The Ability To Perform Speech Acts English Language Essay

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As various models of communicative competence make apparent, communicating effectively and efficiently in any given language requires more than just linguistic knowledge. The ability to use this linguistic knowledge appropriately in the given sociocultural context is also essential. Hence, pragmatics is an indispensable aspect of language ability in order for second language (L2) learners to understand and be understood in their interactions with native speakers (NSs). Despite this logical connection, pragmatics has long been a neglected area in second language acquisition (SLA) research. This is ironical when one considers that pragmatics is firmly established as a critical research area in first language (L1) development. It is only recently that pragmatics has been recognized as a legitimate focus of inquiry in mainstream SLA research, and considerable progress in understanding the pragmatic aspects of language has been made. However, because most L2 pragmatic studies have been comparative or contrastive in nature, primarily looking at learners' language use rather than development (Kasper, 1996; Rose, 1997), much remains to be learned about the acquisitional processes of L2 pragmatics.

In Response to this need for more research on acquisitional pragmatics, Jong (2005) introduces four issues necessary for pragmatics development as follows: (a) provide an overview of what learners need to know to be pragmatically competent [1] , (b) review theoretical models of pragmatic development, (c) discuss the major processes of pragmatic competence, and (d) identify various factors that have been suggested to play a role in pragmatic competence, and (d) identify various factors that have been suggested to play a role in pragmatic development from stage to stage.

What Do Learners Have to Acquire in Order to Be Pragmatically Competent?

The Ability to Perform Speech Acts

Numerous studies have recognized that the ability of learners to use appropriate speech acts in a given speech event and to select appropriate linguistic forms to realize this speech act is a major component of pragmatic competence. As early as 1979, Rintell asserted that "pragmatics is the study of speech acts", arguing that L2 learner pragmatic ability is reflected in how learners produce utterances to communicate "specific intentions," and conversely, how they interpret the intentions which these utterances convey (p. 98). Fraser (1983) also describes pragmatic competence as the knowledge of how an addressee determines what a speaker is saying and recognizes intended illocutionary force conveyed through subtle "attitudes" (p. 30) in the speaker's utterance. Among empirical studies of speech act behavior, Cohen (1996b) lists studies of the Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP) as the most comprehensive studies, both in depth and breadth. These studies compared the speech act performance of NSs of different languages with that of learners of those languages (Blum-Kulka, House, & Kasper, 1989). One of the consistent findings in these studies is that, although the typology of speech acts appears to be universal, their conceptualization and verbalization can vary to a great extent across cultures and languages. In other words, L2 learners may have access to the same range of speech acts and realization strategies as do NSs (Fraser, Rintell, & Walters, 1980; Walters, 1979), but they can differ from NSs in the strategies that they choose. Therefore, it is clear that L2 learners must be aware of L2 sociocultural constraints on speech acts in order to be pragmatically competence.

On the most general level, the acceptable situational circumstances for a particular speech act are culturally relative. Examples abound. While Americans often use indirect complaints (complaints not directly about the addressee) as a solidarity strategy, Japanese learners of English tend to avoid this speech act because it is perceived to be face-threatening behavior and problematical in their L1 (Boxer, 1993).

In addition to culturally acceptable mappings of speech events to speech acts at the macro-level, choosing appropriate pragmatic strategies is necessary for speech act ability. Wolfson (1981) noted a tendency among middle-class Americans to make their compliments original and less formulaic in order to convey sincerity, while Arabic speakers prefer proverbs and ritualized phrases. In a study of compliment responses performed by native speakers of Mandarin Chinese and of American English, Chen (1993) found an overwhelming preference for rejection of compliments by Chinese speakers as compared to Americans.

