Aims to find out if Vietnamese learners and native speakers differ in realizing the speech act of asking for something back in the situations studied

In the past few decades we have witnessed a big change in language teaching and learning. That is the appearance of ‘communicative approach’ to language teaching and learning, which puts a strong emphasis on master of language use. That is to say, language is viewed as a means of communication and uses of language play a central part in language teaching and learning (Brumfit and Johnson 1979). Focus on learners’ language use also means that communicative approach takes priority over pragmatic competence, one of the four sectors of communicative competence (Hymes 1972 in Brumfit andJohnson 1979). Much research on pragmatic competence on the basis of diverse speech acts and speech act sets shows that pragmatic competence plays a decisive role in learners’ communicative competence development because it results in appropriateness and effectiveness in interactions, the goal in learning a second or foreign language. Second or foreign language learners (L2 learners) can approximate native speakers only when they master rules of language use that underline the ability to use language in contextually appropriateand effective ways. Given these facts, L2 learners in classroom setting should be pragmatically aware and pragmatically competent. However, in the language learning setting in Vietnam learners’ pragmatic competence seems to be given less consideration than other aspects of language teaching. This can be manifested through the examination of some types of speech acts taught in some teaching materials in Vietnamese junior high schools. Let’s take some examples. In grade 7 English coursebook some speech acts such as requests, gratitude, invitations, refusals, complaints or compliments are introduced to learners, and they are taught along with other language items. However, the matter lies in the fact that they are paid less attention to while they must have got much focus on. Furthermore, the teacher, when teaching these types of speech acts, only introduces the semantic formulas of these speech acts, then asks learners to try to make utterances basing on the formulas. For example, in teaching invitations and responses in unit 6 on pages 66 and 67, the teacher writes on the board the formulas such as Would you like to ?and Yes, I’d love to for agreement and I’m sorry. I can’tor Yes, I’d love to but for refusal.

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- 1 - Chapter one: Introduction 1.1. Rationale of the study In the past few decades we have witnessed a big change in language teaching and learning. That is the appearance of ‘communicative approach’ to language teaching and learning, which puts a strong emphasis on master of language use. That is to say, language is viewed as a means of communication and uses of language play a central part in language teaching and learning (Brumfit and Johnson 1979). Focus on learners’ language use also means that communicative approach takes priority over pragmatic competence, one of the four sectors of communicative competence (Hymes 1972 in Brumfit and Johnson 1979). Much research on pragmatic competence on the basis of diverse speech acts and speech act sets shows that pragmatic competence plays a decisive role in learners’ communicative competence development because it results in appropriateness and effectiveness in interactions, the goal in learning a second or foreign language. Second or foreign language learners (L2 learners) can approximate native speakers only when they master rules of language use that underline the ability to use language in contextually appropriate and effective ways. Given these facts, L2 learners in classroom setting should be pragmatically aware and pragmatically competent. However, in the language learning setting in Vietnam learners’ pragmatic competence seems to be given less consideration than other aspects of language teaching. This can be manifested through the examination of some types of speech acts taught in some teaching materials in Vietnamese junior high schools. Let’s take some examples. In grade 7 English coursebook some speech acts such as requests, gratitude, invitations, refusals, complaints or compliments are introduced to learners, and they are taught along with other language items. However, the matter lies in the fact that they are paid less attention to while they must have got much focus on. Furthermore, the teacher, when teaching these types of speech acts, only introduces the semantic formulas of these speech acts, then asks learners to try to make utterances basing on the formulas. For example, in teaching invitations and responses in unit 6 on pages 66 and 67, the teacher writes on the board the formulas such as Would you like to…? and Yes, I’d love to… for agreement and I’m sorry. I can’t or Yes, I’d love to but… for refusal. The learners are then asked to make a similar dialogue to the previous one they have been taught. This type of teaching leads to the result that learners use only one expression in all interactional contexts, and again this results in the learners’ sociopragmatic errors. For instance, in the classroom learners were asked to work in pairs and in turn to practice giving invitations such as going to the movies or coming home for lunch and replying to the invitations. However, when they - 2 - came to the teacher’s home for joy, the teacher offered them some