Pragmatics 26:4 (December 2016)

Spyridoula BELLA

Offers by Greek FL learners: A cross-sectional developmental study            


This study investigates developmental patterns in the ability of Greek foreign language learners to make offers. Drawing data from role-plays and retrospective verbal reports it attempts to explore the initiative offer strategies, the syntactic modification and the degree of insistence that learners of three different proficiency levels (lower intermediate, intermediate and advanced) employ when performing offers in two symmetrical (-P, -D) and two asymmetrical (+P, +D) situations.

The results suggest that, although there is a great deal of grammatical and pragmalinguistic development regarding both initiative offer strategies and syntactic modification devices, this does not guarantee concomitant levels of sociopragmatic development (cf. Bardovi-Harlig 1999). Specifically, it is shown that learners of increased proficiency tend to overgeneralise complex grammatical structures like interrogative constructions and the conditional in situations in which NSs employ more direct and simple grammatical means in order to achieve a solidarity effect. Furthermore, the learners appear to lag far behind NSs in the appropriate use of insistence.

The findings of the study lend support to both the developmental stages of pragmatic competence acknowledged in the relevant literature (Ellis 1992; Achiba 2003) and to Bialystok's (1993) model regarding the acquisition of pragmatic competence.

Keywords: Pragmatic development; Greek offers; Interlanguage; Insistence.

 Israel BERGER, Celia KITZINGER and Sonja J. ELLIS

Using a category to accomplish resistance in the context of an emergency call: Michael Jackson’s doctor



We report a single case analysis of a recorded emergency call with particular reference to the use of the non-recognitional categorical person reference ‘a personal doctor’ in the sequential context created by the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) protocol routinely used by the emergency services. We describe both the position and the composition of the turn in which this categorical person reference is deployed in order to analyse the action accomplished by its selection. We show how this category reference is selected to support the action in which the speaker is otherwise engaged, which is to resist the sequential trajectory proposed by his interlocutor (giving instructions for cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Our analysis makes two key contributions: 1) it provides a concrete detailed exemplar of how analysts can ground claims about category-bound inferences in the empirical practices of talk in interaction and 2) it extends existing work on emergency calls by relating their sequential structure to the MPDS protocol.


Keywords: Conversation Analysis; Membership Categorization Analysis; Person reference; Emergency calls; Resistance; Healthcare.


Reported threats: The routinization of violence in Central America


This study offers new insights into the complex and underexplored nature of reported threats.  Combining the theoretical framework of speech act analysis with the concept of reported speech, the study finds six categories of reported threats, uncovering ones that have been overlooked by existing scholarship thus far.  The texts presented are derived from audio-recordings of 847 interviews carried out in four Central American countries: El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama between 2010 and 2014.  References to threats and threat narratives came from school teachers, community leaders, police officers, clergy, and members of municipal violence prevention committees.  The interpretation of indirect and implicit threats are made in the social context of communities under siege, that is, under constant attack by local gangs, many of whom are connected to national gangs and international narcotrafficking cartels.  The credibility of the different types of threats is evaluated, using Goffman’s (1981) insight into the complexity of speaker roles in face-to-face interaction.

Keywords: Threats; Speech acts; Reported speech; Language crimes


Vagueness: A loanword’s good friend. The case of ‘print’ in Spanish fashion


The language of fashion is often set as the example of a field where the use of loanwords is common practice, but has seldom been worthy of scholarly analytical attention. At the same time, vagueness is usually regarded as an inherent characteristic in natural language, but, until recently, terminology relegated it, since the traditional approaches tended to prioritise accuracy and standardisation. With the help of a combined theoretical basis, a semantic theory and a pragmatic model, this paper brings together these two worlds in order to examine the English loanword ‘print’ in the domain of Spanish fashion, contrasting and comparing it with native near-equivalents. We conclude that the presence of this borrowed term, exclusively restricted to specialised fashion circles, cannot be motivated by its contribution to specificity, a characteristic that usually distinguishes loanwords from their semantic near-equivalents in the recipient language. The importance of ‘print’ lies in its unspecified, vague nature as a loan, which permits its adaptation to a variety of fashion contexts less appropriate for the more restricted denotation of the native terms.

