上海交大“985 工程”外语学院二语习得研究平台 > Ph.D Programs > Chinese children EFL learners' pragmatic development

Chinese children EFL learners' pragmatic development

2009-08-23 21:41 来源: 作者: 网友评论 1 条 浏览次数 3786

作者:孙晓曦

 

导师:王同顺

 

 

Abstract

  

It is widely accepted that the pragmatic system plays a dominant role in early language development, and that the pragmatic component of language skill is essential for a complete picture of the language system throughout development. But little work in the acquisition of pragmatic competence by EFL (English as a foreign language) learners has been done, and little literature attends to Chinese children EFL learners.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the field of L2 pragmatics, the present study attempts to construct the theoretical foundation from the perspectives of both pragmatics and second language acquisition (SLA). First, rather than focusing on the production of limited range of single speech acts, such as request, gratitude and apology, the present study takes the perspective of communicative act (CA) which refers to any communicative use of speech performed by an agent in one move of interaction with the intention to be observed, understood and acknowledged by and to affect at least one communicative partner. Compared to “speech act”, CA provides a more comprehensive view of people’s use of speech. On the basis of the notion of CA, the present study refers to the analysis framework of INCA-A (Inventory of Communicative Acts- Abridged), which has been extensively used in L1 pragmatic development research, to describe and characterize the developmental phenomenonthe emerging of a CA, increasing variety of CA types, changing ways of expressing communicative intentin the L2 pragmatic development of the Chinese children EFL learners. Besides, the strategies for making request and apology, and formulaic speech observed in children’s utterances are investigated respectively since they to a large extent reveal the development of L2 pragmatic competence. Second, the present study goes further to look at how children’s L2 grammar competence influence the development of L2 pragmatic competence, for SLA is a complicated process in which many factors interrelatedly operate. Specifically, this study has focused on the following questions: (1) In what way does the tendency of development in L2 pragmatic competence show itself in the use of English by Chinese children EFL learners? (2) What are the characteristics of L2 pragmatic development of Chinese children EFL learners? (3) Are there any factors that have impact on the L2 pragmatic development of Chinese children EFL learners? If so, how do they relate with L2 pragmatic development of Chinese children EFL learners?

Based on the literature review, this study first proposed an operational definition of CA and described an analysis frameworkINCA-A for CA studies. Then both quantitative and qualitative methods are adopted to measure and describe L2 pragmatic development of the Chinese children.

The data analyzed in the present study were collected cross-sectionally at a primary school in Shanghai, China, where children begin to learn English in the classroom when they are in grade one. The collected cross-sectional data in audiotapes were translated into computerized transcripts according to the CHAT (Codes for the Human Analysis of Transcripts) format, and then were coded in accordance with the analyzing principles in INCA-A for further analysis by using CLAN (Computerized Language Analysis). The development in L2 pragmatic competence is described on the basis of analyzing the cross-sectional data with the framework of INCA-A which codes pragmatic competence at three levels: interchange, speech act and interchange-speech act combination. Besides the quantitative calculations, a qualitative analyzing procedure is also undertaken to describe children’s developing ability of performing various CAs, taking advantage of strategies to ensure the social appropriateness of the requests and apologies they make, and making use of formulaic speech to meet their communicative needs. In addition, the attention is paid to the external factor of L2 grammar competence which is believed to have a great influence on the development of L2 pragmatic competence.

Corresponding to the research questions, this study has obtained the following findings:

(1) For one thing, the children’s L2 pragmatic competence develops at the interchange level, speech act level and the combination level, since the range of interchange types, speech act types and combination types expand across the four grades. In addition, many communicative acts demonstrate an upward developing tendency at the interchange, speech act and the combination levels, while some show either downward or a waving pattern of development. What’s more, some CAs are most frequently used at the three levels across the four grades. It seems that there is a core set of CAs used by children in the interaction. Besides, children across the four grades tend to engage more in certain interchange types, speech act types and combination types that assign them an initiative position or involve them in a productive use of English. On the other hand, some types are used less and less frequently because they put children on a passive responding position. But generally, Chinese children EFL learners still cannot be considered as competent communicators in English, since the scope of CAs that they have performed is rather limited.

(2) We have found that the children across the four grades are more and more capable of taking advantage of different strategies in making request and apology for the sake of social appropriateness. It is found that more and more indirect requests are made by children across the four grades. Besides, some supportive moves begin to be supplemented by children since grade three to make their request more acceptable and polite. With regard to the performance of apology, some apology strategies are increasingly taken by children from grade three. Besides, the grade four children are aware of the identity and power of the recipient of apology, and they make more efforts to make their apologies acceptable when they offend someone who are superior.

(3) With regard to the formulaic speech, we have found that the amount of formulaic speech is increasing across the four grades in children’s expression of their communicative intents. Besides, more and more 3-word, 4-word and 5-word formulaic sequences are observed across the four grades. But in each grade the longer the sequences are the less frequently they are observed. As far as the distribution of formulaic routines (FR) and formulaic patterns (FP) in children’s utterance is concerned, besides a limited range of FRs, the children draw upon many FPs, and there is an increasing engagement of both FRs and FPs.

(4) By examining the utterances produced by children across the four grades, we find that the L2 pragmatic development of Chinese children EFL learners is greatly influenced by their L2 grammatical ability. With the buildup of their L2 grammatical knowledge and better manipulation of grammar, they are more and more capable of expressing communicative intents which are more complicated or more specific. Specifically, L2 grammatical ability development in terms of variety of grammatical structures and grammatical complexity contributes to the development of pragmatic competence, since it helps to expand the range of interchange types, speech act types and pragmatic flexibility.

    Some theoretical and pedagogical implications that the present study has for L2 pragmatic development research and English teaching and learning in the Chinese context have been suggested. In addition, some suggestions for future research have been discussed.

 

 

 

Key Words: L2 pragmatic development, Chinese children EFL learners, communicative act (CA), strategies for request and apology, formulaic speech, L2 grammar competence

 

 

 

 

 

 

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