WHERE GRAMMAR MEETS CONTEXT: TEACHING PRAGMATICS IN L2 FRENCH

Nicola C Work

Abstract


Language teaching traditionally focuses on grammar, often ignoring the effects of the context within which it is used. A recent study (Work, 2010) of the interaction of discourse context (pragmatics) with the selection of appropriate grammatical structures (syntax) shows this to be a source of problems for learners. This paper presents cross-sectional and cross-linguistic classroom data from 143 instructed English-speaking second language (L2) learners of Spanish and French of different proficiency levels as well as from 13 native speakers (NS) examining null and postverbal subjects in Spanish, subject dislocation and c’est clefts in French and object clitic left dislocation (CLLD) in both languages. The results indicate that the interface structures investigated were vulnerable, that is, particularly subject to learner error. Overall, learners showed significant differences from NS in the production and perception of these structures. Even advanced learners demonstrated a wide range of discourse-pragmatic proficiency. Contact with the target language alone has not been found to be sufficient to acquire accurate language use in context and instruction in pragmatics has been found to be successful (Bouton, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994; Bardovi-Harlig, 2001; Kasper, 1997, 2001). Based on this research and current theories of L2 acquisition, and in an effort to connect theory with practice, instructional units of integrated and sequenced classroom activities for improving pragmatic competence were developed. These units are composed of awareness activities, plentiful authentic language input, interpretation and analysis, and finally production activities.


Keywords


L2 acquisition; syntax-pragmatics interface; teaching; French

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ISSN 2045-4031. University of Central Lancashire 2010-2013.