Encouraging            Why don‘t you get one yourself !?
8. Explaining             I bought it at H&M.
9. Doubting               But I‘ve had it for ages.
10. Rejecting             Well, I don‘t even like it anymore.
3.2. Findings: Making sense of the data ctd.


Superstrategies

•   Accepting (Thanking, Agreeing, Expressing Gladness)
•   Rejecting (Doubting, Rejecting)
•   Returning (Returning, Offering)
•   Mocking (Joking, Encouraging)
•   Deflecting (Explaining)
3.2. Findings
• 56 advanced German EFL-learners
• 11 Spanish EFL-learners (exchange students, not discussed here)
• 31 native speakers of English (students, different varieties)

General
• In the production task, all groups predominantly gave responses that
  exhibit combinations of 2-3 substrategies such as Thanking +
  Explaining or Thanking + Returning
PRODUCTION (%)                 Native speakers   German learners
superstrategies   Deflecting        31.6              55.9
                  Accepting         47.4              19.6
                  Returning          9.9              17.6
                   Rejecting        11.2               6.9
substrategies     Explaining        19.7              42.2
                   Returning         7.9              16.7
                   Doubting         11.8              13.7
                   Thanking         32.9              11.8
                   Agreeing          7.9               2.0

MULTIPLE CHOICE (%)            Native speakers   German learners
superstrategies   Accepting          55                55
                  Returning          15                30
                  Deflecting         25                10
                  Rejecting           5                 5
substrategies     Thanking           50                50
                  Returning          15                30
                  Explaining         25                10
                   Agreeing          5                 5
                   Rejecting         5                 5
3.2. Findings ctd.
Learners
• Deflecting is the most frequent strategy in the production task (55%)
  by the Germans, which drops to only 10% in the multiple choice task,
  where Accepting is the most frequently used (55%).
• Learners may consider Deflecting as a compromise in that it gives the
  opportunity to neither fully accept nor entirely reject the compliment.
• Why acceptance rate higher in MPC? Task-related?

Native speakers
• Preference for superstrategies Accepting and Deflecting, manifest
  in the use of substrategy-combinations such as Thanking +
  Explaining

In sum
• Generally good sociopragmatic competence by learners, as
   Accepting and Deflecting are also the preferred strategies for NS
4. Open questions in ILP (1): Grammar vs. Pragmatics

In the majority of studies in ILP
• Pragmatic competence is singled out as an individual component of
    communicative competence and treated and investigated as an
    independent component of a learner's grammar (Kasper and Rose
    2002:159, 163)
• Lack of research which explores the relationship between grammatical
    and pragmatic abilities in SLA (Bardovi-Harlig 1999a, Kasper 2001,
    Kasper and Rose 2002)
• The development of pragmatic competence has to be seen as
    independent of the development of grammatical competence since
    "high levels of grammatical competence do not guarantee concomitant
    high levels of pragmatic competence" (Bardovi-Harlig 1999a:686)

• Question: How is grammatical and pragmatic development in an
  L2 interrelated?
4. Open questions in ILP (1): Grammar vs. Pragmatics ctd.

•   Research findings on the relationship of interlanguage pragmatic and
    grammatical development has lead to two scenarios:

1. Pragmatics precedes grammar: Learners use L2 pragmatic
   functions before they acquire the L2 grammatical forms that are
   acceptable realizations of those functions

Evidence:
• Persistent belief in traditional foreign language teaching that in order
   to successfully communicate in an L2 in terms of (socio)pragmatics,
   learners need to have a solid knowledge of the target language
   grammar
• But: the universal pragmatics principle states that unlike children in L1
   acquisition, L2 learners are usually pragmatically competent in their
   L1, hence they bring a supposedly universal pragmatic knowledge to
   the task of L2 learning
4. Open questions in ILP (1): Grammar vs. Pragmatics ctd.
2. Grammar precedes pragmatics: Learners acquire L2 grammatical
   forms before they acquire their pragmalinguistic functions

Three scenarios:
•   Grammatical knowledge does not enable pragmalinguistic use
     Learners' (non-)use of modal verbs in mitigating disagreement
•   Grammatical knowledge enables non-target-like pragmalinguistic use
     The overuse and pragmatic overextension of I think
•   Grammatical and pragmalinguistic knowledge enable non-target-like
    sociopragmatic use
     Learners' use of information questions as indirect strategies in a number
    of speech act types and contexts in which more transparent strategies would
    be more effective

•   In sum: There are differences as to the pragmalinguistic development
    of learners at different developmental stages in the L2 learning
    process
•   However, it still remains unclear how grammatical and pragmatic
    knowledge in an L2 exactly correlate.
4. Open questions in ILP (2): Is it all about speech acts?

• Most recently, L2 pragmatic competence has been defined as
   "knowledge of the linguistic resources available in a given language for
   realizing particular illocutions, knowledge of the sequential aspects of speech
   acts and finally, knowledge of the appropriate contextual use of the particular
   languages' linguistic resources" (Barron 2003:10).


• This definition draws a useful distinction between pragmalinguistic and
  sociopragmatic knowledge, but:
   • It suffers from the fact that it centers around the notion of speech
     act, thus narrowing down the scope of pragmatic knowledge.
   • This reflects the trend in ILP to almost exclusively focus on the
     domain of speech acts.