Keywords: Loanwords; Vagueness; Underspecification; Semantic equivalence; Language of fashion.



Address practices in academic interactions in a pluricentric language: Australian English, American English, and British English


Following the recent development of address research in pluricentric languages (Clyne et al. 2006), the present study describes address practices in English-speaking academic settings and pursues two main objectives: (a) to provide a profile of address patterns in academic interactions in Australian English; and (b) to compare address practices in higher education across the three dominant varieties of English, namely American English, Australian English, and British English. The data on Australian English are drawn from 235 questionnaires completed by students, who reported on the address strategies adopted by students and teaching staff in classroom interactions in an Australian university. Data on American and British academic settings were retrieved from the research literature on the topic. The findings show a high degree of informality and familiarity in student-teacher relations in Australia, where reciprocal first names are the default pattern of address at all levels. By contrast, in American academia the hierarchical organization of roles and the different professional positions are foregrounded and reinforced through an asymmetrical use of titles, honorifics and first names. Finally, the British university setting displays a non-reciprocal usage of first names and titles between lecturer and students, which gradually evolves into a more generalised reciprocal use of first names, usually after extended contact and collaboration. We argue that the distinctive patterns of address observed in the three varieties of English reflect diverse social and cultural values systems at work in different speech communities.

Keywords: Terms of address; Academic setting; Pluricentric language; Australian English; American English; British English.

 Per LEDIN and David MACHIN

Management discourse in university administrative documents in Sweden: How it recontextualizes and fragments scholarly practices and work processes


Studies in CDA have revealed the nature of the marketized language that now infuses universities and other public institutions, but there is no comprehensive study as to how this language enters the everyday practices of the university through different levels of steering documents and meetings. In this paper, taking one example from a corpus of data from a larger project on New Public Management in Sweden, we show how successively more detailed documents are created by professional administrators in order to present vision statements, that are first operationalized into strategies and then into more concrete ‘activities’ for the subject level that are related to bundles of performance indicators. These documents re-contextualize practices of teaching and research in line with marketized goals, yet do so through consistent lack of clear agency, causality and process. A number of linguistic and multimodal resources are deployed in a chain of interrelated documents legitimizing this process as one made by careful, technical, management expertise, although the result is a fragmentation of the actual interconnected processes that comprise university work.

Keywords: Marketization; Universities; Multimodality; Management; New Public Management; Critical Discourse Analysis; Recontextualization of social practice.

 Christopher LEYLAND

‘Pre-enactment’ in team-teacher planning talk: Demonstrating a possible future in the here-and-now


Recent years have seen a growing body of research concerned with objects in interaction and the numerous interactional methods and functions of creating a shared vision of some non-present scene. This multimodal Conversation Analytic study of second language interaction uncovers a combination of these two foci, showing the ways in which people use objects to create a shared vision of these objects may be used in the future. This frequently used practice of ‘pre-enactment’ is uncovered from a corpus of video recorded lesson planning discussions between English ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ teachers who ‘team-teach’ together in Japanese schools. To these discussions, participants bring various objects that will be used in upcoming collaborative classes, such as clocks, word cards, and other printouts. By shifting from describing to demonstrating how such objects may be used, an authentic and pervasive image of a possible future is created. This has many functions, such as informing the current planning talk and providing a platform for other important actions to take place, such as suggesting alternatives or making requests. By examining this manipulation of objects, this study considers the ways people switch between the present and a possible future in planning talk. As such, this study adds an important layer of understanding to practices utilized in future-oriented interaction, particularly those involving people who do not share a first language.

Keywords: Planning; Team-Teachers; Objects; Shared Vision; Conversation Analysis.