Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 14:39:20 +0800 (CST) From: Qichang Ye , Zhuanglin Hu Subject: Third Language Learners: Pragmatic Production and Awareness
AUTHOR: Safont Jorda, Maria Pilar TITLE: Third Language Learners SUBTITLE: Pragmatic Production and Awareness SERIES: Second Language Acquisition 12 PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2005
Zhuanglin Hu, School of Foreign Languages, Peking University
Qichang Ye, Department of English, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Beijing Jiaotong University
The book tries to provide a bridge between two applied linguistics subfields, namely those of interlanguage pragmatics and third language acquisition (henceforth: TLA). It examines the production and identification of request acts formulas on the part of bilingual learners of English in the Valencian Community (Spain). This area is officially considered a bilingual region where both Catalan and Castilian are employed. In this context, English learning is a different perspective, a third language acquisition (p. 1), a unique phenomenon positioned somewhere between the two ends of the traditional dichotomy: English as a foreign language (henceforth: EFL) and English as a second language (henceforth: ESL). Therefore, the issues in TLA include: language transfer from the first language or the second language (henceforth: L2) to the third language (henceforth: L3), metalinguistic knowledge and creative thinking, interactional competence, the age factor and immersion pedagogy.
Safont Jorda's study is divided into two parts. The first part contains three chapters (1-3), reviewing the theoretical background and the sociolinguistic context where the experiment was conducted, while the second part (4-9) has six ones on several aspects of the empirical study.
Chapter 1 presents a review of research in TLA and its defining characteristics as related to but also distinguished from two other areas: those of second language acquisition (henceforth: SLA) and bilingualism (p. 2). Often bilingualism is considered to relate to TLA mainly in two ways. Firstly, the findings obtained by bilingualism studies may facilitate the understanding of the processes underlying TLA. Secondly, bilingualism may provide with further information on those processing mechanisms TLA learners may resort to as bilingual speakers (p. 3).
TLA is often understood as those languages learned after a second one, which may imply a third, fourth or fifth language (p. 11). However, TLA cannot be seen as a simple adding of another language to EFL or ESL; on the contrary, TLA possesses its own characteristics: (1) non-linearity, (2) language maintenance, (3) individual variation, (4) interdependence and quality change (p. 12) In contrast to SLA which is usually regarded as linear by second language researchers, the third language researchers argue for non-linearity in multilingual processes on the basis of biological growth studies (p. 12) due to the factors of language attrition, language maintenance, and individual variation. These phenomena imply that TLA should be viewed from a dynamic perspective, including variation and interaction among its defining features and influencing factors (p. 13).
The interaction of specific features in TLA can be explored by focusing on the existing relationships among those languages known by learners. This interdependence characterizing third language learning demands considering learners' first, second and third languages as a whole linguistic system (pp. 13-14). Accordingly, multilingualism cannot be interpreted as a mere quantitative change in the languages known to bilingual learners, rather it is a qualitative linguistic change in TLA (p. 14).
This view is also the result arising from the comparison between SLA and TLA. As a common practice, multilingual acquisition is often considered to be a simple variation on bilingualism and SLA. Nevertheless, they are different in several aspects. Based on Cenoz (2000), these differences are: (1) the order in which languages are learned; (2) sociolinguistic factors, and (3) the psycholinguistic processes involved (p. 18).
In SLA, few possibilities of variation exist as far as order of acquisition is concerned; while in TLA, the possibilities for order variation increase a great deal (p. 19). Sociolinguistic difference refers to a set of contextual and linguistic factors influencing third language competence and performance (p. 19).
The third factor influencing TLA is the psychological processes involved (p. 21). These psychological processes will, according to the author, highlight TLA research, since the studies of those processes have analyzed the interlanguage of bilingual and multilingual learners (p. 37). The two interrelated aspects (metalinguistic awareness and interlanguage pragmatics) constitute the focus of this research.
As a key component in language-learning and a crucial issue in TLA, metalinguistic awareness "is the ability to think flexibly and abstractly about the language; it refers to an awareness of the formal linguistic features of language and ability to reflect thereupon. Metalinguistic awareness allows the individual to step back from the comprehension or production of an utterance in order to consider the linguistic form and structure underlying the meaning of the utterance. To be metalinguistically aware, then, is to know how to approach and solve certain types of problems which themselves demand certain cognitive and linguistic skills"(Malakoff, 1992: 518)(p. 41).
As the title of this book suggests, another focus of the research is interlanguage pragmatics (including interactional competence). Interlanguage pragmatics is concerned with the pragmatic competence and performance of second and foreign language learners, especially the non- native speaker's use and acquisition of pragmatic knowledge in/of the target language (p. 67). Around these two interrelated topics, the questions the author wants to answer are: (1) How do the learners' first and second languages influence L3 production? (2) To what extent will learners' linguistic and cultural background affect L3 production? (p. 39).
Chapter 2 deals with the field of interlanguage pragmatics. After introducing some of the most influential theories and frameworks for interlanguage pragmatists, the chapter focuses on developmental perspectives and speech acts production (the speech act of requesting).
