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The development of pragmatic competence: a study on requests

Yumun, Elif
The purpose of the study was to investigate the pragmatic competence of Turkish learners of English in requests at two levels of English proficiency. Another aspect of the study was to identify the overall and situational proficiency of the learners in performing the speech act of requests and to figure out development and transfer factors. Additionally, the extent to which the changing social variables of power and distance in each of the situations and through the situations affect the learners’ request behaviour and the development regarding this issue was also pursued. For these purposes, the data were collected from four different subject groups. The learner groups include 19 beginner level and 19 upper intermediate level subjects. The control groups comprised of 21 Turkish native speakers and 15 American native speakers. The data were collected from the subject groups using interactive role plays. Each subject was provided with five request situations differing in terms of power and distance variables. The performances were videotaped and interactions were transcribed according to the CHAT manual (Mac Whinney 2000). Following the data collection process, the performances of the subjects in five situations were examined in terms of the directness levels, internal and external modification. For the statistical calculations in the study, one way ANOVA and t-test were employed. The results of the study showed that mostly there is development in the learner groups in accordance with the proficiency level. The upper intermediate group did better than the beginner group most of the time. However, there are also many instances in which even the upper intermediate group failed.