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Pragmatic Profiling (PRA.PRO)


Pragmatic Profiling (PRA.PRO) focuses on variational and individual differences in pragmatic behaviour, specifically in the context of L2 pragmatic competence development. Our core aims are to establish a general definition of pragmatic competence and to develop an instrument for its assessment in L2 learners, based on an empirical analysis of actual differences in communicative behaviour between native speakers and learners.

In one of our latest studies, we are interested in the predictability of native speaker and learner status based on the lexical material produced. For this purpose, we compared the lemmas used in learner data with all lemmas in a corpus of corresponding native speaker utterances. The average overlap between a given learner response and the answers given by all native speakers serves as a rough estimate of native-like communicative behaviour.

This innovative way of analysing DCT (Discourse Completion Test) elicited data was first presented at the 15th International Pragmatics Conference (IPrA2017) in June 2017, in the context of a study that focused on the pragmatic development of L2 speakers during a stay abroad. Its purpose was to highlight which aspects of the expected development towards more native speaker-like communicative behaviour could be better captured on the lexical and which on the functional-pragmatic level. The results obtained from this study will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Pragmatics in 2019.

In another project strand, we have conducted a perception study in which native speakers were asked to assess whether the utterances shown to them were produced by a learner or a native speaker. The same informants also rated these utterances on perception scales for politeness, appropriateness, intelligibility, estimated communicative success and perceived authenticity. In doing so, we are aiming for a deeper understanding of native speaker perceptions regarding learner status and appropriateness of a given utterance, a question of special importance e.g. when native speakers function as expert raters in official testing and assessment situations. The initial results obtained from this research are very promising and were first presented at the8th International Conference on Intercultural Pragmatics & Communication (INPRA)  in June 2018.

past & future

PRA.PRO started in 2011. Based on the framework of Variational Pragmatics, we initially wanted to analyse pragmatic differences between varieties of English. We have broadened our approach since: In line with the L2 perspective described above, we have, for example, investigated the development of pragmatic competence in the course of a study abroad experience with support of the Bonn-based company Stepin. We conducted a longitudinal study with students in Stepin’s study abroad programmes, eliciting and analyzing their pragmatic performance over the course of their stay abroad. Using comparable data from native speakers in the target culture, we were also able to investigate the learners’ approximation to the native speaker norm.

PRA.PRO furthermore overlaps with PraNamE, a collaboration between BAEL and Professor Anne Schröder's chair at the University of Bielefeld which focuses on the pragmatics of Namibian English.

Future areas we would like to cover are the assessment of pragmatic competence in children and patients suffering from a  neurological disorder (e.g. Alzheimer's disease).


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