Learners also have to be aware of differences in the linguistic forms that an L1 and an L2 use in realizing pragmatic strategies. According to Schmidt and Richards (1980), Czech speakers may not identify the English modals can and could as indicating a request; Japanese speakers may not recognize the English conditional form would as carrying imperative force; and speakers of Spanish, Hebrew, Swahili, and Yiddish may perceive the construction Let's as ungrammatical. Some researchers have focused on specific semantic formulas or combination of formulas and found cross-cultural differences in: (a) preference for a particular semantic formula by Hebrew learners of English (Olshtain, 1983), (b) sequencing and frequency of semantic formulas by Japanese learners of English (Beebe, Takahashi, & Uliss-Weltz, 1990), and (c) choice of head semantic formulas by Korean learners of English (Murphy & Neu, 1996), and so on.

So far, what L2 learners must know for successful speech act performance has been presented in a "top-down processing" manner (Kasper, 1984, p. 3): learners first have to recognize the extra-linguistic, cultural constraints that operate in a NSs' choice of a particular speech act appropriate to the context. They also have to know how to realize this speech act at the linguistic level and in accordance with the L2 sociocultural norms. Cohen (1996a) terms this "sociocultural knowledge:" a "speaker's ability to determine whether it is acceptable to perform the speech act at all in the given situation and, if so, to select one or more semantic formulas that would be appropriate in the realization of the given speech act" (p. 254).

The Ability to Convey and Interpret Non-literal Meanings

Simply put, pragmatics is the study of the relationship between linguistic forms and their uses, whereas semantics, which is closely related to pragmatics, is the study of the relationship between linguistic forms and their referents. Grice (1975) distinguishes between sentence meaning which refers to the propositional meaning of an utterance, and speaker meaning which refers to the indirectly conveyed meaning beyond the surface-level linguistic forms of an utterance. From this perspective, pragmatic competence is concerned with the ability to bridge the gap between sentence meaning and speaker meaning in order to interpret the indirectly expressed communicative intention. The process by which interlocutors arrive at speaker meaning involves inferencing, which is guided by a set of rational and universal principles that all participants are expected to observe for successful communication, namely, the Cooperative Principle. According to Carrell (1984), "one aspect of pragmatic competence in an L2 is the ability to draw correct inferences" (p.1). Fraser (1983) also includes the ability to interpret figurative language as part of pragmatics because utterances that are overt and deliberate violations of the conversational maxims (e.g., the future is now as a violation of the maxim Quality, I wasn't born yesterday as a violation of Quantity) require the ability to recognize and interpret conversational implicature.

The Ability to Perform Politeness Functions

Brown and Levinson (1992) posit universal principles for linguistic politeness based on a social rationale. As Leech (1983) and Thomas (1995) note, indirectness increases the degree of optionality and negotiability on the part of hearer and thereby reduces the imposition on the hearer. However, as a number of cross-cultural pragmatic studies on politeness point out, the application of this principle differs systematically across cultures and languages. Similarly, House and Kasper (1981) observed that German speakers generally selected more direct politeness than Americans when requesting and complaining. Wierzbicka (1985) found that some Polish requests use the imperative form as a mild directive when in English this might be considered rude. All these studies demonstrate that the ability to choose the appropriate linguistic directness with reference to the L2 norm is crucial for pragmatic competence.

Politeness phenomena have been studied from multidimensional perspectives (Fraser, 1990). Among them, a number of studies indicate that social-indexing or social discernment - manifested by systematic linguistic variation along various social dimensions - is one of the universal principles for politeness. For example, power affects the level of directness of English requests used by Hebrew learners (Blum-Kulka, Danet, & Gerson, 1985), distance affects the level of directness (Ervin-Tripp, 1976) and the length of English requests by NSs (Wolfson, 1986) and French learners (Harlow, 1990), status affects the level of directness of various types of face-threatening acts by Japanese learners of English (Beebe & T. Takahashi, 1989a; Beebe et al., 1990), and age affects utterance length in thanking behavior by ESL learners (V. Cook, 1985), and so on.

