Interlanguage Pragmatics: Exploring Institutional Talk

Interlanguage Pragmatics: Exploring Institutional Talk

Interlanguage Pragmatics: Exploring Institutional Talk

Interlanguage Pragmatics: Exploring Institutional Talk

Synopsis

This volume brings conversational analysis into the study of second language pragmatics as an analytic paradigm. A well-regarded team of researchers addresses a difficult area for the interlanguage pragmatics research community--the balance between experimental method and the use of conversational data. Institutional talk provides authentic and consequential talk. The goal of the book is to demonstrate how the investigation of institutional talk balances the researcher's need for comparable and replicable interactions with the need to observe authentic outcomes. The chapters present empirical studies based on quantitative and qualitative analyses, which are carefully illustrated by the real-world variables that each institution controls. The chapters span a range of institutions, including the university writing center, hotels, secondary schools, and employment offices. The variables examined include the traditional ILP variables, such as status, directness, and social distance, as well as new concepts like trust, authority, equality and discourse style.

Excerpt

Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig Beverly S. Hartford Indiana University

Discussions of research design in interlanguage pragmatics reveal a tension between the desire for highly controlled production tasks that yield comparable language samples and the desire to integrate the investigation of authentic discourse into studies of interlanguage pragmatics. In spite of the interest the field has expressed in authentic discourse, controlled elicitation tasks still dominate data collection. This book introduces interlanguage pragmatics researchers to institutional talk, talk that occurs in the course of carrying out an institution's business, usually between an institutional representative and a client. The collection and analysis of institutional talk—one form of authentic, consequential discourse—meets the field's methodological requirements of comparability, predictable occurrence of pragmatic features, high rates of occurrence, and relative ease of data collection. Other advantages of exploring institutional talk include the availability of participants for retrospective interviews and of consultants for interpretation. The investigation of institutional talk can be used to study the influence of context, the interaction of pragmatic features, the effect of timing and escalation, the comparison of goals and outcomes, and acquisition of linguistic and pragmatic features. Institutional settings also afford researchers the opportunity to observe the acquisition of institutional rules themselves, which represent a microcosm of culture.

In order to explore these advantages fully, we have assembled previously unpublished studies in this volume that address both interlanguage pragmatics and institutional talk. Taken together, these studies demonstrate the benefits of studying—the context of authentic and consequential talk—the traditional variables of status, directness, social distance, imposition, and others typically investigated in interlanguage pragmatics. Many chapters in this volume introduce new concepts, thus expanding the range of interlanguage pragmatics research beyond what can be investigated in production questionnaires. Additional concepts that are investigated include trust, individual variation across multiple turns and interactions, authority and equality (in balance to dominance and solidarity), and discourse style. The chapters also challenge readers to reconsider the primacy of the dichotomy between native speaker and nonnative speaker. Importantly, these chapters demonstrate that success (and lack of success) is found on both sides of this linguistic divide. We are hopeful that these fine-grained analyses will contribute to a better integration of the nonnative speaker in pragmatics research. The potential for extended analysis of both native and nonnative pragmatics in authentic interaction helps place emphasis on individual pragmatic strategies that are (unsuccessful which may be more or less prevalent in one speaker group than another. This will lead to a greater sophistication in our description of why native speakers may be more . . .

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