‘Let’s make that tower even higher’: A task-based approach to directive speech acts in spoken EFL interactions.

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‘Let’s make that tower even higher’: A task-based approach to directive speech acts in spoken EFL interactions.


Floeck, Ilka
Pfingsthorn, Joanna


Despite Bardovi-Harlig (1999) calling for the inclusion of more diversified naturalistic data collection methods in the study of interlanguage discourse, studies on the production of L2 speech acts still rely heavily on experimental data. Methodological comparisons in speech act research have revealed differences between naturally occurring data and language elicited in experimental conditions (cf. e.g. Beebe and Cummings, 1996; Golato, 2003; Yuan, 2001). The omnipresence of the discourse completion task and other - what Jucker (2009) calls - laboratory methods in interlanguage pragmatic research allows for comparability of both speaker variables (such as L1, length of acquisition, exposure to target language and more general sociolinguistic factors) and test conditions (such as pre-test post-test design). On the other hand, it - at least - has the potential to generate language which is not necessarily representative of what learners are capable of doing in situations with actual communicative intent. The present paper therefore integrates the advantages of traditional laboratory methods in a more naturalistic approach to data collection in interlanguage speech act research. In order to elicit and analyse directive speech acts (i.e. speech acts with which the speaker wants the hearer to carry out a future action, cf. Searle 1976), a task-based experimental design was chosen. Participants were asked to negotiate meaning in their foreign language English while being engaged in a problem-solving non-verbal task. Participants‘ focus on achieving the goal and their involvement in the task seemed to have diminished the observer effect (cf. Labov, 1972; Kasper, 2000) which surfaces in different realisation patterns than those observed in DCT-based studies on interlanguage requests (cf. Faerch and Kasper 1989; Trosborg, 1995; Barron, 2005; Schauer, 2007). The present paper will discuss the differences found and moreover present preliminary findings on the conversational structures and the sequencing of directive speech acts in spoken learner discourse.


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