"Third Language Learners: Pragmatic Production & Awareness" (review)
- FYI (fwd from Linguist list)... DZO
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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