Role of The NL Sociopragmatic Patterns In The Interlanguage of Second Lang. Learners

According to the research I have studied so far, I could say that someone’s native language (NL) has a strong influence over his/her second or foreign language learning. It is rather unusual to see teachers touching the topic of pragmatics when teaching a second/foreign language which I find intrinsically linked to the student’s adaptation and understanding of the target language and its culture. For a student to achieve a mastery level of an L2 it is important that he/she is able to properly communicate and effectively use the target language without incurring in constant grammatical mistakes, lacking communicative skills or having a narrow amount of vocabulary; however, it is just as important that the student does not violate social and cultural norms that belong to the target language when using the L2.

Learners of a foreign language are in disadvantage over second language learners because they are not immersed in the culture of the target language and have more difficulty acquiring the social characteristics and therefore pragmatic strategies of the language. Second language learners are in constant interaction with the target language and have higher possibilities to adopt the pragmatic characteristics of the L2; however, it is important to see how much they acquire and how much do they transfer from their native language. In some instances learners fail to understand the pragmatic strategies needed according to the culture and may incur in impoliteness and face threatening acts towards native speakers. It is also necessary for learners to understand the different types of politeness strategies and the cultural perceptions of negative and positive politeness that the L2 culture may have.

Societies differ in traditions and values as well as linguistic preferences. Some cultures use more negative politeness strategies because they consider them to help them maintain a higher distance among hearer and speaker and therefore be considered as politer; whereas, other cultures consider close social relationships as an important factor and tend to behave less formally, hence they use more positive politeness strategies. These should affect the way a second language learner perceives the language and the strategies chosen according to the particular context and social norms.

Gender and age also play an important role in second language learning because there are generational changes deriving from the development of a language, as well as societal roles that determine the type of communicative language used by females or males. There are significant differences among Eastern and Western cultures and it goes as far as linguistic rituals. Some of the research has concluded that males and females interact differently and therefore use different pragmatic strategies when performing the speech acts of apology, refusals, request or thanking. In some societies like the Jordanian we are able to notice that males and females use different apology speech acts strategies that are linked to their roles in society and expectations from them in their culture.

Another pattern that influences the linguistic production from language learners are the semantic and syntactic structures of the native language. A L2 learner tends to compare the native language with the target language and try to apply as many linguistic rules as possible in order to have a clearer understanding the L2; however; this could be counterproductive because in some instances the semantic patterns differ greatly which would lead the learner to use wrong foundations. In the case of pragmatics, second language learners tend to imitate the behavior of the target culture and adopt some of the norms; nevertheless, it will never be the at the same level as a native speaker because some of the contexts may only occur once which would leave the learner in an unfamiliar situation.

According to Chang (200, proficiency level of the second or foreign language learner has its implicatures in the amount of pragmatic transference that occurs from L1 to L2; also, there are two types of negative pragmatic transfer where the learner assumes that L1 and L2 are identical in their structure or when the learner perceives L2 context to be equal to L1 even though they could differ from one another. It is very important for the learner to understand that the speech patterns from their native language could be entirely different than the ones from the language that is been learnt; otherwise this may lead to cultural misunderstandings, misjudgments and dishonesty.

Languages that have specific characteristics, both linguistically and culturally attached to each other, represent a higher level of challenge for learners. For instance, American second or foreign language learners of Korean or Chinese encounter an honorific language whose grammatical and pragmatic bases are different than English. According to the context and the hearer or speaker, the pragmatic strategies used in the speech act differ greatly. It is not the same for Koreans or Chinese native speakers to address a person who is younger or older than them because the linguistic structured would have to include an honorific verb or word; for language learners, the lack of understanding of this rule would result in a violation of the social norms which would mean that the speech act would be consider as an act of impoliteness by the non native speaker.

The role of native language sociopragmatic patterns, in second or foreign language learners, should be low in comparison to the acquisition of pragmatic references from the L2 that the learner should grasp. It is important that language learners understand how primordial it is to be aware of the pragmatic differences there may be with the culture from the target language and the social norms that are important for the L2 culture. Language learners should avoid pragmatic transference because it may lead to misconceptions and misuse of the language in a social context. There should be further support of the study of pragmalinguistics for language learners because it is not only important for them to accurately use the language but also appropriately use it according to the situation.


Chang, Y. (n.d.). How to say no: an analysis of cross-cultural difference and pragmatic transfer . Retrieved December 8, 2010, from


Linguisic and Pragmatic Analysis of Peruvian Speakers

Linguisic and Pragmatic Analysis of the Expression: “cuente conmigo” by peruvian speakers

Language is the most important way of communication that members of a society share. Languages have gone through many changes because of interactions amongst different cultures, the influence of non-native speakers on languages and the generational changing of the linguistic needs of the speakers. All of these have allowed for English, Spanish, French and other languages to evolve in their semantic and syntactic linguistic forms which have influenced the pragmatic forms that speakers use. Regardless of the speaker giving explicit information or leaving room for an implicature drawn by the hearer, there are always linguistic foundations that are intrinsic of each group of people and cultures and that its speakers are able to understand through their pragmatic knowledge.