Several versions of communicative competence arose from different criticisms raised against the Chomskyan notion of linguistic competence. Here the author pays special attention to Celce-Murcia et al.'s (1995) model of communicative competence (p. 54), since this model has direct influence on the author's own research. The model comprises five constituents: linguistic competence, actional competence; sociocultural competence; discourse competence and strategic competence, and all these are interrelated. The central component in this model is discourse competence. All four subcomponents are influenced by the strategic competence as the knowledge and use of communication strategies (p. 55). In the author's view, a model of pragmatic competence should be: "On the one hand, a model of this sort should be explanatory enough to account for all competencies involved in its operation. In so doing, it would help us to ascertain how to foster foreign language learners' communicative competence. On the other hand, it should also present the kind of relationship that exists among its constitutions and its effect on the learners' overall communicative process"(pp. 56-57). Without doubt, accounting for third language learners' pragmatic production and awareness will expand the scope of the research on the acquisition of pragmatic competence (p. 83).
Chapter 3 describes the sociolinguistic context in the Valencian Community (p. 85). The two aims of this chapter are: The first aim is to offer a sociolinguistic description of the community in which the informants of our study live, the second, to offer further information on our informants' linguistic background.
Chapter 4 is devoted to describing in detail the methodological aspects of the present study: the informants' characteristics, the elicitation procedures and the methodological decisions taken in the data analysis. Participants in the present study were 160 female students from Jaume I University based in Castello, who were engaged in an English for Academic Purpose course which lasted one semester (p. 101). These subjects were from different regions within the same community, with half a number of the subjects studying Industrial Design Technical Engineering, the other half studying Primary Teacher Education.
In order to examine the subjects' knowledge of request-act formulations, the author first distributed a pre-test which contained several prompts or scenarios that aimed at eliciting requests strategies (p. 104). A comparison was made between results from this task and those of a post- test that was administered after the study had taken place in order to ascertain the effects of instruction on the subjects' use of request formulations (p. 105). To consider the learners' pragmatic awareness, a discourse-evaluation test in the form of discourse completion text (henceforth: DCT) was also used (p. 106). After the administration of the tests and tasks mentioned before (i.e. pre-test, Role-play 1 and DCT 1), the instructional period was started, which was to teach pragmatic items explicitly in the classroom (p. 107). Parametric tests, especially the paired t-test statistical analysis, were employed during the whole research process involved in the present study (p. 112).
Chapter 5 handles the role of instruction in English learners' pragmatic production. the author claims that "Pragmatic production should be based on criteria of appropriateness"(p. 114), where appropriateness should be evaluated on two aspects: knowledge about the language and about how to use it (p. 131). The following hypothesis was proposed:
(1) Pragmatic instruction will affect the learners' degree of pragmatic competence (p. 114).
Hypothesis 1 concerns the effect of pragmatic instruction on the learners' performance. The results showed that the learners' pragmatic competence was influenced by the instructional period they were engaged in. "The effects of instruction pointed to positive outcomes, as a trend towards polite behaviour in the use of request strategies was illustrated by means of an increase in the use of conventionally indirect strategies and a decrease in the use of direct formulations"(p. 126). At the same time, the results demonstrated that instruction not only affects pragmatic production, but it also seems to play a role in pragmatic awareness (p. 128).
Chapter 6 examines the influence of learners' proficiency level in their use of request realizations and peripheral modification items. In order to obtain data concerning participants' requestive behaviour, different elicitation techniques are employed, leading to the following hypothesis:
(2) There will be a mismatch between beginner and intermediate learners on those developmental stages concerning grammatical and pragmatic competence (p. 132).
Hypothesis 2 is specified in the following Research Questions (RQ): RQ1: Will there be a great difference between intermediate and beginner learners in their overall performance? RQ2: Will their level be connected to a particular type of linguistic request realization? RQ3: Will there be any difference in their global use of peripheral elements accompanying the request head act? RQ4: Will beginner bilinguals outperform beginner monolinguals? Will this also be case with intermediate bilingual and monolingual participants? (p. 132.)
The results partly disconfirmed Hypothesis 2, as no mismatch was found between the intermediate and beginner learners' linguistic and pragmatic competence (p. 138). Nevertheless, the results are in line with previous studies dealing with the use of requests by learners at different proficiency levels and with longitudinal studies addressing learners at a beginner level (p. 138).
Chapter 7 deals with the role of the elicitation method used. Three different task types are employed here: those of a written production test, an oral production task and an awareness-raising task. The hypothesis proposed in this chapter is:
(3) The task performed, whether it be an oral or a written task (i.e. role- play vs. discourse-completion test) will affect the choice and use of request realizations (p. 141).
As in the case of the two previous chapters, Hypothesis 3 is formulated into several research questions: RQ1: Will learners use a wider range of request-head peripheral elements in the oral production task? RQ2: Will the discourse-completion task elicit more request realization strategies than the open role-play task? RQ3: Will bilingual learners outperform monolingual ones in the oral and written task? (p. 141).
