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Although there has been a vivid discussion about the relationship between theory, research, and practice, the benefits of theoretical knowledge and considerations for practitioners—be they teachers, material designers, or both—have been highlighted repeatedly e. In addition to instructors, another group, material designers, also needs to take into account theories of learning, given that these theories will directly influence the syllabus design and instructional principles fundamental to a given learning tool. In the context of second or foreign language L2 learning, Richards , for instance, highlighted the role of theories as a crucial aspect in the interrelationship between theory, research, and materials design.
That is to say, both types of theories can provide principled guidance in the development process as they inform and determine how a syllabus is implemented in terms of exercises, tasks, activities, and learning experiences. Extending previous research that has been focusing on language theories and language use theories in the context of L2 pragmatics e. Building upon this earlier research, the current review will focus on the theories of second language acquisition SLA in general, and adult L2 pragmatics learning in particular, aiming to further contribute to a theoretical basis for the design of pragmatic learning environments.
It is imperative to distinguish between theories for L2 pragmatics development , on the one hand, and L2 pragmatics use , on the other—that is to say, whether a theory places its focus on learning outcomes or the learning process.
That is, although speech act theory provides a philosophy of language that aims to account for the performative functions an utterance may have in communication, it does not outline how a language user acquires the competence to understand and produce speech acts appropriately.
Hence, theories intended to guide L2 pragmatic development research need to place their primary focus on processes that account for putative mechanisms by which L2 learners develop their pragmatic ability in a given target language. So far, research on L2 pragmatics learning and development has drawn upon three different ontological perspectives in particular: cognitive, socially oriented, and emergentist.
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The cognitive perspective contends that the development of pragmatic competence constitutes an intrapersonal mental process. Cognition theories focus on how information is processed and learned by the human mind. A common theme underlying the cognitive perspective is that the computer constitutes a metaphor for the mind; that is, language acquisition is compared to a computer's capacity for processing, storing, and retrieving information. Schmidt's noticing hypothesis, derived from his seminal longitudinal study of L2 pragmatic development Schmidt, , holds that in order for language input to influence a learner's developing L2 interlanguage—that is, in order for input to become intake—the learner has to notice or detect a linguistic phenomenon.
The two key processing stages for pragmatic development in Bialystok's model are a analyzed representation and b control of processing. Analysis of representation occurs at three consecutive levels: conceptual, formal, and symbolic.
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By contrast, formal representation refers to a speaker's knowledge of structural linguistic categories that are used to produce language output e. Bialystok theorized that a child who has developed formal representations—mostly through formal instruction at school—will, for example, be able to detect grammatical violations. Finally, symbolic representation denotes the abstract relationship between words and meaning: Words and linguistic output carry meaning and have referential, symbolic character.
They have a repertoire of alternative forms of realizations to express a given communicative intent. Bialystok argued that control of processing cuts across the different knowledge representations and is being developed throughout childhood. Thus, learners are thought to progress from a more immediate, basic language use to a more complex and increasingly controllable repertoire of linguistic representations that they can put to use appropriately in a variety of communicative contexts. Some researchers have commented on these theoretical views and transferred them from the field of L1 development into L2 acquisition contexts.
Kasper , for example, suggested that the recurrent evidence of L1 pragmatic transfer reported in the majority of L2 pragmatics studies may indicate that adult L2 learners have a mostly complete representation. Thus, unlike children, whose pragmatic and linguistic competences develop simultaneously, adult L2 learners have already acquired the pragmatic system of their L1, and their L2 learning builds upon a rich foundation of pragmatic knowledge and strategies within their native language and culture. They already possess implicit and potentially also explicit knowledge of features such as politeness, inferencing heuristics, and conversation strategies.
However, L2 learners may struggle with the appropriate realization of illocutionary force Taguchi, Moreover, they often struggle with processing control, especially in productive speech situations Taguchi, Therefore, the most important task adult L2 learners may face is the development of attention and processing control over selecting knowledge when appropriate. Within the cognitive—interactionist paradigm, both of these acquisitional stages are viewed as being facilitated by exposing learners to interaction in the target language.
