Nativelike Performance : A Corpus Study of Pragmatic Markers, Repair and Repetition in Native and Non-native English Speech

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of English, Stockholm University

Abstract: This is a corpus study of native (N) and non-native (NN) communicative performance in speech as realised through pragmatic markers, repair and repetition. The concept of fluency and what it encompasses is discussed in the section dealing with the theoretical background of the study. In the results sections, non-native speaker (NNS) performance is measured against native speaker (NS) performance in a similar discourse context.The investigated genre is oral presentations and that data consist of video and audio-recorded presentations, eight of which are carried out by N and eight by NN, Swedish speakers of English. The setting of the seminars is a number of science departments in Sweden and Britain.The study stresses the importance of investigating not only the general frequency with which pragmatic markers, repair and repetition occur, but also the types of the respective categories, as well as their linguistic environment.The results of the study indicate that while NNSs are basically as 'fluent' as NSs with regard to their performance in relation to some of these aspects, there are other areas where their production cannot be considered fluent as compared with native speech and where, consequently, NNSs need to improve if they wish to reach a nativelike level of communicative competence.The study shows that examples of such areas are to be found in the use of the pragmatic markers y'know, well and I mean, which NNSs use primarily as editing markers, frequently to mark hesitation. NSs, by contrast, tend to use these markers for discourse marking purposes and, overall, in a more varied way.As regards repair, the most noticeable differences between the two groups of speakers are to be found in connection with grammatical correction, with the NNSs making more frequent use of this type of correction. With regard to other types of correction (e.g. involving change of word, specification and modification), however, the results show that the two groups are quite similar.Within the last major area of study, viz. repetition, some interesting and statistically significant differences between the N and NN informants are also noted. Repetition overall, as well as in connection with hesitation, is found to be markedly more frequent in the NN group, whereas repetition made to achieve certain rhetorical effects and repetition due to involvement in the subject matter on the part of the speaker occurs more frequently in the N group.In the concluding chapter, the importance of pragmatic markers, repair and repetition to (nativelike) communicative skills is again emphasised. With a view to the future, it is hoped that the findings of the present study, combined with informed exposure to the target language as spoken by native speakers, will be helpful to teachers and learners of English as a second language in their mutual striving for nativelike performance and fluency.

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