The role of the English language variety in the awareness of pragmatic markers by L2 users: a study abroad perspective

30 May 2024
Room E1

The role of the English language variety in the awareness of pragmatic markers by L2 users: a study abroad perspective

Pragmatic markers (PMs) have been defined as linguistic constructions, typical of spoken language, which help interaction (Beeching, 2016). Research on their use in different varieties of English has been prolific (e.g., Schweinberger, 2015), but PMs have been underexplored (but see, Magliacane & Howard 2019) in English as a second language (L2). Study Abroad research (e.g., Iwasaki, 2011) shows that contact with the local community aids PM production in the L2. In particular, longitudinal studies (Iwasaki, 2011) point to beneficial effects over time, giving rise to increased frequencies. However, while research on PM production in the L2 has been gaining traction, a focus on their awareness in the L2 is lacking. Meanwhile, research on pragmatic recognition (e.g., Sánchez-Hernández & Alcón-Soler, 2019) posits that this is a crucial step for any pragmatic production.

Against this background, this study analyses longitudinally if a sojourn abroad affects PM awareness. A pre and post-test, designed for the purpose of the study, were administered to 18 Chinese students in the UK and Ireland over four months. Pragmatic awareness was operationalised as PM recognition and metapragmatic awareness of PMs. PM recognition was explored as the ability of recognising PMs in oral extracts showcasing different varieties of English (US, Indian, Irish, UK) as well as their corresponding transcripts. Metapragmatic awareness was measured in terms of the ability to identify PMs and their function in context. The quantitative findings were triangulated with qualitative data, elicited with semi-structured reflective interviews conducted after each test.

Preliminary findings suggest that participants overall increased their PM awareness over time with a significant longitudinal increase of their meta-pragmatic awareness of PMs. This study also analyses whether the residence of stay resulted into an advantage to the test scores of PM recognition and metapragmatic awareness for the English language variety spoken by the host community.



Beeching, K. (2016). Pragmatic markers in British English: Meaning in social interaction. Cambridge University Press.

Iwasaki, N. (2011). Filling social space with fillers: gains in social dimension after studying abroad in Japan. Jpn. Lang. Lit, 45(1), 169-193.

Magliacane, A. & Howard, M. (2019). The role of learner status in the acquisition of pragmatic markers during study abroad: The use of ‘like’ in L2 English. Journal of Pragmatics 146, 72-86.

Sánchez-Hernández, A., & Alcón-Soler, E. (2019). Pragmatic gains in the study abroad context: General patterns and learners’ experiences. Journal of Pragmatics, 146, 54-71.

Schweinberger, M. (2015). A comparative study of the pragmatic marker like in Irish English and in south-eastern varieties of British English. In Pragmatic Markers in Irish English (pp. 114-134). Benjamins.