The Efficacy of Pragmatics-Informed Instruction: a Case of Teaching the Korean Verb Ending –ney
This research study compared two instructional approaches to teaching a Korean verb ending (i.e., -ney). These instructional approaches differ in terms of their respective emphases on target form’s semantic and pragmatic meanings. In the first approach, the form’s semantic meaning (i.e., evidentiality) was addressed. The second approach addressed a pragma-linguistic meaning of the form. In this approach, the form’s politeness function was underscored.
This study was motivated to establish an empirical ground for Ellis’ principles of instructed language learning (Ellis, 2005). While distinguishing semantic and pragmatic meanings, Ellis strongly supported that addressing pragmatic meanings is crucial in language teaching. In-depth investigation regarding a learner’s cognitive processes in L2 pragmatics will advance our understanding of the interlanguage pragmatics development in relation to general L2 learning (Kasper & Rose, 1999; Davies & Taylor, 2005; Cai & Wang, 2013). More empirical research studies on instructional strategies of L2’s pragmatics will help teachers’ selection of effective strategies.
36 participants, who completed the first year of beginning Korean, were recruited from a large suburban university in North America. A pre-test, post-test, and delayed post design was employed to measure the relative effectiveness of the two instructional approaches on participants’ appropriateness judgments as well as ability to produce the target form. After a pre-test, the participants were randomly assigned to semantics-informed and pragmatics-informed groups respectively. Pre-test confirmed that these two groups were statistically equivalent. While the semantics-informed group received the instruction of the target form as an evidential marker only, the pragmatics-informed group was taught the politeness function of the target form.
The post-test revealed that the pragmatics-informed group out-performed the semantics-informed group in appropriateness judgment and but not in an ability to produce the target form per context. While the difference between two groups’ performance in production accuracy on post-test was not statically significant, the delayed post-test revealed that pragmatics-informed group’s scores on appropriateness judgment as well as ability to produce the target form per context were higher. The findings of this study support that emphasizing pragmatics to second language learners can yield more optimal acquisition results.
Jiyoon Lee is Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her research and teaching interests include language assessment, theories of Second Language Acquisition, and teacher education. She has presented at a range of conferences and her works have appeared in TESOL Quarterly (solo author), Language Testing (with Butler), Modern Language Journal (with Butler), English Today (with Jeon), Working Papers in Educational Linguistics, and Electronic Magazine for Multicultural Education. Before joining UMBC, she taught at the University of Georgia. She received her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. https://sites.google.com/site/jylee0515/