Indeed, virtually all languages have forms of social-indexing (Hill, Ide, Ikuta, Kawasaki, & Ogino, 1986). However, the level of sensitivity to social factors when determining linguistic directness is clearly subject to cross-cultural variation. For example, in Japanese the use of polite expressions is more normative and prescriptive than in English. That is, in Japanese there exists a much stronger link between the relative social status of interlocutors and appropriateness of linguistic forms than in English because the choice of linguistic forms in Japanese inherently carries social information (Fukushima, 1990; Ide, 1989; Matsumoto, 1988, 1989). However, in contrast to Japanese, Yeung (1997) found that Chinese speakers' use of polite requests in English was only significantly influenced by the factor of imposition. Yeung suggests that this is due to L1 influence in that unlike Japanese or Korean where linguistic choice is strictly governed by the relative status of the interlocutors, Cantonese is not an honorific language.

Face-saving - the mutual monitoring of potential threats to interlocutor face and the devising of strategies to maintain face - is another notion of politeness posited as a universal phenomenon. From this perspective, politeness is conceptualized as strategic conflict avoidance. Once again, a concern that arises here for L2 learners is that the conceptualization of face varies across cultures. In other words, Brown and Levinson's (1992) notion of positive and negative face is not applicable to all cultures and languages. For example, in questioning Brown and Levinson's claim that Japanese culture is negative-politeness oriented, Matsumoto (1988) argues that what is characteristic of Japanese culture is its emphasis on acknowledging one's relative position in society and not the rule not to impose on individual freedom of action, thus making the Japanese concept of face "concern for social interrelationship" (p. 405).

Agreeing with Matsumoto, Mao (1994) proposes a new definition of face, "the relative face orientation," consisting of two types of face - individual and social face (p. 471). For example, the Igbo of Nigeria have a dual notion of face: "individual face" which refers to one's own desires and "group face" which refers to one's need to observe socially prescribed ways of behavior (Nwoye, 1992, p. 326). In Greek society, the distinction between "in-group" and "outgroup" has great importance. Since Greeks emphasize the in-group relationship, requests that might be face-threatening under the same circumstances in another culture imply no imposition in Greek culture at all - e.g., I'm taking a cigarette. Whose are they? (Sifianou, 1993, p. 71). Likewise, Ewe-speaking Africans use a genuine apology when someone has hurt himself/herself, whereas English speakers would use a sympathy expression. This is because of Ewe group- oriented culture; Ewe speakers believe that others' unhappiness is also their responsibility (Ameka, 1987). To summarize, Brown and Levinson's claim that there are universal principles of politeness does not seem to be valid. For instance, their notion of face is individualistic in nature and therefore cannot be applied to non-Western cultures which emphasize group harmony rather than individual autonomy. Indeed, encoding and decoding politeness is achieved in culturally specific ways. Therefore, in developing pragmatic competence, learners have to become familiar with the cultural ethos associated with politeness as shared by members of the L2 community.

The Ability to Perform Discourse Functions

Most of the time, achievement of communicative intent in naturally occurring conversation requires a number of turns at talk between two interlocutors. Accordingly, as Blum-Kulka (1997b) points out, "a full pragmatic account would need to consider the various linguistic and paralinguistic signals by which both participants encode and interpret each other's utterances" (p. 49). Van Dijk (1981) also extends the notion of speech act to apply to a sequence of utterances constituting a stretch of discourse, that is, the "macro speech act" (p. 195). Kasper (2001a) notes that speech act performance is often jointly accomplished throughout the whole discourse through a sequencing of implicit illocutionary acts rather than any explicit expression of the communicative intent. For this reason, Celce-Murcia and Olshtain (2000) express the concern that learners need to be aware of discourse differences between their L1 and the L2 in order to acquire pragmatic competence. At the observable behavioral level, what should L2 learners acquire in order to communicate their intentions successfully in discourse? It seems that two types of discourse management ability are at work: (a) the ability to interpret and fill the discourse slot as L2 conversational norms dictate, and (b) the ability to recognize and produce discourse markers correctly in terms of their pragmatic functions.

