Author: Fan, Ling
Title: Pragmatic competence of advanced CSL learners in spoken Chinese : a comparison of native speakers of English and of Cantonese
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2019
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Pragmatics
Chinese language
Mandarin dialects
Second language acquisition
Pages: xxxi, 415 pages
Language: English
Abstract: This thesis attempts to investigate pragmatic competence of spoken Chinese by Chinese as a second language (CSL) learners with a comparison of the learners who are native speakers of English and native speakers of Cantonese. The original sound recording retrieved from COPA (Computerized Oral Proficiency Assessment, provided by Yale-China Chinese Language Institute, The Chinese University of Hong Kong) serves as the database for this study in which CSL learners of different language levels from different language backgrounds are required to perform Chinese on various occasions. This study sampled 90 advanced and advanced high CSL learners randomly whose first language is either Cantonese or English. Of those whose first language is Cantonese, 31 were advanced learners and 14 advanced high learners. Similarly, 31 advanced and 14 advanced high learners whose first language is Englishare selected. Pragmatic competence of the CSL learners has been conceptualized in this study as comprising of dual aspects: using appropriate discourse cohesive devices and adopting appropriate politeness strategies. The research questions for the study are: 1) How well do the CSL learners of different language levels use discourse cohesive devices such as causality relations, connectives and repeated words and expressions? 2) Are there any differences between native speakers of English and native speakers of Cantonese in their competence of using cohesive devices? 3) How well do the CSL learners of different language levels use politeness strategies? 4) Are there any differences between native speakers of English and native speakers of Cantonese in their competence of using politeness strategies? 5) Is it true that CSL learners with higher language level or longer period of learning Chinese would demonstrate higher level of pragmatic competence? It is found that overall CSL learners who are native speakers of Cantonese perform better than those who are native speakers of English in using discourse cohesive devices. Furthermore, among CSL learners who are native speakers of Cantonese, advanced high level learners perform better than advanced ones in general, though the gap is not remarkable. Similarly, among CSL learners who are native speakers of English, advanced high level learners perform better than advanced ones, especially in discourse construction. In short, CSL learners of different levels from different language backgrounds present different performances in the application of discourse cohesion measures such as causality conjunctions, coordinating connectives and disjunctives as well as repetition, there is a proportional relationship between Chinese proficiency level of CSL learners and their use of discourse cohesion measures, i.e., the higher level the CSL learners have, the higher discourse cohesion competence they would have. Regarding appropriate use of politeness language and strategies by CSL learners, it is found that although there exist some differences among CSL learners of different levels from different language backgrounds, there is no proportional relationship between this aspect of pragmatic competence and the Chinese proficiency level of the students. Instead, CSL learners having higher Chinese proficiency tend to have lower pragmatic competence in using politeness language appropriately. Furthermore, it is also discovered that the higher proficiency CSL learners have, the less they will be affected by their mother tongues, though there is no obvious evidence that can show that the mother tongues of CLS learners have a direct relation with their pragmatic competence. In conclusion, the author integrates different theories and insights to discuss cultural as well as linguistic factors of the CSL learners in influencing their pragmatic competence. Furthermore, implications and suggestions for CSL teaching are put forward, making a significant contribution to CSL learning and teaching which over the years, has largely ignored the importance of nurturing pragmatic competence.
Access: open access

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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/10016