Instead, these approaches regard L2 learning as an interpersonal process dependent on social interaction. Accordingly, knowledge is created in the interaction between an expert a more advanced speaker of the target language and a novice a learner. The expert mediates the interaction, enabling the learner to perform a task which he or she would not have been able to accomplish alone.
For example, van Compernolle and Henery used the French second person pronouns tu and vous as a mediating artifact, promoting the appropriate use of these forms among their L2 learners. A related branch within the sociocultural tradition, the language socialization approach, regards L2 learning as a socially situated process in communities of practice. Novice members who enter a given speech community are gradually socialized through exposure to and participation in social practice. As novice members acquire linguistic patterns and conventions, they gradually become competent interlocutors and participants in the speech community, thus also shaping and coconstructing it Wenger, How learners view their identity in an L2 is thought to influence and affect L2 learning in two distinct ways.
Moreover, L2 learners' investment in learning a given language may be impacted by the degree to which they wish to position themselves within the target culture Davis, In sum, a theory that accounts for L2 pragmatic development as a learning process needs to be anchored in the interdependence between language, cognition, and context.
Hence, they merge the cognitive and the social aspects of pragmatics learning, arguing that their interaction leads to development. Dynamic or complex systems theory regards variables and IDs as central components that mediate L2 learning over time. Thus, L2 developmental change can be viewed as the product of a number of variables that interact at multiple levels with one another and with the environment. De Bot et al. Unlike the static notion of a stage structure that dominates theories of cognitive development, DST views L2 development as coregulated change.
Although any system requires some force or resource i. Nevertheless, despite this seeming unpredictability, there are similarities in how individuals interact with input and the social ecosystem that may result in the emergence of a developmental, universal order. The emergentist paradigm has increasingly been adopted, especially in longitudinal pragmatics development studies e.
To summarize, L2 pragmatics development research so far has been primarily conducted in the tradition of three different theoretical paradigms: the cognitive, the sociocultural, and the emergentist or dynamic systems approach. Within the cognitive approach, learning and L2 development is viewed as the gradual growth and refinement of knowledge representations into the cognitive system and subsequent use of the new knowledge to eventually obtain automaticity in L2 performance. Conversation analyses and microanalyses have been deployed in observing how interaction in the zone of proximal development unfolds, showing students' gradually increasing levels of autonomy in relation to different participation structures.
For DST, learning constitutes the change of a subsystem over time. The given system is nested in a network of mutually interdependent relationships with ID variables, environmental factors, and other systems. A subsystem such as L2 pragmatics develops, potentially in coadaptation with other systems, in a largely unpredictable way as it interacts with internal and external variables.
Having reviewed three main theoretical perspectives from which pragmatics learning and research on acquisitional patterns have been conceptualized, a central question remains: How can we make use of these theoretical considerations in designing L2 materials and instruction? Given the large amount of potential individual variation in learning trajectories—if, for instance, just ID variables are considered—teachers may feel that pragmatics teaching is a discouraging venture.
However, research has shown the importance of pragmatics instruction e. Hence, it is important for practitioners to consider the SLA theories to better inform L2 instruction. However, one cannot simply take a theory and employ it as a standard for instruction. That is to say, researchers have repeatedly warned against the assumption that L2 educators can simply apply a theory, or that theories can readily guide instruction.
For example, none of the three theoretical perspectives discussed above account for the acquisition of all aspects of L2 pragmatics learning. From a cognitivist perspective, one may raise the following questions: Do IDs impact noticings? If so, how do they influence that process? What role does attention play in the process of noticing pragmatic phenomena? Does a learner who identifies with a target language notice pragmatic aspects more easily than learners who do not?
Hence, theories do not provide templates or recipes for L2 instruction. Nevertheless, learning theories provide frameworks that can inform good L2 instruction practices by proposing components of a system that allow us to form hypotheses about how learning may unfold and proceed.