The Ability to Use Cultural Knowledge

The four aspects of pragmatic competence discussed so far considerably overlap with each other. In other words, they do not operate independently but interact with each other in complicated and yet systematic ways that govern learner linguistic behavior. More importantly, specific L2 culture-bound knowledge has been discussed as a deciding factor that underlies different aspects of pragmatic ability. This places culture at the heart of L2 pragmatic competence. Jiang's (2000) metaphor effectively captures the nature of language and culture as a whole: "communication is like transportation: language is the vehicle and culture is the traffic light" (p. 329). Considering that culture regulates all language use and that every conversational exchange between a learner and a NS of a language is a form of intercultural encounter (Richards & Sukwiwat, 1983), second language acquisition is indeed "second culture acquisition" (Robinson-Stuart & Nocon, 1996). Although some traditional pedagogies assume L2 culture learning to be a natural consequence of L2 language learning (as it is in L1 acquisition), others consider culture to be an outcome of conscious learning. It is simplistic, however, to state that culture is important and must be learned: Cultural beliefs are subconscious systems and, therefore, it is difficult to make them explicit.

The interdisciplinary nature of pragmatic competence calls forth a need to acquire pragmatic knowledge in a holistic context, encompassing all the discrete components of pragmatic ability, including discourse management ability and, most importantly, culture (Austin, 1998). In this context, Blum-Kulka (1990a) proposes a model of "general pragmatic knowledge (GP)" where an L2 learner's GP for a speech act is organized as schema containing the L2 linguistic forms used for the speech act (p. 255). This schema, in turn, is governed by a L2 "cultural filter" (p. 256) which decides the situational appropriateness of the L2 linguistic forms. Consonant with Blum-Kulka, Wildner-Bassett (1994) advocates a solid connection between culturally bound schema, a specific situation, and an utterance appropriate to that situation: If L2 learners acquire L2 cultural knowledge about archetypal structures of speech events, they will not only be able to better understand a given speech event in general, but effectively participate in that given speech event using appropriate speech acts.

What Plays a Role In the Acquisition of Pragmatic Competence?

Grammatical Competence

One of the most consistent findings in L2 pragmatic studies is that high levels of grammatical competence do not ensure equally high levels of pragmatic competence (Bardovi- Harlig, 1999; Hoffman-Hicks, 1992). Nevertheless, as the titles of Bisshop's (1996) study "I am apologize " and Eisenstein and Bodman's (1986) study " I very appreciate " illustrate, a minimal level of grammatical competence seems to be necessary. The majority of studies that have looked at the relationship between grammatical and pragmatic competence show higher proficiency learners to be generally better at drawing inferences (Carrell, 1984), using speech act strategies (Trosborg, 1995), and comprehending illocutionary force (Koike, 1996). In short, the literature presents two generally accepted claims about the relationship between grammatical competence and pragmatic competence: (1) grammar is not a sufficient condition for pragmatic competence; however, (2) grammar is a necessary condition for pragmatic competence.

The first claim is based on the observation that a learner already knows about linguistic structures but has not yet learnt that he/she can use them as some pragmatic strategies. For example, Bardovi-Harlig and Dornyei's (1998) study showed that a learner identified as problematic the sentence If tomorrow is good for you, I could come any time you say, explaining that the past-tense verb could was used with tomorrow which made the sentence future tense. Apparently, the learner had not yet acquired the pragmatic function of the modal verb as an epistemic marker, although he had acquired the present vs. past inflections. Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford (1993) suggest that pragmatic extension of tense-mood-aspect forms to politeness markers is not acquired until core deictic (temporal) meanings have been acquired.

The second claim is based on the observation that a learner knows the appropriate pragmatic strategy for a given context, but does not know how to realize it due to limited linguistic knowledge. T. Takahashi and Beebe (1987) showed that their higher-proficiency learners were able to soften their refusals with modal adverbs, while the lower-proficiency learners tended to use direct refusals such as I can't. Attributing this to a lack of modal resources, T. Takahashi and Beebe argue that "the higher frequency of direct expressions among lower proficiency learners is not a function of NL transfer, but rather most probably a developmental stage where simpler, and also more direct, expressions are being used" (p. 150).

