A Study of Relationships between L1 Pragmatic Transfer and L2 Proficiency

Jiemin Bu


Studies in interlanguage pragmatics have shown that L2 learners’ proficiency has an influence on the occurrences of L1 pragmatic transfer. However, questions remain whether the relationship between L1 pragmatic transfer and L2 proficiency is positive or negative. This paper is designed to study L1 pragmatic transfer in requests made by Chinese learners of English at low L2 proficiency level and at high L2 proficiency level and how L1 pragmatic transfer is related to their L2 proficiency. Ten low proficiency learners of English, ten high proficiency learners of English?ten native speakers of English and ten native speakers of Chinese participate in this study. Requests are collected by means of a discourse completion test questionnaire and are analysed in terms of requestive semantic formulas based on the taxonomy of request strategies, internal modifiers and external modifiers. The research results reveal that L1 pragmatic transfer decreases with the increase of L2 proficiency such as learners’ use of direct strategies, lexical and phrasal downgraders, imperatives and grounder and no clear relationship is found between L1 pragmatic transfer and L2 proficiency in terms of the other request strategies, internal modifiers and external modifiers. These results provide partial support to negative correlation hypothesis —high proficiency L2 learners are less likely to transfer their native language pragmatic norms since they have enough control over L2.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/elt.v5n1p32

English Language Teaching       ISSN 1916-4742 (Print)   ISSN  1916-4750 (Online)

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