candy, of course, in Vietnamese. One of the learners replied with an English utterance I’m sorry. I can’t. This proves that learners with little L2 proficiency can perform a speech act communicatively, but they cannot do it in a native-like manner. What is more, the status and power relationships holding between speaker and hearer are usually ignored or rarely referred to in the coursebook. For instance, in unit 3 on page 30 the learners are asked to practice making complaints through exclamations such as What an expensive dress! But they do not know whom they make the utterance with and in which situations they should make an utterance like that. This causes them to make both sociopragmatic and pragmalinguistic errors when they interact in real life situations. In other words, pragmatic awareness is not taken account in the coursebook. As mentioned above, learning a foreign language is not only simply to acquire the linguistic resources – phonological, lexical, and grammatical systems but also to learn how to understand and convey pragmatic meaning and achieve successful communication in the target language. It is the fact that the later has been the focus of much research on learner language recently. L2 learners usually acquire the developing system that is neither that of their native language nor that of the target language. Learners’ different developing systems of the native language, of the target language, and of the learner language cause so much difficulty in learners’ L2 acquisition in general and the acquisition of the pragmatic ability in particular. Furthermore, the cultural differences of learners’ native language and the target language are also the cause of pragmatic failure. The study of learner language or interlanguage (ILP) can be useful in helping learners’ progress through the developmental stages. Teachers, in particular, need to understand the domain of ILP to modify their teaching practices to facilitate pragmatic development. In the present study learner language is investigated through the speech act of asking for something back. So far so many speech act sets such as requests, apologies, refusals, invitations, complaints, compliments, greetings, gratitude, etc have been studied on both cross-cultural and interlanguage pragmatics perspective but not the act of asking something back. Hence, the speech act of asking for something back is chosen for this study for the reason that it has never been investigated before though it occurs regularly in everyday conversations. Moreover, it differs from other types of speech acts in the sense that it seems to require the speakers to use many different communicative strategies to achieve the last goal, namely getting something back from the addresses. Sometimes, the speech act has to be repeated many times and in each time a new strategy may have to be used, and then the goal can be achieved successfully. - 3 - Saying these things is to see that an investigation on the speech act can be hopeful to discover interesting things. What is more, it is also very useful to find how learners learn to perform the speech act, and to what extent and in what ways learners perform the speech act in the L2 differently from native speakers of the target language. From the findings of these, teachers then can have appropriate approaches to the teaching of language functions. 1.2. Aims of the study The study aims to find out if Vietnamese learners and native speakers differ in realizing the speech act of asking for something back in the situations studied and if so, why they are different. 1.3. Scope of the study The study focuses on the speech act of asking for something back performed by Vietnamese learners of English and then compares it with that performed by English native speakers to see the similarities and differences between the two groups. The term ‘speech act’ here is used to refer to the illocutionary act, that is, the study concentrates on illocutionary meaning. In addition, the study pays attention to learner production rather than learner perception or comprehension. What is more, because of the size of the study, the matter of learners’ pragmatic competence development also lies outside the scope of the study. Since we did not collect data by recording or interview, the verbal features such as intonation, stress were not discussed in the thesis either. 1.4. Organization of the study The present study consists of six chapters. Chapter 1 concerns with the rationale of the study, that is, why the subject matter is chosen to be studied. It also includes the aims, scope, and organization of the study. Chapter 2 refers to some fundamental theories and concepts of speech acts, politeness, pragmatics, and interlanguage pragmatics. Chapter 3 deals with methods of data collection and data analysis. Chapter 4 reports the results of the study, basing on the collected data and discusses some issues on learners’ language use, basing on the results reported. Chapter 5 provides some concluding remarks drawn from the results of the study, some implications for teaching language functions, and limitations of the study. - 4 - Chapter two: Literature review 2.1. Speech act theory 2.1.1. Austin and Searle’s theory of speech acts For a long time, the studying object of linguistics was mainly affirmative sentences, or sometimes called statements, assertions. This was because, semantically, these sentences could be all tested for their truth or falsity. Other sentences such as Could you