In Salsbury and Bardovi-Harlig's (2000) study, a Korean learner used a rather direct expression I know what you mean, but don't think so in disagreeing with her advisor. In spite of her apparent attempt to mitigate the force, her limited modal resources prevented her from making the disagreement polite. In addition to modality, a lack of knowledge of syntax also hinders developing pragmatic ability. Francis (1997) considered an ESL learner's request I, register next session, can I? a failure to complete the syntactic inversion which is necessary to make a conventionally indirect request. Francis points out a clear absence of both syntactic and lexical downgraders with lower-proficiency learners because of the linguistic complexity of such moves. Similarly, S. Takahashi's (1996) observed that her Japanese learners of EFL relied heavily on monoclausal structures in making requests and did not use biclausals (e.g., I was wondering if you, Would it be possible for you to) due to their structural complexity.

Is pragmatic competence built on a platform of grammatical competence? Or, is Koike (1989) right when she asserts, "since the grammatical competence cannot develop as quickly as the already present pragmatic concepts require, the pragmatic concepts are expressed in ways conforming to the level of grammatical complexity acquired"? (p. 286). Unfortunately, the questions still remain unanswered. As Bardovi-Harlig (1999) points out, studies have only looked at whether a failure to perform a particular pragmatic feature can be attributed to a lack of grammatical competence in a general measure, e.g., school grades, scores on a standardized proficiency test. And such an unbalanced comparison clearly is limited in its ability to explain to what extent and in what ways grammatical knowledge facilitates or impedes pragmatic development. To answer these questions, further research with an improved methodology would be necessary.


There is encouraging evidence for the teachability of pragmatics. A number of studies have reported that L2 pragmatic development profits from instruction in various areas: speech acts (Billmyer, 1990; Olshtain & Cohen, 1990), conversational implicatures (Bouton, 1994a), conversational management (Liddicoat & Crozet, 2001; Wildner-Bassett, 1984, 1986, 1994), and pragmatic fluency (House, 1996). Overall, the studies that address pedagogical interventions for teaching pragmatics can be categorized into two general teaching approaches: explicit vs. implicit teaching. Motivated by Schmidt's (1993) notions of the role of consciousness and noticing-of-the-gap, implicit teaching involves consciousness-raising activities, i.e., presenting prototypical uses of the item in meaningful contexts with or without input enhancement (to help learners notice relevant input) (Bardovi-Harlig, 1996; Bouton, 1994a; Rose, 1994; Saito & Beecken, 1997). The underlying assumption is that if learners are "encouraged to think for themselves about culturally appropriate ways" to perform speech acts, then these learners will

become aware of "their own lay abilities for pragmatic analysis" (Bardovi-Harlig et al., 1996, p. 325; Carel, 1999; Rose, 1994, 1997). Therefore, in the implicit teaching of pragmatics, the success of instruction may depend on how well it raises the learners' awareness of the rules for appropriate L2 use (Clennell, 1999; Tanaka, 1997). Explicit teaching, on the other hand, generally involves providing explicit metapragmatic information about L2 rules through explanations (Billmyer, 1990; Bouton, 1994a; House, 1996; LoCastro, 2001), metacognitive discussions (Olshtain & Cohen, 1990), and corrective feedback (Bouton, 1994b).

