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Title:Spanish pragmatic markers' usage patterns in second language and heritage speakers
Author(s):Mostacero Pinilla, Cristina
Director of Research:Escobar, Anna María
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Escobar, Anna María
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Montrul, Silvina; Jegerski, Jill; Bowles, Melissa
Department / Program:Spanish and Portuguese
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Pragmatic Markers
L2 Learners
Heritage Speakers
Second Language Acquisition
L2 Pragmatics
Heritage Language Acquisition
Abstract:This study examines the patterns of use of pragmatic markers in heritage speakers and second language (L2) learners of Spanish at different proficiency levels (advanced vs. low-intermediate) by comparing their performances in a series of oral tasks. The investigation is guided by two main goals: 1) to analyze whether these groups display the same patterns of pragmatic markers’ usage in terms of frequency, variety of markers and range of functions; 2) to examine how the variables of proficiency, speech rate, language use, and participation in immersion programs affect their use of pragmatic markers. Based on previous research, I hypothesized that heritage speakers would outperform L2 learners of Spanish, therefore, they would use pragmatic markers more frequently, as well as a broader range of pragmatic markers, and for a wider variety of functions in their oral discourse (Fernández et al., 2014; Montrul, 2008, 2011; Torres, 2002; Torres & Potowski, 2008; Said-Mohand, 2006; Sánchez-Muñoz, 2007). Additionally, I hypothesized the creation of an Intercultural Style (Blum Kulka, 1991; Kasper & Blum-Kulka, 1993) by the bilingual groups. This style is characterized by a) cross-linguistic transfer from the L1 to the L2 (including examples of code-switching and/or borrowings, as well as the transfer of certain discourse-pragmatic functions from the English pragmatic markers to the Spanish ones); b) the overuse of certain pragmatic markers; c) instances of uses of pragmatic markers that diverge from the “monolingual standardized norm” (Aijmer, 2011; Bou, Garcés & Gregori, Granger & Tyson, 1996; Cenoz, 2003; Gilquin, 2008; Nogueira da Silva, 2011; Said-Mohand, 2006; Sánchez-Muñoz, 2007; Sankoff et al., 1997; Thomas, 1983; Torres, 2002; Torres & Potowski, 2008). Regarding the second goal, I hypothesized that the variables of proficiency, speech rate, language use, and immersion would play a crucial role in the use of pragmatic markers for both bilingual groups. Regarding proficiency, I expected more proficient groups (advanced heritage speakers and L2 learners) to outperform their less proficient counterparts (low-intermediate) (Fernández et al., 2014; Torres, 2002; Torres & Potowski, 2008; Said-Mohand, 2006). Given the fact that naturalistic contexts and direct contact with native speakers of the target language favor the acquisition of pragmatic markers (Hellermann & Vergun, 2007; Polat, 2011; Sankoff et al., 1997), both the use of Spanish, and participation in immersion programs were also predicted to be positively correlated with the production of pragmatic expressions. A total of 77 participants took part in the experiment: 25 heritage speakers (13 advanced and 12 low-intermediate), 32 L2 learners (8 advanced and 24 low-intermediate), and 20 monolingually-raised native speakers of Spanish as a control group (10 speakers of Mexican Spanish and 10 of the Peninsular variety). Participants completed an oral task designed to elicit oral speech samples via a computer. Prompts included different contexts with open-ended questions (e.g., describe your best friend) and more interactive contexts (e.g., the performance of speech acts such as apologizing to a friend). A total of 539 oral samples (77 participants x 7 prompts) were transcribed and coded for pragmatic markers. Results from statistical analyses (one-way between-subjects ANOVA and Tukey HSD post-hoc analyses conducted in R) showed that all bilingual groups produced similar rates of pragmatic markers. In terms of the variety of expressions employed by participants, statistical analyses revealed significant differences between the low-intermediate L2 group and the rest of the bilingual groups, as well as between the advanced L2 learners and the low-intermediate HSs. No significant differences were found, however, between both heritage speakers’ groups nor between the heritage speakers and the advanced L2 group. Concerning the most frequent pragmatic expressions, there were similar patterns across all groups. For instance, ‘y’, ‘pero’, and ‘como’ were among the five most frequent pragmatic markers for all groups (including monolingually-raised native speakers). On the other hand, there were also differences between L2 learners and heritage speakers. For example, heritage speakers and monolinguals favored the use of ‘este’ and ‘pues’, whereas L2 learners preferred the use of ‘entonces’ and ‘sí’. The oral speech of both heritage speakers and L2 learners showed features that differentiated them from the monolingually-raised groups. Their Intercultural Style was characterized by the use of English pragmatic markers (e.g., ‘so’, ‘like’); higher frequencies of use of markers such as ‘como’, ‘también’, or ‘sí’; the overuse of certain markers in the speech of low-intermediate L2 learners (e.g., ‘y’, ‘pero’); as well as uses of pragmatic markers in ways that diverged from the “norm” of monolingual varieties (e.g., ‘también no’, ‘unfortunadamente’, etc.). Regarding the effect of proficiency, speech rate, use of language, and immersion on the patterns of pragmatic markers’ usage, a series of multiple regression analyses showed that L2 learners and heritage speakers are affected by them differently. For L2 learners, speech rate was significantly correlated with higher frequencies of pragmatic markers’ use. Concerning the range of pragmatic expressions used, proficiency, immersion, and speech rate had a significant effect. In contrast, the variable of use of Spanish was not a significant predictor. For heritage speakers, the analysis only revealed a significant correlation between the variable use of Spanish and the variety in pragmatic markers’ usage. In other words, those heritage speakers who reported using Spanish more frequently showed a broader range of pragmatic expressions. In contrast to L2 learners, proficiency, speech rate and participation in immersion experiences did not affect heritage speakers’ production of pragmatic markers. These findings suggest that the acquisition and use of pragmatic markers by heritage speakers and L2 learners are influenced by different variables, as well as shaped differently by their language practices. For L2 learners, proficiency, speech rate, and immersion experiences are significant predictors, but not for heritage speakers. In light of these results, I discuss how standardized tests traditionally used to measure proficiency do not reflect heritage speakers’ real oral command of Spanish, and how heritage speakers benefit from earlier and more naturalistic exposure to Spanish (vs. L2 learners).
Issue Date:2020-05-05
Rights Information:© 2020 by Cristina Mostacero-Pinilla.
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-08-27
Date Deposited:2020-05

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