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Testing ESL Sociopragmatics

Development and Validation of a Web-based Test Battery


Carsten Roever, Catriona Fraser and Catherine Elder

Testing of second language pragmatics has grown as a research area but still suffers from a tension between construct coverage and practicality. In this book, the authors describe the development and validation of a web-based test of second language pragmatics for learners of English. The test has a sociopragmatic orientation and strives for a broad coverage of the construct by assessing learners’ metapragmatic judgments as well as their ability to co-construct discourse. To ensure practicality, the test is delivered online and is scored partially automatically and partially by human raters. We used the argument-based approach to validation, which showed that the test can support low-stakes decisions about learners’ knowledge of sociopragmatics in English.
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3 Interlanguage pragmatics and pragmatic development


This chapter starts out by critically discussing research designs and instruments in second language pragmatics and then describes findings from previous interlanguage pragmatics work.

Interlanguage pragmatics studies have been conducted with longitudinal or cross-sectional designs. Longitudinal studies (see Taguchi, 2010, for an overview) follow the same learner(s) over an extended period and document changes in pragmatic target features, thereby allowing direct conclusions as to development since they can reveal changes in learners’ pragmatic competence over time. More commonly, interlanguage pragmatics studies are cross-sectional, comparing learners that differ in a background variable, e.g., amount of exposure to the target language environment, level of general L2 proficiency, level of motivation etc. Where levels of the background variable can also be interpreted as indicative of change over time, e.g., when comparing different proficiency levels or lengths of exposure, conclusions drawn from cross-sectional studies are often pseudo-longitudinal, making the (not unproblematic) assumption that differences in pragmatic competence between groups with different levels of the background variable are indicative of development.

Studies in interlanguage pragmatics also traditionally follow a top-down design: first, a target feature is identified, e.g., the speech act of “requesting”. Then, longitudinal change or cross-sectional differences in this target feature are measured receptively or productively, e.g., learners’ judgments of the appropriateness of requests or their use of supportive moves in performing requests. Such an approach requires structured elicitation of target items and judgments, and the characteristics of the elicitation instrument affect the conclusions that can be drawn...

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