Exploring the Potential of a Formula-Enhanced Approach for Speech Act Teaching in Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada

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Zavialova, Alisa




Pragmatic formulas can augment both pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic aspects of second language (L2) pragmatic competence and serve as linguistic building blocks necessary for successful speech act performance (Bardovi-Harlig, 2012). Major approaches to speech act teaching (e.g., Martinez-Flor & Uso-Juan, 2006) encourage explicit meta-pragmatic explanations aimed at drawing learners' attention to degrees of power, distance, and imposition; however, these approaches make vague references to pragmatic formulas despite their pragmalinguistic value, promoting an unbalanced view of pragmatics instruction. In addition, there is an urgent need for classroom-based studies targeting L2 pragmatics in community-based language programs, such as Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) since the majority of existing teaching intervention studies in this area have been conducted in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) settings (e.g., Bardovi-Harlig & Vellenga, 2012). To address these gaps, an approach to teaching L2 pragmatics that goes beyond awareness-raising and consists of a carefully planned instructional sequence enhanced by an explicit focus on pragmatic formulas was developed for this study; this approach was contrasted with the more widely recommended awareness-raising approach. A two-cycle qualitative utterance analysis was conducted to determine how pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic abilities of the students in both treatment groups evolved after the intervention. In addition, three trained expert judges evaluated students' pragmatic performance to complement the findings of the qualitative utterance analysis. To determine which pedagogical features of the formula-enhanced approach make it more effective, eight instructional treatment sessions were observed, and the recorded classroom episodes were qualitatively analyzed. The results showed that formula-enhanced pragmatics instruction can help L2 learners achieve higher levels of both pragmatic and grammatical proficiency by contributing to lexical richness and nativelikeness of expression and preventing negative transfer from the first language or overreliance on the same formula when producing various speech acts. The findings of the classroom observation analysis revealed that the main pedagogical advantage of the formula-enhanced approach is that it provides L2 learners with multiple opportunities to build appropriate form-function-context connections which can facilitate higher levels of cognitive processing of input leading to bottom-up discovery of the target pragmatic conventions and long-term retention of nativelike pragmatic formulas.






Carleton University

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Doctor of Philosophy: 

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Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies

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Theses and Dissertations

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