In recent years, several studies have examined the differential effects of these two approaches. Fukuya and Clark (cited in Kasper, 2001a) found no difference between their explicit ESL group that received metapragmatic presentations and their implicit group that received input enhancement on their use of mitigators in requesting. However, there have been more findings that point to an explicit approach as being more conducive to learning. For example, House (1996) found that German learners of English who were given metapragmatic information about the social conditions for the use of L2 routines were superior in realizing a more richly varied and more interpersonally active repertoire of gambits and strategies. Rose and Ng (2001) examined the differential effects of inductive (pragmatic analysis activities for self-discovery) versus deductive teaching (metapragmatic information through explicit instruction) on Cantonese-speaking EFL learners' acquisition of compliments and compliment- responses. Their results indicated that only the deductive group showed progress in the use of appropriate compliment-responses. Tateyama, Kasper, Mui, Tay and Thananart (1997) and Tateyama (2001) examined how beginning learners of Japanese acquired functional variations of the routine formula sumimasen as an attention getter, an expression of gratitude, or apology. They found that the explicitly taught group that discussed functions and social conditions received higher ratings in role-plays and on multiple-choice task items requiring higher formality. This showed that explicit instruction was particularly beneficial for learners learning how the choice of routine is influenced by degree of indebtedness and severity, social factors, and in-group vs. out-group distinctions.

More importantly, Tateyama et al.'s and Tateyama's studies demonstrate that higher level L2 pragmatic knowledge (the mapping of form to social context) is indeed teachable to beginners before they develop the mapping of form to function. This entails that teachers may not need to be concerned with their students' developmental readiness when they make decisions about the teachability of the item in question. Even if formal instruction cannot change the established developmental sequence (i.e., even if it is not possible to skip a stage in an established order), it still is clear that instruction accelerates progress. To conclude, irrespective of the teaching approach and agenda, the potential for instruction to promote pragmatic development seems powerful.

Input Factors

If there is no input, learning will never occur. When it comes to the learning of pragmatics, it becomes even more critical. As Kasper and Schmidt (1996) suggest, by definition pragmatic knowledge is particularly sensitive to the sociocultural features of a context. Therefore, it is not surprising that the majority of L2 pragmatic studies contend that second language learning contexts provide richer input than foreign language learning contexts and thus are more conducive to developing pragmatic ability. In T. Takahashi and Beebe's (1987) study, the amount of negative transfer was greater with Japanese EFL learners than ESL learners. Kitao (cited in Bardovi-Harlig, 2001) also found that Japanese ESL learners showed a closer approximation to NS perceptions of politeness in requests. Bardovi-Harlig and Dornyei (1998) showed that their ESL group identified more pragmatic errors and rated them as more serious than grammatical errors, while their Hungarian EFL group identified more grammatical errors and judged them as more serious than pragmatic errors.

However, in a replication study of Bardovi-Harlig and Dornyei (1998), Niezgoda and Rover (2001) reported no difference between the two types of settings: Both their lower- proficiency EFL and ESL learner groups noticed more pragmatic errors than grammatical errors and rated pragmatic errors as more serious. An interesting finding was that it was the lower- proficiency learners, not the higher-proficiency learners, who showed greater pragmatic awareness. Niezgoda and Rover suggest that development of pragmatic competence may depend more on individual learner characteristics - the degree to which they proactively attend to input and how it affects the assignment of attention to pragmatic and grammatical aspects - than on the quality or quantity of input.

Of course, foreign language learning does not necessarily mean impoverished input. For instance, Bardovi-Harlig and Dornyei's EFL learners received instruction focusing on grammar because of exam requirements, while Niezgoda and Rover's EFL learners received instruction within the communicative language teaching approach. By the same token, second language learning settings do not necessarily guarantee the availability of input (Bardovi-Harlig, 1997). For example, Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford (1996) observed that in private academic advising sessions, advanced ESL learners failed to acquire effective mitigation of their suggestions due to a lack of relevant input and explicit feedback. Even when positive input was provided by the advisor, the learners did not always utilize the available input. According to the researchers, this was probably because the learners' own developing competence had not reached a point where the positive evidence was perceived as relevant input, thus preventing them from noticing the form. Similarly, Tarone and Kuehn (2000) found that in a social service financial intake interview, a Spanish-speaking learner of English used little or no back-channeling and fewer explicit responses to directives and confirmation requests. The researchers hypothesized that the private nature of the social service interview meant that the learner did not have enough needed prior input or collaborative support to learn this new genre.