Expressions, slangs, dialects and idioms are examples of linguistic tools that are conveyed within a specific civilization or that belong to a particular group of people. Among Latin-American countries there is a vast blend of different usage of the language; even though Spanish is spoken in almost every country, the pragmatic usage differs greatly from one country to another and sometimes even within the same country. There are some regions where colloquial Spanish and its linguistic forms have been maintained whereas other areas have adopted characteristics from neighborhood countries. The flux of commerce in some areas and the interaction of different type of speakers in those have taken Spanish to a level where speakers from a particular area may use a tone, vocabulary and grammatical forms that are different than the ones used in other regions which affects the pragmatic formulas used by them.

In countries like Peru it is very different the common language used in rural areas than the one used in urban zones; mainly because some people live in parts that have been less accessible for foreigners and immigrants which have sheltered them from the natural evolution of the language. In the Andes the influence of external linguistic characteristics has been minimal and the isolation of the area has allowed for the language to preserve its traditional forms, pragmatic formulas and formal expressions. Moreover, the cultural differences in speech acts in a same language community bring social implications that could complicate the interaction among speakers and lead to politeness issues between them as well.

Different studies have been made to analyze the assertive, directive, commissive and expressive speech acts in different languages such as Japanese, English, Korean, Spanish, Italian which has shed light on the understanding of how a society communicates and expresses among them. Many of the studies have shown that the differences among speakers of a same language lead to conflicts and misunderstanding and that this comes from the variations of pragmatic formulas that people coming from various social, cultural and educational backgrounds may use. Another finding has been that the lack of importance of pragmatics in the language learning environment has resulted on the correct usage of the semantic and syntactic formulas but the inappropriate usage of the language in a particular social or cultural context.

In an article written by Garcia (2009) we are able to understand how Peruvian males and females Spanish speakers express emotion, pain and sympathy and what feedback this may generate from the hearer’s side. The purpose was to analyze the way middle class males and females express sympathy and what type of pragmatic strategies they use to maintain the ‘face’ of the hearer. The study was compared to previous ones that used Brown and Levinson’s model of politeness and Scollon and Scollon’s model of deference and solidarity politeness. The study showed that the speech act of sympathy and the politeness formulas used by males differed greatly from those used by females; in addition, they expressions were dependent of the socio-economic level and the power and distance range among the speaker and the hearer.

As a result, in the act of request males showed to be more authoritative, deferent and distant while females demonstrated solidarity, familiarity and sympathy towards the hearer which would prove that pragmatic use of the language not only vary among cultures but also between genders. However, both groups used negative politeness when addressing the hearer which supports the distance among speakers and the respect towards the independence of the other; in addition, negative politeness cares about the ‘face’ of the hearer and preserving a polite but not familiar relationship between speaker and hearer.

The experiment included 10 males and females between the ages of 20 to 62 years old and ranging from various levels of education and occupation but from same social class. The study was based on a role-play scenario where the participants had to express the closest reaction or expression they would have in different sympathetic situations. The participants were asked to improvise a conversation, while they were recorded for data analysis purposes, which demonstrated that different pragmatic strategies are used according to the behavioral expectation of the group that is in the context. The participants played the role of a widow who just found out the death of her husband and of a co-worker who approaches her to show sympathy.

There were many pragmatic strategies used by the speaker to show sympathy and solidarity towards the hearer, including claiming in group membership, offering comfort, providing explanations, giving advice, requesting information, offering cooperation, praising the deceased or the addressed, giving preparators, providing business information and expressing disbelief, grief, sympathy or empathy. The participants respected the association principles of involvement, empathy and respect and the equity principles of cost-benefit, fairness-reciprocity and autonomy-control. In the experiment it was demonstrated that although some of the implicatures drawn by the hearer were not pleasing or considered appropriate, they were permitted behavior within the culture and considered part of pragmatic strategies used to in that particular society.

In the experiment the interlocutors showed respectability for the identity and face of the addresses which is a way of seeking to use socially accepted pragmatic formulas. Criticism is seen as a manifestation of the speaker’s belonging to the social group in the context which also shows that the speaker wants to maintain their “face” and that they are sensitive about the negative effects it may have from the hearer’s side. The different pragmatic strategies used by Peruvians were geared towards enhancing the interlocutor’s and speaker’s identity face by using a ‘positive social value’, also the speaker’s respectability face by protecting the way people perceive his/her comments and finally the interlocutor’s respectability face by offering them their self-positive values such as good name or role in the community.

