Multimodality and L2 inferential comprehension: a relevance-theoretic framework for teaching L2 hearers to trust paralinguistic input

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract

Ifantidou (2013ab, 2014, 2016) addresses L2 comprehension as a genuinely inferential process, from a relevance-theoretic perspective. While she focuses on pragmatic competence as it becomes manifest in L2 writing/reading, the present study applies relevance theory to the teaching and testing of oral inferential comprehension.

I adapt Ifantidou’s pragmatic competence assessment framework (2014) to focus on use of non-verbal behaviours and the role they play in interpreting verbal utterances. I hypothesise that exposing L2 hearers generally to one specific type of paralinguistic behaviour – prosodic pointing (Madella and Romero-Trillo, 2019) – addresses four pragmatic problems L2 hearers typically experience: (i) overreliance on linguistic input; (ii) lack of alertness towards the speaker’s paralinguistic cues; (iii) difficulty carrying out top-down processing; (iv) difficulties reading their interlocutor’s mind (Padilla Cruz, 2013). I suggest these characteristics are interrelated.

The study focuses on Chinese L2 hearers. Immediate recall tasks were used to assess Chinese L2 hearers’ oral inferential comprehension of weakly communicated intentions and multimodal stimuli which trigger more than one plausible interpretation. Introspection-based data shows evidence of pragmatic and metapragmatic awareness and developing cautious optimism (Sperber 1994; Padilla Cruz, 2012ab), both of which are indicative of enhanced pragmatic competence. The results strongly suggest that exploiting prosodic pointing in the L2 classroom needs to be considered, and crucially so, in the context of developing vigilant L2 hearers. The results also demonstrate that Ifantidou’s adapted framework can be used as a method to foster metapragmatic awareness, pragmatic awareness, and thereby enhance pragmatic competence in L2 hearers. The present study urges L2 practitioners to address instances of communication where attending to paralinguistic stimuli is key to interpreting speaker meaning. Pedagogy that both reflects communication as a multimodal phenomenon and instils in L2 learners the ability to trust paralinguistic input can contribute to the development of increasingly sophisticated interpretive abilities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event9TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON INTERCULTURAL, COGNITIVE AND SOCIAL PRAGMATICS - Seville - online
Duration: 4 Nov 20206 Nov 2020

Conference

Conference9TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON INTERCULTURAL, COGNITIVE AND SOCIAL PRAGMATICS
Period4/11/206/11/20

Keywords

  • Prosodic pointing
  • L2 pragmatic competence
  • oral interpretive abilities
  • relevance theory

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