Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

On the Effects of Phatic Communion Instruction on Iranian Intermediate and Advanced Efl Learner's Oral Production

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

On the Effects of Phatic Communion Instruction on Iranian Intermediate and Advanced Efl Learner's Oral Production

Article excerpt

Introduction

To be communicatively competent, learners of English must acquire some knowledge and develop the necessary skills that enable them to reach their social and communicative goals, as well as to project their desired identity, by performing adequately in a variety of social or situational contexts and they may experience performance-and language-related problems, as a consequence of which they deviate from native speakers' standards and expectations when accomplishing speech acts, producing certain types of discourse or participating in conversations as Kaur ( 2011) states. Such deviations may result in pragmatic errors, which, though unnoticed in some cases, give rise to funny or anecdotal misunderstandings or even have more serious consequences in others.

An area that poses difficulties and challenges to many learners of English is phatic discourse, small talk or phatic communion, i.e. that "language used in free, aimless, social intercourse" (Malinowski 1923, p. 476), or, in other words, that conversation devoid of relevant factual content but with a great latent significance because it creates, maintains and/or enhances friendly relationships (Burnard 2003, p. 680). Its presence in many cultures and communities of practice, and hence the assumption that learners could transfer the necessary knowledge and ability to engage in it from their L1 (Kasper and Schmidt 1996; Kasper 1997), might have motivated its neglect in many teaching materials and courses. However, the pragmatics of phatic communion varies across cultures and communities of practice, unveiling differing underlying value systems (Placencia 2004; Sun 2004; Ladegaard 2011).

Depending on their proficiency level, learners may bring some tacit knowledge of phatic communion from their L1 but still be unable to make informed decisions about its use and contents, or fail at controlling an inventory of pragmalinguistic strategies efficiently. Different instructional approaches -explicit and implicit teaching- seem to facilitate acquisition of relevant L2 pragmatic aspects and contribute to learners' performance (Alcón Soler 2005).

The primary objective is to investigate the possible effect of phatic communion instruction on Iranian intermediate learners' oral production. The second objective is to figure out the possible effect of phatic communion instruction on Iranian advanced learners' oral production.

1. Does phatic communion instruction promote Iranian intermediate learners' oral production?

2. Does phatic communion instruction promote Iranian advanced learners' oral production?

Review of the Related Literature

Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski's (1923) idea of phatic communion was developed during his ethnographic observations of the Trobriand Islander's communication practices. Malinowski defines p hatic communion as "a type of speech in which ties of union are created by a mere exchange of words" (1923, p. 315). Ehlich (1993) suggests that the word 'communion' was possibly used to emphasize "the intensity of this type of speech". Importantly, according to Miller (2008) phatic communication "does not inform or exchange any meaningful information or facts about the world. Its purpose is a social one, to express sociability and maintain connections or bonds" (pp. 393-394). Quick discussions about the weather while in an elevator, or asking someone how they are, fulfill an important social role.

Phatic communication is not expected to undertake, or "perhaps even there must not be" (Malinowski, 1935, p. 316) a transfer of ideas or information. The words or language used in the speech act are in fact not part of the communication because they are irrelevant. An example of a phatic expression is 'how's it going?' and 'the bus is very crowded today'. While seemingly banal, there is a function to the communication in that it "serves to establish bonds of personal union between people brought together by the need of companionship and does not serve any purpose of communicating ideas" (Malinowski, 1935, p. …

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