Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

The Interactive Effects of Pragmatic-Eliciting Tasks and Pragmatic Instruction

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

The Interactive Effects of Pragmatic-Eliciting Tasks and Pragmatic Instruction

Article excerpt


The effects of data-gathering methods on pragmatic data have been well documented, yet an inquiry into the interactive effects of assessment tasks with pragmatic instruction has received scant attention. This study investigated the interaction between two assessment tasks (e-mail and phone) and two types of pragmatic instruction (explicit and implicit). Forty-nine Spanish learners of English engaged in these two tasks as pre- and posttests. The explicit group received 12 hours of metapragmatic information on head acts and hedges in suggestions while the implicit group was the recipient of recast and input enhancement activities. The results showed that postinstructional improvement of the explicit condition was significantly more than that of the implicit condition in the phone task, although improvements of these two conditions were on par in the e-mail task. This task-induced variability might have been caused by an interaction between the feature of the two types of knowledge (i.e., monitoring capability) and an access to the knowledge bases (i.e., the role of attention to appropriateness and accuracy) in the two tasks.

Key words: pragmatics, speech acts, instruction, telephone, e-mail

Language: ESL/EFL

A number of scholars in interlanguage pragmatics (the study of language learners' and native speakers' acquisition and use of linguistic performance, such as speech act and discourse patterns) have examined the effects of data collection methods on second language (L2) learners' natural performance, namely, task-induced variability (Kasper & Dahl, 1991; Kasper, 2000). Others have investigated the effects of instruction on learning L2 pragmatics (see Kasper & Roever, 2005; Kasper & Rose, 2002; Rose, 2005; Rose & Kasper, 2001, for detailed reviews). However, whether these two families of effects statistically interact with each other remains unexplored. The present study addresses this issue. Specifically, the study ascertains the ways the effects of two assessment tasks (e-mail and phone) statistically interact with the effects of two types (explicit and implicit) of pragmatic instruction that foreign language learners received on their use of pragmatically appropriate and linguistically accurate suggestions. The thesis of this article is that the effects of pragmatic instruction vary depending on the way in which they are assessed.

Theoretical Background

Task-Induced Variability in Interlanguage Pragmatics (ILP)

Different from psycholinguistically oriented investigations in the areas of morphology and syntax (see the Discussion section), examinations of task-induced variability in ILP have been oriented toward sociolinguistics. The effects of various pragmaticeliciting methods on learners' pragmatic production have been investigated in three lines of inquiry. Because of the widespread use of discourse completion tests (DCTs, tests consisting of scripted dialogues) as an elicitation instrument in ILP, they have prevailed in the research on task effect.

Linguistic variation produced by different forms of DCTs is the first line of research. Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford (1993) compared typical DCTs in which the participants responded to a scenario with DCTs that supplied a conversational turn immediately after the scenario, whereas Billmyer and Varghese (2000) compared typical DCTs with content-enriched DCTs.1 These two studies suggested that, for both native and nonnative speakers of English, different types of DCTs had little influence on the distribution of semantic formulas in refusal or linguistic strategies in request, but that they did affect the mean length of responses. In the former study, the DCTs with conversational turns had longer mean length of responses than the typical DCTs. In the latter study, the mean length of utterance for the content-enriched DCTs was much longer than that for the typical DCTs on both the native and nonnative speaker data. …

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