Pragmatic awareness of conversational implicatures by L2 undergraduate students in Saudi Arabia
Keywords:conversational implicature, implied meaning, pragmatic competence
Pragmatic competence is one of the chief components of language learners’ communicative abilities. However, in research and instruction, limited attention is often directed towards the pragmatic aspects of language. One such pragmatic aspect is conversational implicature. This study investigates the perception of implicatures by EFL undergraduates in Saudi Arabia, where, as in East Asian countries, English is spoken as a foreign language. It employs an exploratory mixed-methods design to collect and analyse the data. Three instruments were used to collect the data, namely, a multiple-choice discourse completion test, the design based on Bouton’s works (1988, 1994), a questionnaire, developed from and based on the taxonomy of the implicature of interpretative strategies by Vandergrift (1997), and interviews. A total of 40 undergraduates who enrolled on a four-year English programme at Majmaah University were randomly selected to participate in this study. The findings revealed that EFL learners encountered difficulties in understanding implicatures. It was also shown that Quantity, Indirect Criticism, Quality, Sequential, and Scalar implicatures are more problematic for learners than the other five types of implicatures, namely, Minimum Requirement Rule, Manner, POPE-Q, Idiomatic, and Relation, respectively. Moreover, the findings obtained from the questionnaire indicated that the participants tended to use inference strategies, deduction/induction, repetition, and transfer strategies more frequently than grouping strategies, elaboration strategies, translation strategies, and summarisation strategies. The study recommends that language teachers should incorporate the pragmatic aspects of language in their teaching, and such aspects should also be incorporated in the English curricula. It provides significant implications which could be useful for EFL/ESL learners and teachers as well as curriculum designers in Saudi Arabia, as much as in East Asia.
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