• Questions: What exactly is L2 pragmatic knowledge/
  competence? Is it only knowledge about speech acts (i.e.
  sociopragmatics)?
5. Pragmatics and Syntax interact

Syntax can also be pragmatically motivated!

(0) She is looking forward to the new System Of A Down album.

(1) It‟s the new System Of A Down album (that) she‟s looking forward to.

(2) What she‟s looking forward to is the new System Of A Down album.

(3) The new System Of A Down album she is looking forward to, but the
    new EMINEM CD she doesn‟t care about.

(4) She really likes U2, but even more fascinating is Metallica.
5. Pragmatics and Syntax interact

Syntax can also be pragmatically motivated!

(0) She is looking forward to the new System Of A Down album.

(1) It‟s the new System Of A Down album (that) she‟s looking forward to.
    it-cleft
(2) What she‟s looking forward to is the new System Of A Down album.

(3) The new System Of A Down album she is looking forward to, but the
    new EMINEM CD she doesn‟t care about.

(4) She really likes U2, but even more fascinating is Metallica.
5. Pragmatics and Syntax interact

Syntax can also be pragmatically motivated!

(0) She is looking forward to the new System Of A Down album.

(1) It‟s the new System Of A Down album (that) she‟s looking forward to.
    it-cleft
(2) What she‟s looking forward to is the new System Of A Down album.
    wh-cleft / pseudo-cleft
(3) The new System Of A Down album she is looking forward to, but the
    new EMINEM CD she doesn‟t care about.

(4) She really likes U2, but even more fascinating is Metallica.
5. Pragmatics and Syntax interact

Syntax can also be pragmatically motivated!

(0) She is looking forward to the new System Of A Down album.

(1) It‟s the new System Of A Down album (that) she‟s looking forward to.
    it-cleft
(2) What she‟s looking forward to is the new System Of A Down album.
    wh-cleft / pseudo-cleft
(3) The new System Of A Down album she is looking forward to, but the
    new EMINEM CD she doesn‟t care about.
    preposing / fronting
(4) She really likes U2, but even more fascinating is Metallica.
5. Pragmatics and Syntax interact

Syntax can also be pragmatically motivated!

(0) She is looking forward to the new System Of A Down album.

(1) It‟s the new System Of A Down album (that) she‟s looking forward to.
    it-cleft
(2) What she‟s looking forward to is the new System Of A Down album.
    wh-cleft / pseudo-cleft
(3) The new System Of A Down album she is looking forward to, but the
    new EMINEM CD she doesn‟t care about.
    preposing / fronting
(4) She really likes U2, but even more fascinating is Metallica.
    Inversion
5. Pragmatics and Syntax interact ctd.

The meaning of a sentence or utterance can be subdivided into
• content meaning and
• pragmatic meaning

• Particular syntactic constructions such as clefting or preposing may
  have the same propositional content as their canonical counterparts,
  but they clearly differ in the way how the convey this propositional
  content. They differ in pragmatic meaning.


• Question: When/Why would speakers use such sentence types?
  What is their discourse function?
5. Pragmatics and Syntax interact ctd.
• Speakers of a language do not use these special sentence types
  randomly. They choose from among several options to serve their
  communicative needs in discourse and therefore use devices with an
  explicit discourse-pragmatic intention.
• In Gricean terms, an utterance must be relevant, and in both speech
  and writing, speakers must indicate and justify why something really
  needs to be said or written down.
• They often want to highlight a certain part of the utterance to secure
  the interlocutor's attention and to signal that this is the most important
  piece of information.
• There are various reasons for highlighting discourse elements:
  emphasizing a certain point, correcting a misunderstanding, or
  repairing a communicative breakdown.
• The sentences above are syntactic means of information focusing,
  also called focus constructions.
• They are specifically useful in writing where information cannot be
  highlighted by prosodic means.
6. Implications for Pragmatics in SLA

•   Second language learners' knowledge and use of focusing devices in
    spoken and written discourse is an underexplored area in SLA
    research, and a potential learning problem even for advanced
    learners.
•   There is an explicit research gap as to learners' comprehension and
    use of these structures and their discourse-pragmatic functions.
•   Recent findings show that information structure management is
    problematic even for advanced L2 learners, and they have limited
    awareness of the appropriate use of lexical and syntactic focusing
    devices in formal and informal registers in the spoken and written
    mode (Callies 2006).
7. Summary and Conclusion

• Pragmatic knowledge in an L2 includes more than the sociopragmatic
  and pragmalinguistic abilities for understanding and performing
  speech acts.
• Due to the traditional line of research in ILP, the significance of L2
  pragmatic knowledge beyond the domain of speech acts has been
  neglected to date.
• The choice and use of focusing devices is clearly pragmatically
  motivated, and thus relates to pragmatic knowledge in an L2.
• Just as the need to apologize or make an offer results in expressing
  these intentions by using the necessary pragmalinguistic resources,
  the communicative need to highlight information results in using the
  necessary linguistic means to do so.
• The field of inquiry in ILP needs to be extended beyond the cross-
  cultural investigation of speech acts.
• This may also be a rewarding enterprise with respect to the
  interrelationship of grammatical and pragmalinguistic abilities in SLA,
  an important issue in current ILP research.
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     Thank you for your attention.

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