The role of the learner subjectivity and pragmatic transfer in the performance of requests by Korean ESL learners
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Based on a cross-cultural comparison of requesting behavior between Koreans and Americans, the study tried to determine the extent of pragmatic transfer and the impact of individual subjective motives that may influence pragmatic language choice. Two different groups of subjects participated in this study: 30 Korean participants for Korean (KK) and also for interlanguage (KE) data who were studying English as a Second Language (ESL) in a U.S. university, and 30 American college students (AE). Data were collected by using a questionnaire with a Discourse Completion Task (DCT). Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with 13 Korean ESL learners who showed the highest and the least amount of pragmatic transfer. Findings showed evidence of pragmatic transfer in the request responses given by Korean ESL learners in the level of directness, perspectives of head acts, and the frequency of supportive moves and internal modifiers. The requesting behaviors of KE group were realized through more direct strategies than those of AE group. KE speakers had a tendency to use hearer-oriented requests more frequently than AE speakers, but slightly less than KK speakers, indicating that L1 transfer is operative. Pragmatic transfer occurred in three supportive moves such as Promise of Reward, Appreciation, and Apology and in three internal modifiers such as play-down, consultative device, and downtoner. The interviewees in this study were conscious of differing rules for requesting. Learners’ judgment of L2 pragmatic norms, the learners’ perception of their own language and their attitudes of the learned language have a determining influence on language use. Furthermore, findings showed that purpose of learning the L2, learners’ different types of motivation, and the length of residence intention contribute to the extent of pragmatic transfer. Finally, impossibility to acquire native-like proficiency, fear of disloyalty to their own culture, and preference of L1 styles as a marker of cultural identity seemed to be factors that influence learners’ pragmatic choices. Findings of this study offer implications that language educators need to recognize and plan for the different target goals language learners may have and that second/foreign language speakers also possess a desire to express their own identity.
Kim, Heekyoung (2007). The role of the learner subjectivity and pragmatic transfer in the performance of requests by Korean ESL learners. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from