tell me what time it is?, I promise I’ll be more careful next time, or I bet you Barcelona will win the Champions’ League, which could not be logically concluded to be true or false, were considered meaningless (Levinson, 1983). Only when Austin’s (1962) theory of speech acts was launched, did the changes occur. According to Austin, these above sentences when uttered are not used to just say things or describe states of affairs but rather actively do things such as raising a question, promising, or betting. He called these peculiar sentences ‘performative’ in order to differentiate them from the affirmative sentences, which he called ‘constatives’. However, after making a distinction between explicit performatives and implicit performatives, Austin claims that there is no longer the contrast between performatives and constatives. This is because constatives are also created by an illocutionary act (see below). For example, the utterance It is raining is realized a statement, but it can also be used with the first person singular I and a performative verb in the present tense to become an explicit performative. Then, we have I state that it is raining. Yule (1996) formulates this deep structure as follows: I (hereby) Vp you (that) U The formula is generalized by the Performative Hypothesis, which proposes that every sentence has a deep structure of an explicit performative. In other words, all the implicit performatives occurring in everyday conversations are originated from the deep structure of explicit performatives. Nevertheless, as Do (2003) points out, the Performative Hypothesis is collapsed for two reasons: first, in many cases, an implicit performative cannot be transformed into an explicit one because one cannot find a performative verb which can be used to describe it; second, when an implicit performative is made explicit by a performative verb, the meaning of the utterance recognized by it can be changed. For example, a mother wants her son to turn off the TV as he is always watching it. She says Turn off the TV but her son does not do that, and she utters again I ask you to turn off the TV right now. In this case, one can see how the mother’s attitude has changed when she makes an explicit performative. - 5 - From Austin’s discussion, we can see that when we say something, we also do something. And “actions performed via utterances are generally called ‘speech acts’” (Yule, 1996:47). Austin argues that there are three types of acts: locutionary act, illocutionary act, and perlocutionary act. Locutionary act is the one, in terms of form and content, that uses linguistic elements such as words, sounds of words, sentence combination to make a meaningful and well-formed utterance. Perlocutionary act is the one that brings about effects on listeners by means of utterances, and is specific to the circumstances. For example, the utterance Turn off the TV spoken to the addressee may make him/her turn off the TV, or it may also make him/her angry or uncomfortable. The acts of turning off the TV, anger, or discomfort are all related to the perlocutionary effects. The perlocutionary effects, though intended or unintended, are non- conventional and are caused by some particular utterance in a particular situation. Illocutionary act is the one performed via the conventional force in uttering a sentence with some communicative purpose. The utterance Turn off the TV can be interpreted as a request, an order, an advice, or a threat, depending on certain situations of communication. And this called the ‘illocutionary force’ of the utterance. The illocutionary force is directly achieved via speaker’s intention and a conventional procedure, whose operational rules, though not represented in the utterance, are understood and followed by all the people in a certain linguistic community. So it must be said that to master a language is not just simply to master its syntax, phonetics, or lexicon, but to master the operational rules of the illocutionary act in that language. That is to say, one must know how to make appropriately and effectively a request, a promise, an invitation, a question, etc in the target language. Among the three types of acts, the illocutionary act is the main focus of linguistic pragmatics. And the term ‘speech act’ (Searle’s 1969 term) is exclusively used to refer to the illocutionary act. Although it is impossible to test whether an illocutionary act is logically true or false, it is possible to examine whether it is appropriate or inappropriate when uttered. Searle (1969), basing on the felicity conditions advanced by Austin (1962), proposes a set of conditions, which an illocutionary act has to meet to be appropriate when uttered. This set includes - 6 - propositional content, preparatory preconditions, conditions on sincerity, and the essential condition. Content conditions indicate the content nature of an illocutionary act. A content condition for a promise must be about a future event and the future event will be a future act of the speaker. Preparatory preconditions include all what relates to the necessity so that an illocutionary act can be performed. A promise needs to be performed by an agent and there must be a beneficial effect brought about by it. Sincerity conditions concern with the interlocutors’ psychological state. When making a promise, the speaker must have a true intention to perform it, and the listener truly wants it to be performed. Essential condition relates to an obligation the speaker