However, few would deny that ease of access to pragmatically adequate input clearly favors second language learning settings over foreign language learning settings. In foreign language learning contexts, learning occurs almost exclusively in classrooms where many teachers share the same L1 and cultural background as their students, and where only a limited range of social interactions is provided, e.g., shorter and less complex discourse organizations, minimal openings/closings, the typical IRF routine, and fewer discourse and politeness markers (Lorscher, 1986; Lorscher & Schulze, 1988). Provided that learners who are living in the host community are exposed to sufficient and adequate input, studies have investigated whether learners benefit from a longer period of residence in the L2 community. Results indicate that length of residence is positively correlated with level of achievement in various areas of pragmatic ability, e.g., conversational routines for pragmatic fluency (House, 1996), acceptance of L2-specific request strategies (Olshtain & Blum-Kulka, 1985), decreased verbosity through the use of fewer external modifications (Blum-Kulka & Olshtain, 1986), appropriate mapping of speech acts to speech events (Bardovi-Harlig & Hartford, 1993), and interpretation of conversational implicatures (Bouton, 1992, 1994b).

Taken as a whole, research has suggested that second language learning settings provide both quantitatively and qualitatively richer input than foreign language learning settings and that learners tend to show gradual convergence to NS pragmatic behavior as their length of residence increases. However, as mentioned above, whether living in the target community truly leads to a learner's intake of input is debatable due to a lack of studies which follow this specific line of inquiry. Also, the question of whether length of residence is likely to override other factors such as level of proficiency still remains unanswered.

Biological Factors

Unfortunately, as interesting as the inquiry into biological factors is, few studies touch on this issue and, thus, little is known. In their comprehensive review of interlanguage pragmatic studies, Kasper and Schmidt (1996) introduce a couple of studies that address gender as a factor in L2 learners' perception. In one, Kerekes (cited in Kasper & Schmidt, 1996) found that female learners showed a much closer approximation towards the L2 norm than did male learners in their perception of sympathy and support. In another study, however, Rintell (1984) found no gender difference in learners' perception of expressions of emotion. Although there is no absolute consensus, it is generally contended in L1 research that women are more polite (Holmes, 1993) and prefer personal concern and emotional content (Tannen, 1991). If the same applies to L2 learners, then Kerekes's findings would be more plausible than Rintell's, given that both studies deal with perception and the emotional dimensions of pragmatics.

Age, another biological factor, has received considerable attention from mainstream SLA research. One of the general contentions is that learners who begin learning an L2 after puberty are unlikely to acquire an NS level of proficiency and that, irrespective of whether NS proficiency is achieved, younger learners are more likely to reach higher levels of attainment than adults (Ellis, 1994). A number of reasons for this have been suggested, e.g., neurological, motivational, cognitive, and input factors. However, what seems to be particularly relevant to pragmatic acquisition is that younger learners appear to lend themselves more readily to dealing with the threat imposed on their identities by the adoption of L2 cultural norms because they have not yet established a fixed idea of their own social identities (Preston, 1989). Another possible explanation is that younger learners benefit more from explicit input (e.g., explicit instruction and explicit socialization) than older learners. However, adult learners' pragmatic errors are more likely to be conceived of as idiosyncratic personal traits. Therefore, they rarely receive corrective feedback.

Kim's (2000) study is probably the only study which specifically investigates the age factor in L2 pragmatic development. She compared the request and apology strategies used by Korean adult ESL learners and NSs of English through discourse completion tasks (DCTs), role- plays, and questionnaires. Her results confirmed the general findings in SLA studies that an earlier onset age, more informal input, closer cultural orientation to the L2, and more native-like performance on the tasks were all positively correlated. However, Kim's findings must be interpreted with caution in that other important factors were not controlled for in her study, e.g., she does not address learners' linguistic proficiency and length of residence, which might be strong additional factors accounting for these results. Clearly, further research is required before any conclusions can be drawn about the role that biological factors play in L2 pragmatic development.

