Pragmatics in foreign language teaching : the effects of instruction on L2 learners' acquisition of Spanish expressions of gratitude, apologies, and directives

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Pearson, Lynn Ellen, 1963-

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This dissertation investigates the effect of pragmatic instruction on the acquisition of expressions of gratitude, apologies, commands, and polite requests by second language (L2) learners in second-semester Spanish courses at the university level. Research in interlanguage pragmatics has shown that L2 pragmatic knowledge is incomplete for many learners, even those at higher levels of proficiency (Kasper & Rose, 1999; Kasper & Schmidt, 1996). In response to this disparity, several studies have investigated methods to teach pragmatics in language courses (Billmyer, 1990a, 1990b; Olshtain & Cohen, 1990; Overfield, 1996). The investigation contributes to this research and provides information about the acquisition of L2 pragmatics by less proficient learners of Spanish. viii The investigation examined the effect of two treatments on the acquisition of pragmatic competence during one semester: (1) metapragmatic discussions, a technique to draw learners’ attention to aspects of Spanish speech act (SA) realization; and (2) SA lessons featuring video scenes and role-play practice. The data used for the study are written and oral responses by learners to various situations designed to elicit Spanish expressions of gratitude, apologies, and directives (e.g., commands and polite requests). The learners’ SA realizations were analyzed for the following criteria: (1) variation of head acts in apologies and directives; (2) use of intensifiers and softeners; (3) appropriateness of fomality marking; (4) SA strategy appropriateness; and (5) hearer-oriented strategies in directives. The study also collected the responses of instructors and learners about the treatments and the teaching of Spanish pragmatics. The results of the investigation indicate that both treatments had little effect on the learners. Learners who received metapragmatic discussion performed better in the use of intensifiers in apologies and SA appropriateness in apologies. Those learners who participated in the SA lessons used more intensifiers and softeners in their SA responses. The lack of results for the other aspects of pragmatic competence was attributed to the limitations of the instructional treatments and the learners’ overall low competence in Spanish. The findings also indicate that the grammatical competence plays an important role in the development of pragmatic competence in L2, especially for less proficient learners. The dissertation makes recommendations for future research on the acquisition and instruction of L2 pragmatics.



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