The experiment results indicated that learners seemed to employ a wider range of linguistic request formulae in the discourse-completion test than in the Role-play task (p. 142), and these differences are statistically significant. What is contrary to hypothesis is that a wider use of modification devices was found in the written than in the oral task, the difference being statistically significant (p. 144). However, this phenomenon is task- dependent (p. 147). That showed that the nature of the task learners were required to carry out influenced their pragmatic production.
Chapter 8 is devoted to analyzing another aspect of the learners' pragmatic competence, that of pragmatic awareness. The author wants to consider the extent to which pragmatic awareness may be more developed in third than in second/foreign language learners of English. The participants' linguistic background is the focus of this chapter, and the following hypothesis is proposed.
(4) Bilingual learners studying English as a third language will show a higher degree of pragmatic awareness than monolingual learners (p. 153).
Hypothesis 4 demands answers to the following research questions: RQ1: To what extent will bilingual learners' awareness differ from that of monolingual subjects? RQ2: Will bilingual subjects provide a wider range of reasons to justify their judgments than monolingual learners? RQ3: Will bilingual subjects provide more suggestions for the inappropriate expressions they are required to evaluate than monolingual subjects? RQ4: Will bilingual subjects offer more reasons related to politeness phenomena in justifying their evaluation than monolingual learners? RQ5: Will bilingual learners identify inappropriate and appropriate request linguistic realizations more successfully than monolingual subjects? RQ6: Will bilingualism affect pragmatic production? (p. 154).
The results showed a global advantage of bilingual over monolingual learners of English as a foreign language regarding both pragmatic production and pragmatic awareness (p. 159-160).
Chapter 9 summarizes the theoretical implications deriving from the findings described from Chapters 5 to 8, and puts forward suggestions for further research related to the fields of interlanguage pragmatics and TLA. At the same time, the author points out the possible directions for further studies in third language research.
As one of the series of SLA, the author's study has empirically demonstrated the distinctive features of TLA. It is an important and timely book at the intersection of interlanguage pragmatics and TLA. It represents original research. This study and the studies of this sort are original in the sense that it does not treat language acquisition as isolate skills training, but as a dynamic system of interactive features of various subsystems. The author repeatedly stresses that TLA (or: language learning) is not merely a quantitative but a qualitative change (p. 13-4, p.56-7, p.161). In view of this, multilingualism cannot be interpreted as a mere quantitative change in the languages known to bilingual learners, but "we are facing a qualitative rather than quantitative linguistic change in TLA" (p. 14).
Interlanguage is usually treated as a continuum (Larsen-Freeman & Long 1991), and continuum implies a semiotic process. Semiosis is always an integrative process involving different factors that interact in a complicated fashion. Thibault (2004a, 2004b) has successfully demonstrated that meaning-making is always an integrative process. The strength of Safont Jorda's research just lies in this fact. Certainly, however, a research cannot be all-embracing; it always leaves some aspects to be desired, and Jorda's study is not an exception in this regard.
Firstly, Hypothesis 1 in Chapter 5 concerns the effect of pragmatic instruction on the learners' performance. However, in our view, the whole enterprise of language education is built on this premise, it is axiomatic rather than hypothetical. Secondly, the subjects in this study were all female, the author herself also admitted that the research addressed only female participants of a similar age group (p. 170). Tannen (1991) points out that women and men talks differently. Upon her argumentation, it goes without saying that women will use more indirect requests than men do. In this sense, the author's experiment is not sufficient in explaining the pragmatic competence of the third language learners in the Valencian community. Thirdly, though the importance of qualitative change in TLA research is emphasized, yet the cultural factors are seldom touched upon in the author's study. How to do things with words is always the case in which a social person tells somebody something in a particular way. Van Lier (1995: xi) tells us that language awareness can be understood as "an understanding of the human faculty of language and its role in thinking, learning and social life. It includes an awareness of power and control through language, and of the intricate relationships between language and culture". In this sense, metalinguistic awareness is to understand not only the linguistic form and structure but also the context in which the utterance takes place. From this perspective, the learners' reflexive element has to be included in this awareness.
Celce-Murcia, M. Dörnyei, Z. and Thurrell, S. (1995) Communicative competence: A pedagogically motivated model with content specifications. Issues in Applied Linguistics 6, 5-35.
Cenoz, J. (2000) Research on multilingual acquisition, In J. Cenoz and U. Jessner (eds.) English in Europe: The Acquisition of a Third Language. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
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Tannen, Deborah (1991) You Just Don't Understand. London: Virago Press.
Thibault, Paul J. (2004a) Brain, Mind, and the Signifying Body: An Ecosocial Semiotic Theory London/New York: Continuum.
Thibault, Paul J. (2004b) Agency and Consciousness in Discourse London/New York: Continuum.
van Lier, Leo (1995) Introducing Language Awareness London: Penguin Books Ltd.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWERS
Zhuanglin Hu is Professor, School of Foreign Languages, at Peking University. His main areas of interest are semiotics, pragmatics, functional linguistics, discourse analysis and the studies of metaphor.
Qichang Ye is Associate Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, at Beijing Jiaotong University. His areas of interest are semiotics, functional linguistics, discourse analysis and applied linguistics.