Variation in Interlanguage Speech Act Realization

Date
1988
Authors
Kasper, Gabriele
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Abstract
COMPARED TO OTHER AREAS of second language research, interlanguage (IL) pragmatics is still a young discipline. The first studies into nonnative speakers' (NNS) perception and performance of speech acts appeared ten years ago, both in North America (e.g. Borkin and Reinhart 1978) and Europe (Hackmann 1977). Since then, a number of investigations into IL speech act realization have been conducted, examining how different types of speech acts are performed by NNSs with a variety of language backgrounds and target languages (cf. the overview in Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper, in press a). While the information collected by these empirical studies contributes significantly to our understanding of speech act realization across cultures and languages, it seems timely to take a more theoretical view of IL pragmatics, in order toreexamine some central notions and to suggest some directions for future research. This paper, then, has the following goals: (1) To provide some conceptual clarification of the notions 'pragmatics' and 'speech act', and to determine the type of variability that is most interesting in the context of IL pragmatics. (2) To identify NNSs' learning tasks in their acquisition of pragmatic knowledge, as a prerequisite for outlining some of the central research tasks for IL pragmaticists. (3) Based on some results from a descriptive study into IL speech act realization, to discuss what further research questions such results suggest with regard to explaining variability in IL pragmatics.
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