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"Third Language Learners: Pragmatic Production & Awareness" (review)

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  • Don Osborn
    FYI (fwd from Linguist list)... DZO Date: 27-Aug-2005 From: Qichang Ye Subject: Third Language Learners AUTHOR: Safont Jorda, Maria Pilar
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 29 10:39 PM
      FYI (fwd from Linguist list)... DZO

      Date: 27-Aug-2005
      From: Qichang Ye <yqc58@...>
      Subject: Third Language Learners

      AUTHOR: Safont Jorda, Maria Pilar
      TITLE: Third Language Learners
      SUBTITLE: Pragmatic Production and Awareness
      SERIES: Second Language Acquisition 12
      PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
      YEAR: 2005
      Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/16/16-1171.html

      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
      languageacquisition (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 transferfrom 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 thesociolinguistic 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 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 the number of 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 experimental 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 the 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
      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 studies of this sort
      are original in the sense that they do 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

      First, 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 talk 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 a 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.

      Larsen-Freeman, Diane & Michael H. Long (1991) An Introduction to
      Second Language Acquisition Research London: Longman.

      Malakoff, M. E. (1992) Translation ability: A natural bilingual and
      metalinguistic skill. In J. Harris (ed.) Cognitive Processing in
      Bilinguals. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

      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.


      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
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