Pragmatic Development and the Instruction of Pragmatics in the Japanese as a Foreign Language Classroom

    Nonnative speakers’ sociolinguistic and pragmatic competence has been a research focus of the University of Hawai‘i faculty for a number of years, resulting in detailed studies of speech acts and discourse behaviors. The initial work emphasized descriptive and theoretical studies, and methodological refinements. During the previous grant cycle, work in this area continued, with a major emphasis on developmental issues in interlanguage pragmatics and the creation of a computerized database. During this grant cycle, the investigation of interlanguage pragmatics will focus on pragmatic development and the instruction of pragmatic aspects of an L2 in the foreign language classroom using Japanese classes as the research site.

    Relatively little research has been conducted on the opportunities for pragmatic development in foreign language classrooms. However, the few existing studies (summarized in G. Kasper & R. Schmidt, 1996, “Developmental issues in interlanguage pragmatics,” Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18.2) demonstrate that planned intervention not only facilitates students’ pragmatic comprehension, speech act realization, and discourse management but in fact appears to be necessary in order to develop some aspects of L2 pragmatic competence, while also identifying areas of pragmatic knowledge, such as discourse markers, which are more resistant to improvement through consciousness-raising and communicative practice in classrooms. For a variety of reasons, discourse markers in Japanese, an indispensable part of communicative competence, seem particularly difficult for English-speaking learners to acquire.

    The goal of this study is to a) identify areas of learner success and difficulty in the use of Japanese discourse markers, and b) identify teaching strategies that facilitate the acquisition of these linguistic items, by intermediate and advanced learners of Japanese as a foreign language. The study will address the following research questions: are some functions of discourse markers acquired more easily and earlier than other functions?; to what extent does learners’ use of Japanese discourse markers reflect the functions assigned to semantically “equivalent” markers in English?; what is the communicative effect of learners’ nativelike and nonnativelike use of discourse markers according to native speakers’ assessment?; what is the effect of intervention procedures such as inductive instructional approaches, or explicit teaching coupled with corrective feedback?

    The study will adopt a pre-test/treatment/post-test, experimental/control group design, combined with audio- and videotaped recordings of class sessions and intermittent sampling of learner oral production, both inside and outside of class, during the treatment period. The treatment for the experimental group will consist of classroom instruction and activities that address the appropriate use of Japanese discourse markers in spoken and written discourse. In the first round of experimental instruction, a primarily inductive approach to the instruction of the use of discourse markers in conjunction with academic and informal discourse (both spoken and written) will be used with a class of advanced learners of Japanese as a foreign language. In the second and third rounds of experimental instruction, a mixed inductive and deductive instructional approach, focusing primarily on spoken discourse (academic and informal), will be used with intermediate learners of Japanese as a foreign language. In order to examine the effectiveness of the experimental approaches, quantitative analysis of pre- and post-test results, including comparison with control group data, as well as qualitative analysis of intermittent sampling data will be conducted. Qualitative analysis will also provide a profile of learners’ areas of success and difficulty in using Japanese discourse markers. All appropriateness judgments will be made by two Japane