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LINGUIST List 24.3974

Thu Oct 10 2013

Diss: Spanish, Applied Ling, Pragmatics, Socioling, Lang Acq: Welch: 'The Emergence of Pragmatic Softeners ...'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <xiyanlinguistlist.org>

Date: 09-Oct-2013
From: Catharine Welch <cwelchuta.edu>
Subject: The Emergence of Pragmatic Softeners in Spanish by Instructed Learners of Spanish in the Study Abroad and Immersion Contexts
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Institution: University of Texas at Arlington
Program: Department of Linguistics and TESOL
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Catharine M Welch

Dissertation Title: The Emergence of Pragmatic Softeners in Spanish by Instructed Learners of Spanish in the Study Abroad and Immersion Contexts

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): Spanish (spa)

Dissertation Director:
Laurel Smith Stvan

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation explores and expands the term pragmatic softening as
produced and perceived by L2 learners of Spanish. The learners included 36
intermediate-level learners studying in a U.S.-based immersion academy and
those studying in a study-abroad context in Merida, Mexico. Preliminary
evidence from these learners indicates that pragmatic softeners are rightly
included in Anderson and Shirai's (1996) theory as a marginal member of the
PAST category that is acquired after the more central member—the deictic
past—has been acquired. Additionally, it is argued that the term pragmatic
softening itself needs to be fleshed out so that it, too, is divided into
its subcomponents just as the deictic past is broken down. Based on the
data in this study, it is also suggested that among these subcomponents
would exist some sort of an acquisitional sequence of the seven PAST
pragmatic softeners, since they are acquired at different rates and times.

This dissertation also explores whether grammatical competency and
prescriptive knowledege (as measured by production of the conditional and
past subjunctive) had any bearing on the production of pragmatic softeners.
It is determined that the students who answered prescriptive knowledge
questions correctly were more likely to also produce pragmatic softeners.

Some clear trends are observed in learner perception of pragmatic softener
appropriateness, as well. Some of these trends, however, are not congruent
with native speaker evaluations.

Finally, the question of whether language-learning context shaped pragmatic
softener acquisition is addressed. It is determined that the immersion
students were more likely to fluctuate in their production of and attitude
towards pragmatic softeners than the study abroad group. The immersion
group was also more likely to use other mitigating devices on the oral task.

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