The impact of learning context on the acquisition of sociopragmatic variation patterns in non-native speaker teachers of English

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Devlin, Anne Marie
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University College Cork
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The study is a cross-linguistic, cross-sectional investigation of the impact of learning contexts on the acquisition of sociopragmatic variation patterns and the subsequent enactment of compound identities. The informants are 20 non-native speaker teachers of English from a range of 10 European countries. They are all primarily mono-contextual foreign language learners/users of English: however, they differ with respect to the length of time accumulated in a target language environment. This allows for three groups to be established – those who have accumulated 60 days or less; those with between 90 days and one year and the final group, all of whom have accumulated in excess of one year. In order to foster the dismantling of the monolith of learning context, both learning contexts under consideration – i.e. the foreign language context and submersion context are broken down into micro-contexts which I refer to as loci of learning. For the purpose of this study, two loci are considered: the institutional and the conversational locus. In order to make a correlation between the impact of learning contexts and loci of learning on the acquisition of sociopragmatic variation patterns, a two-fold study is conducted. The first stage is the completion of a highly detailed language contact profile (LCP) questionnaire. This provides extensive biographical information regarding language learning history and is a powerful tool in illuminating the intensity of contact with the L2 that learners experience in both contexts as well as shedding light on the loci of learning to which learners are exposed in both contexts. Following the completion of the LCP, the informants take part in two role plays which require the enactment of differential identities when engaged in a speech event of asking for advice. The enactment of identities then undergoes a strategic and linguistic analysis in order to investigate if and how differences in the enactment of compound identities are indexed in language. Results indicate that learning context has a considerable impact not only on how identity is indexed in language, but also on the nature of identities enacted. Informants with very low levels of crosscontextuality index identity through strategic means – i.e. levels of directness and conventionality; however greater degrees of cross-contextuality give rise to the indexing of differential identities linguistically by means of speaker/hearer orientation and (non-) solidary moves. When it comes to the nature of identity enacted, it seems that more time spent in intense contact with native speakers in a range of loci of learning allows learners to enact their core identity; whereas low levels of contact with over-exposure to the institutional locus of learning fosters the enactment of generic identities.
Second language acquisition , Learning context , Identity , Sociopragmatics , Non-native speaker teachers
Devlin, AM. 2012. The impact of learning context on the acquisition of sociopragmatic variation patterns in non-native speaker teachers of English. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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