Pragmatic force modifiers : a study in interlanguage pragmatics
This study investigates a pragmatic aspect of language: speakers' way of using pragmatic force modifiers, i.e. expressions such as J suppose, sort of, or certainly to modify (either to soften or to strengthen) the impact of their messages. Earlier research has shown that modifiers can have important interpersonal functions, especially in terms of linguistic politeness. This study explores how advanced Finnish speakers of English use pragmatic force modifiers in a conversational setting. The learners' interlanguage performance is compared with that of native speakers of both English and Finnish. The main empirical data consist of conversations between Finnish and British speakers. The data also contain similar conversations by native speakers of Finnish and native speakers of English. The study has both theoretical and empirical aims. The theoretical aim is to provide a descriptive model of pragmatic force modifiers that would account for their specific nature, especially their potential multifunctionality. Thus, a model is suggested that conceptualizes modifiers as a continuum from more explicit to more implicit choices. The empirical aim is to study how and for what kinds of pragmatic functions speakers use modifiers and to describe how contextual factors affect their use. The study also investigates how speakers' changing roles during the encounters influence their use of modifiers. The focus is on non-native speakers and on how they master the use of modifiers in relation to native speakers of both English and Finnish. Modifiers were used frequently throughout the data; they were especially common in face-threatening contexts, which points to their interpersonal significance. Even though also the learners used modifiers, they used them less clearly in interpersonally motivated ways than the native speakers. The learners were also less skilful in adapting their use of modifiers to changing role relationships. The distinction between explicit and implicit modifiers seemed worthwhile in that where the native speakers used implicit modifiers the most, the learners favoured explicit modifiers. This can have interpersonal implications as the native speakers used implicitness to create an atmosphere of shared assumptions; the learners' inability to do so can thus lead to problems inasmuch as it is seen as intentional on their part. Overall, the findings indicate that the use and interpretation of pragmatic force modifiers is affected by a complex combination of linguistic, conversational, and social factors. ...
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Mustonen, Sanna (University of Jyväskylä, 2015)
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