or listener must follow when an illocutionary act is performed. When one makes a promise, one is, right at the moment of speaking, obliged to keep and perform it in the future. Each of these above conditions is the necessary condition; and the whole set of them is the sufficient condition. A specific speech act needs to meet all these conditions to be performed appropriately. Another issue of speech acts is to classify them. Austin (1962) tries to do that work. According to him, there are five categories: verditives, exercitives, commisives, expositives, and behabitives. However, this classification is not satisfactory to Searle (1969). Searle claims that Austin’s classification is based on taxonomy of performative verbs and so the overlap between categories and within a category is unavoidable. He argues that classifying speech acts needs basing on taxonomy of illocutionary acts, but not on performative verbs, and on a system of criteria which is suitable to speech acts. From this point of view, he proposes five basic kinds of illocutionary acts: representatives, which make the speaker’s words fit his own belief or the world (e.g., assertion, conclusion); directives, which the speaker uses to get someone to do something (e.g., requests, commands, orders); commissives, which the speaker uses to commit himself/herself to do a future action (e.g., promises, refusals, threats); expressives, which express the speaker’s psychological state (e.g., gratitude, apologies); and declaratives, which the speaker, who has a special institutional role, uses to change the state of affairs through his/her own utterance (e.g., war declaration, christening). That is Searle’s classification of speech acts that is used widely to study a specific speech act or a set of speech acts. 2.1.2. Indirect speech acts LoCastro (2003) and Yule (1996) state that an indirect speech act occurs when there is an indirect relationship between a structure and a function. The definition is built basing on the relationship between the three structural forms (declarative, interrogative, imperative) and the - 7 - three general communicative functions (statement, question, command/request). Do (2003) makes it clearer by saying that an indirect speech act is an act in which the speaker performs an illocutionary act and the hearer is to base on his/her own linguistic knowledge and non- linguistic knowledge to infer the illocutionary force of another act. That is to say, an indirect speech act is established from both speech production and speech comprehension. However, the problem of indirect speech acts is how to use and recognize them (Searle 1969). LoCastro also discusses indirect strategies and states that an indirect speech act can be realized by sentence form such as It’s cold outside, modality such as Would you mind lending me a couple of dollars for lunch?, or by conversational implicature such as Do you have any homework? – I’ve already finished it. He also raises another question that why people use indirectness so often though it requires much cognitive processing and is risky to be misunderstood. He claims that there may be six reasons. First, interlocutors may want to avoid a direct statement because directness may seem not to be tactful and sensitive to the feelings of the hearer. Second, when indirectness is used in the past tense, it implies that no change can be made and so communicative goal can be achieved. Third, indirectness is a good way of denying perceived intentions, avoiding conflict, and escaping from responsibility for an utterance. Fourth, indirectness is closely related to politeness and used to save face. Fifth, indirectness can be creative and playful. Finally, indirectness is used as a strategy to gain or maintain power over others. 2.1.3. The speech act of asking for something back Like all the other speech acts, asking for something back occurs in all languages. But not all languages perform the act in the same way. The speech act of asking for something back is basically a speech act which is intended to provide some support for the speaker and some cost for the hearer. Hence, it is a face-threatening act to the hearer as it contradicts his/her expectations. Asking for something back occurs when the speaker actually or potentially wants the hearer to give him/her back something that the hearer borrowed from him/her, and believes that the hearer is to be responsible for giving the thing back. As a face-threatening act, it requires a high level of pragmatic competence and a sensitive pragmatic task. The speaker, thus, must be tactful and sensitive to produce language that is socially and culturally appropriate. He/she has to behave so well that he/she both achieves his/her intended goal and maintains the interpersonal relations. - 8 - It is now necessary to make a distinction between the speech act of asking for something back and that of requesting as the two acts are similar in some of the illocutionary aspects. They are both directives, that is, they are attempts by the speaker to get someone to do something, and impose on the hearer rather than on the speaker. They are thus realized via three level of directness. Furthermore, they are also subject to modifications and can be encoded both from the speaker’s perspective and from the hearer’s perspective. However, the act of asking for something back differs from that of requesting in that, as mentioned earlier, it requires the hearer to
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