The interlocutor’s responses were not subject of analysis but they were used to evaluate the context and utterances given by the speaker. The interlocutor confirmed the interaction with the speaker had a relational goal and that the comments made by the speaker showed a sincere concern for her well-being. The results of the experiment showed that males emphasized respect and empathy while females combined empathy and involvement in their expression of sympathy. The strategies used by the speaker demonstrated that his/her communication goal is to preserve relationships and consolidate a personal involvement with the hearer because of the importance of cultural ‘relatedness’.

Additionally, the analysis proved that for Peruvian speakers, even when there is a power differential and social distance with the hearer, the goal is to respect the equity and association principles and protect the interlocutor’s face above all. Although in some cases the speakers preferred to give advice, criticize the deceased or business information, violating the autonomy-control principle, these responses were seen as permitted behavior because the speaker did not fail to establish, enhance or maintain in-group relationships and the culture favors personal involvement. Furthermore, we understand the differences in pragmatic strategies used by males and females whose goals were dissimilar but both achieved to establish a bond with the interlocutor.

The study was very interesting and gave a different perspective on how gender could mark a difference in communication. Is fair to conclude that the type of society influences the roles males and females play in a conversation and the expected social behavior that is consider accepted from each of them. Where women tend to play a more nurturing role and embrace personal involvement with the community, it is more likely that their responses were charged with solidarity and empathy; whereas man that come from a society that favors machismo and authoritative behavior tend to respond less opened towards emotional acts and demonstrate respect and objectivity in a personal situation.


Garcia, C. (2009). “Cuente conmigo: The expression of sympathy by Peruvian Spanish speakers .” Journal of Pragmatics. pp: 1-18. Print. Project MUSE Database.


Huang, Y. (2006). Speech Acts. Pragmatics (Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics) (pp. 93-131). New York: Oxford University Press, USA.

Pragmática En Zonas Altas y Bajas

Comparacion de Formulas Pragmaticas Usadas

En Zonas Altas y Bajas en Latinoamerica

Las lenguas han pasado por muchos cambios a través de los tiempos y el español no ha sido la excepción. Debido a las interacciones entre distintos países y culturas, el español ha cambiado muchas de sus formas semánticas y sintácticas, lo cual ha implicado una influencia en las formas pragmáticas usadas por los hablantes. El flujo constante de la lengua promueve el desarrollo y evolución de la misma; además, influye en la forma en que los hablantes se comunican y expresan entre ellos. Actualmente, dependiendo del área en que un grupo específico se encuentre, es que el español tradicional o común es usado.

En Latinoamérica hay muchas regiones que conservan formas coloquiales del español y que han mantenido una lengua que usa formas semánticas que han dejado de ser comunes entre hispano hablantes. El flujo del comercio en una zona y la interacción entre distintos tipos de habla en la misma, han llevado a la lengua española a mostrar marcadas diferencias entre las regiones bajas como el Caribe y las regiones altas como los Andes. Es muy diferente la manera como se expresan las personas que viven en zonas donde la lengua es influenciada por las características, tonos y expresiones de otro tipo de habla, a las personas que han vivido en zonas más recluidas o apartadas y que no han tenido un movimiento lingüístico. Continue reading

Pragmatic Experimental Study

Imagine that you are asked to design an experimental study on pragmatics: 1) what would be your topic and why? b) What would be the objective of the study? c) What would be your hypothesizes? d) What would be the methodology (subjects, data collection, data analysis etc.)?

My topic would be “Pragmatic differences in the speech acts among high zones and low zones in Colombian Spanish”. I would like to study if there are pragmatic differences in the speech acts of requests, apology and thanking between the “high” zones which would be the ones near the Andes and mountains (Bogota, Medellin, Cali) and the “low” zones which would be the ones closer to the Caribbean (Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta) in Colombia because it interests me to understand the reasons for the notable linguistic variations among groups of people that are native from each area.

The objective would be to analyze and determine if there are pragmatic differences in the speech acts of request, apology and thanking among “high” and “low” zones in Colombian Spanish. The purpose would be to establish causes or reasons for the linguistic variations and determine the strongest variables that are part of the differences in the pragmatic uses of the speech acts among both groups.

My hypothesis would be that many factors influence the linguistic variations among “low” and high” zones in Colombia and they determine the social differences among people from both groups. Influence of other languages and cultures would be a variable that would make part of the difference among both zones because of the accessibility or seclusion both areas have gone through. Climatic and environmental setting could play a part in the difference among speech acts used by people from “low” or high” zones in Colombia because of the location of which area which would determine the habits and life style of both areas. Cultural traditions and values among people from “low” and high” zones could represent a difference in the speech acts used because of the preservation or development of linguistic features according to each society. Continue reading