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LINGUIST List 21.4272

Wed Oct 27 2010

Diss: Pragmatics: Osimo: 'Mitigating Strategies in the Pragmatic ...'

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        1.     Helen Osimo , Mitigating Strategies in the Pragmatic Interlanguage of Pre-service Teachers of English: Focus on formulaic chunks

Message 1: Mitigating Strategies in the Pragmatic Interlanguage of Pre-service Teachers of English: Focus on formulaic chunks
Date: 27-Oct-2010
From: Helen Osimo <helen.osimonetvision.net.il>
Subject: Mitigating Strategies in the Pragmatic Interlanguage of Pre-service Teachers of English: Focus on formulaic chunks
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Institution: University of Haifa
Program: Department of English Language and Literature
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Helen Osimo

Dissertation Title: Mitigating Strategies in the Pragmatic Interlanguage of Pre-service Teachers of English: Focus on formulaic chunks

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Dennis Kurzon

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation addresses two areas of linguistics: mitigation as a
pragmatic strategy, and formulaic language as a linguistic device. It
examines to what extent mitigation is part of the pragmatic interlanguage
of a population of English teachers in training, in a foreign language
setting, with regard to recognition and production of formulaic mitigating
devices.

In most of the literature, mitigation is treated as part of politeness
phenomenon. The view taken in this work is that mitigation is a distinct
and cohesive strategy adopted to reduce severity of perlocutionary effects,
particularly in interactions which involve oppositional speech acts. I draw
on the research of Aijmer (1996), Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford (1990),
Blum-Kulka et al. (1989), Brown and Levinson (1987), Caffi (2007), Fraser
(1980), Locher and Watts (2005) and Tannen (1993) to establish a cohesive
model of mitigation. This includes a frame of conditions, patterns of head
act modification and mitigating strategies. The model then serves as a
construct on which to map a target set of formulaic mitigators.

In the growing body of research on formulaic language, pragmatic functions
of formulae have been under-researched, specifically with regard to
formulae for mitigation. Proceeding from the research of Moon (1998),
Nattinger and DeCarrico (1992), Schmitt (2004), Wray (2002) among others,
I set out criteria for defining a pragmatic category of 'formulaic
mitigating chunks' (FMCs), exemplified by a target set of items and
categorized according to their mitigating functions (minimization,
forewarning, understatement, etc.).

The empirical study is comprised of two stages. Stage I concerns the
validity of a set of pragmalinguistic items as salient mitigators with a
triangulation procedure: confirmation of the status of formulaicity from
the literature, corpora searches for frequency, and native speaker
preferences.

Stage II, part 1 examines the effects of one year of natural exposure on
the recognition of FMCs of 82 first-, second- and third- year students.
Tests were administered at the beginning and end of one academic year as a
cross-sectional, longitudinal investigation. A significant difference was
found between the amount of time spent in the program and recognition of
the target set. In stage II, part 2 of the study, oppositional interactions
- complaints and criticisms - produced by learners are analyzed for
mitigating devices. Data of naturally-occurring interactions with faculty
in e-mail exchanges, recorded interviews, feedback questionnaires and
verbal comments were collected from six subjects. This qualitative analysis
suggests that pragmatic failure is mainly due to pragmalinguistic and not
sociolinguistic deficiencies, seen in the many attempts at indirectness
which, while not target-like, demonstrate awareness of target-language norms.

Thus, in an EFL setting, even where studies and communication are conducted
in the target language, natural exposure over three years is insufficient
for incidental learning of mitigating devices to take place to prevent
occurrences of pragmatically deviant moves. This dissertation joins the
body of research on Interlanguage Pragmatics and calls for explicit
metapragmatic intervention and conscious modeling of pragmalinguistic
devices in second language pedagogy. Formulaic mitigating chunks should
take their place alongside other well-documented, canonical mitigating
devices in the construction of a pragmatic syllabus.



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