lunedì 12 aprile 2010

Can pragmatic competence be “thaught?”

Can pragmatic competence be “thaught?”

If we follow the reasoning of the author, the simple answer to the question as formulated is “no”. Competence, whether linguistic or pragmatic, is not teachable. Competence is a type of knowledge that learners possess, develop, acquire, use or lose. There are many definitions of pragmatics around. One I find particularly useful has been proposed by David Crystal. According to him, “pragmatic is the study of language from the point of users, especially of the choices they make, the constraints they encounter in using language in social interaction and the effects their use of language has on other participants in acts of communication” (Crystal 1985, p. 240) . In other words, pragmatics is the study of communicative action in its sociocultural context. Communicative action includes not only speechs, such as requesting, greeting but also participation in conversation, engaging in different types of discourse, and sustaining interaction in complex speech events. Following Leech (1983), I will focus on pragmatics as interpersonal rhetoric, the way speakers and writers accomplish goals as social actors who do not just need to get things done but attend to their interpersonal relationships with other participants at the same time.

Leech (1983) and his colleague Jenny Thomas (1983) proposed to subdivide pragmatics into a pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic component. Pragmalinguistics refers to the resources for conveying communicative acts and relational or interpersonal meanings. Such resources include pragmatic strategies like directness and indirectness, routines, and a large range of linguistic forms which can intensify or soften communicative acts. For one example, compare these two versions of apology, the short ‘I’m sorry’ and the Wildean ‘I’m absolutely devasted. Can you possibly forgive me? In both version, the speaker apologizes, but she indexes a very different attitude and social relationship in each of the apologies (scholars Fraser, House, Kasper, Brown and Levinson, Blum Kulka).
Speech communities differ in their roles of speakers and hearers, social distance and social power, their rights and obligations, and the degree of imposition involved in particular communicative acts.
The value of context factors are negotiable; they can change through the dynamics of conversational interaction. Pragmatic ability in a second or foreign language is part of a non native speakers (NNS) communicative competence and therefore has to be located in a model of communicative ability (Savignon, 1991). In the model elaborated by Bachman, the ‘language competence’ is subdivided into two components: ‘organizational competence’ and ‘pragmatic competence’.
Organizational competence comprises knowledge of linguistic units and the rules of joining them together at the levels of sentence (grammatical competence) and discourse ( textual competence).
Pragmatic competence subdivides into ‘illocutionary competence’ and ‘sociolinguistic competence’. ‘ illocutionary competence’ can be glossed as ‘knowledge of communicative action and how to carry it out’. The definition ‘communicative action’ is often more accurate than the familiar term ‘speech act’ because communicative action is neutral between the spoken and written mode, and the term acknowledges the fact that communicative action can also be implemented by silence or non verbally.

Implication for language studies

Face wants as functional pressures on language

Face preservation as a potential functional source for some linguistic structures.

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