What is Pragmatics? Disciplinary definition: The study of language from the point of view 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 the act of communication (Crystal, 1997, p. 301). More simply put: appropriate ways of speaking and interacting within a given sociocultural context.
Some Domains of Pragmatics Speech acts Implicature Indirectness Politeness Topic appropriateness Conversational management
Pragmatics as Part of Communicative Competence Bachman, 1990
Why is Learning Pragmatics Important? Essential to the attainment of communicative competence Speech communities differ in their assessment of speakers and hearers social distance and social power, their rights and obligations, and the degree of imposition involved in particular communicative acts (Kasper & Rose, 2001, p. 2) Saving face: pragmatic errors are commonly perceived not as deficiencies in L2 knowledge, but rather as personal defects in character or personality Pragmatic knowledge gives learners a sense of ownership of the language and membership within the speech community One of the most interesting aspects of language learning!
Can Pragmatic Competence be Taught? No…but yes! According to Kasper (1997), The simple answer to the question as formulated is no. Competence is a type of knowledge that learners possess, develop, acquire, use or lose. The challenge for foreign or second language teachers is whether we can arrange learning opportunities in such a way that they benefit the development of pragmatic competence in [the] L2
Therefore… Yes – we can arrange opportunities for learners to develop their pragmatic knowledge These opportunities include: Direct instruction of select pragmatic features Awareness-raising activities Strategies for autonomous learning
Film and Television as Pedagogic Resources Film and television provide authentic samples of language in use Familiarity with film and television can help give students a sense of membership within the target language community Film and television allow students to see and hear language in use, thus offering rich contextualized input Film and television are often relevant to students personal interests Using humorous clips (in particular) can help create a positive, relaxed classroom atmosphere Potential sources of materials are vast
What Types/Genres of Film and Television Should Be Used? Different genres offer different opportunities for learning Sitcoms/comedies – particularly useful (cf. Washburn, 2001) Soap operas/dramas Talk shows
Getting Started Consider your learners Make a list of films and/or television series that you are familiar with Think of and write down the names of quirky characters from shows or movies – chances are they regularly violate pragmatic norms! Look for short clips from the TV shows or films you listed on Youtube (or from the full episodes or films, if you have access) and watch several of them.
Getting Started (continued) Try to identify any aspects of pragmatics that you observe While viewing, try to identify what a language learner would need to know in order to understand the pragmatic features contained in the clips Once youve determined that a clip is appropriate for your students and contains useful pragmatic information, you can start to think of activities that incorporate the clips.
Creating Activities: Some Example Types Guided discovery tasks (Rylander, 2005) Play multiple clips with transcripts and have Ss identify common features Identify speaker roles and what their [perceived] relationship is Role-plays Amateur ethnographers Play clips with the sound turned off and have students make predictions about speaker attitudes based on nonverbal communication Exploit the laugh track on sitcoms: ask questions like what made the scene funny? What did the character do wrong? What should he have said instead? (Raising metapragmatic awareness)
Example Activity 1: Implicature Friends (Chandler and Phoebe) Friends (Chandler and Phoebe)
Example Activity 2: Giving Advice Billy Madison (Billy gets advice) Clip 1 Clip 2 [start at 02:42] Clip 2 Clip 3 [stop at 00:09] Clip 3
Example Activity 3: Analyzing Power, Social Distance, and Degree of Threat Seinfeld (Elaine orders Chinese food) Seinfeld (Elaine orders Chinese food)
Caveats and Limitations General/theoretical notion of appropriateness is relative, not absolute (e.g., World Englishes) Appropriateness of the clip (topic, language used, other potentially offensive content) Curricular constraints Resources Lack of familiarity with American television and films and/or low confidence of ones own pragmatic competence (especially NNSs) Copyright Laws (see AIME website)
Concluding: Creativity in Materials Development Teachers should always be on the lookout for new ways of teaching, new activity types, and effective ways of engaging their students With activities involving film, television, and pragmatics, one must learn to be a critical consumer of popular media and be a scavenger for relevant materials We must put ourselves in our learners shoes and think about the mysteries that abound in their day to day interactions with people and the target language
References Bachman, L. F. (1990). Fundamental considerations in language testing. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical aspects of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1, 1–47. Crystal, D. (Ed.). (1997). The Cambridge encyclopedia of language (2 nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press. Kasper, G. (1997). Can pragmatics be taught? Plenary speech presented at the Annual TESOL Convention (March, the 32nd conference, international), Orlando, Florida. Kasper, G., & Rose, K. (2001). Pragmatics in language teaching. In Rose, K., & Kasper, G. (Eds.), Pragmatics in language teaching (pp. 1-9). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Rose, K., & Kasper, G. (2001). Pragmatics in language teaching. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Rylander, J. (2005). Teaching Pragmatics via Video. In K. Bradford-Watts, C. Ikeguchi, & M. Swanson (Eds.) JALT2004 Conference Proceedings. Tokyo: JALT. Thomas, J. (1983). Cross-cultural pragmatic failure. Applied Linguistics, 4, 91-112. Washburn, G. (2001). Using situation comedies for pragmatic language teaching and learning. TESOL Journal, 10(4), 21 26. Wolfson, N. (1989). Perspectives: Sociolinguistics and TESOL. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.