3.02.171 S Pragmatics: Studying Variation in Language Use


  • Mi , 07.02.2018 08:30 - 10:00
  • Mittwoch: 14:00 - 16:00, wöchentlich


The utterances “Clean up the kitchen, will you?”, “Would you be so kind as to clean the kitchen?”, “Bit dirty in here, don’t you think?” can all be understood as attempts by a speaker to get a potential hearer to clean the kitchen. Apart from this similarity, are there any differences between these utterances? Would you utter each in all contexts or would you prefer specific strategies in different situations? Why do we prefer to be indirect in some situations and direct in others?
The linguistic discipline of pragmatics tries to answer questions like the ones posed above. Pragmatics is defined as the study of language use. It investigates which linguistic choices language users have at their disposal and which ones they are likely to employ in different social situations.
This undergraduate course offers an introduction to the most prominent concepts and frameworks within the discipline of pragmatics (speech act theory, conversational implicature, politeness theories and approaches to analyse conversation) and will give insights on how these concepts have been applied in research. We will further introduce some research traditions within the field of pragmatics and discover answers to questions like: Are there any differences in the use of requests in American and British English? Do Australian and British students use different requests in e-mails to university faculty? How does pragmatic competence develop in EFL learners? Are there differences in the use of mock impoliteness in Australian and British English? Do learners use the same request strategies in e-mails as native speakers do? Does pragmatic competence increase with a stay-abroad? Does pragmatic instruction in EFL teaching work?
This course pursues the aim of involving students in applying the knowledge they gain in empirical research. This means (in practical terms): you choose a topic from a list of possible topics (or come up with one yourself), you give a group presentation on that topic, you work out a small-scale empirical project within this topic (i.e. you collect and analyse data yourself), you present your findings on a poster at the end of the semester (still as group work), you pick one aspect of your study and write a short report on that (individual work).
The methodological basis for working empirically will be discussed in the accompanying lecture “VL Methods in Language Use, Variation and Change”. Participation in the lecture is thus vital for the success of your research project. In the lecture, we will discuss questions like
• which method of data collection is suited for which kind of research question,
• how can samples of language use be analysed,
• how can results be presented visually,
• how can posters be structured and made in the first place,
• and many more.


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