Individual Factors

Of the various types of individual learner variables, SLA research has identified socio- affective factors such as motivation, attitude, and identity as key factors that influence learning outcomes (Ellis, 1994). Among these, integrative motivation - the learner's desire to learn the L2 to actively participate in interaction with members of the target community - seems to be particularly relevant to pragmatic development. In Schmidt's (1983) famous case study of the Japanese ESL learner Wes, Wes's high level of integrative motivation was facilitative for his development of sociolinguistic competence but not for grammatical competence. Salsbury and Bardovi-Harlig (2000) examined disagreements used by ESL learners. Although their participants EJ and MR were at the same stage in their development of linguistic competence and possessed the same range of modality markers, they differed markedly from each other in their use of acquired linguistic resources. MR, who had a higher level of desire and intention to communicate than EJ, pushed her linguistic resources to the limit. Thus, her linguistic resources were fully utilized in developing pragmatic competence, whereas EJ's were not.

However, a learner's positive attitude towards learning an L2 does not necessarily mean a positive attitude towards adopting L2 pragmatic norms, especially when these L2 norms conflict with the learner's value system about how he/she should behave. Celce-Murcia, Dornyei, and Thurrell (1995) state, "sociocultural rules and norms are so ingrained in our own identity that it is difficult to change behavior based on a new set of assumptions" (p.23). Yet, despite the fact that sociolinguists long ago provided compelling evidence that a learner identifies and presents himself/herself as a member of a particular speech community through language use (Beebe, 1977; Beebe, 1981; Beebe & Zuengler, 1983), many SLA theories draw an unnatural distinction between the learner and the learning context (Pierce, 1995). Arguing for the need to reconceptualize motivation as less individualistic and more social, Pierce (1995) proposes the notion investment as better capturing the complex relationship between a learner's motivation to learn the L2 and his/her willingness to use the L2 in pragmatically appropriate ways.

Pierce's point is well illustrated in Siegal's (1996) case study of a white American woman learning Japanese in Japan. Siegal examined how a learner's subjectivity can negatively influence his/her acquisition of L2 pragmatic competence. Requesting a professor to write a recommendation letter for her, the learner employed various L2 pragmatic strategies expressing politeness and femininity at the cost of her own ethnic identity, e.g., the use of "singing voice"

(p. 367) and the epistemic modal desh_, both of which are typically used by Japanese women and often perceived by Western women as "too silly" or "too humble" (p. 363). Throughout the interaction, however, the learner showed a dynamic co-construction of identity, corresponding to her conflicting needs to speak the L2 with pragmatic appropriateness and to get things done. For example, when the professor finally acknowledged her improvement in Japanese, the learner inappropriately used the expression of gratitude sumimasen (I'm sorry) in a context where denying the compliment would have been more polite according to the Japanese norm. She intentionally violated the L2 norm because of her subjective judgment (affected by the L2 norm) that denying the compliment would be against her goal to get the professor to write a letter of recommendation commenting on how her Japanese had improved.

LoCastro (1998) reports on her own L2 pragmatic learning. She was well aware of the need to use Japanese honorific linguistic forms engendered by the Japanese hierarchical view of society. However, her subjective position based on experiences in more egalitarian societal structures caused "demotivation" (p. 10) to learn the forms beyond a minimal range of formal politeness routines. Similarly, Cohen (1997) reports on his own pragmatic development in Japanese as a foreign language. He failed to acquire an L2 norm that requires honorific forms when speaking about a person of a higher status than the interlocutor even when the higher status person is not present. Cohen writes, "I was resisting this rule, since it seemed illogical to me" (p. 151). This unresolved conflict between a learner's conception of his/her own identity and what the L2 pragmatic norms require speakers to do often results in bi-directional transfer, creating a unique intercultural style which differs from both the L1 and L2 (Silva, 2000; Yoon, 1991). Therefore, as all of these studies show, there is no doubt that L2 pragmatic development is significantly influenced by an individual learner's psychological mechanisms.