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May you speak louder maybe?: Interlanguage pragmatic development in requests

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Abstract

This paper presents the results of a longitudinal study into the pragmatic development of German learners of English. The data were elicited with the newly developed “Multimedia Elicitation Task” (MET), which contains 16 request scenarios investigating different status and imposition conditions. The 27 participants included 12 German adults studying at a British university for one academic year and an English native speaker control group of 15 students. The data were collected at three distinct points of the Germans’ stay in Great Britain: shortly after their arrival, in the middle of their stay and shortly before their return to Germany. The results provide evidence both for temporal patterning and for individual variation in the learner group. Generally, internal lexical downgraders seem to be acquired earlier than syntactic downgraders, and external modifiers can be assigned to four main groups: the first
group contains supportive moves that had already been acquired by all the participants before the first data collection session and the remaining three groups comprise external modifiers whose first occurrence in the corpus displays a correlation with the length of stay in the target environment.