Evaluating EFL University Learners’ Pragmatic Competence: Brown and Levinson’s Negative Politeness Strategies as a Model
Pragmatic competence forms a basic pillar in learning and teaching the communicative use of a foreign language (FL). Evaluating the FL pragmatic knowledge is a challenging and complex area of language testing. Far from the grammatical content of language, the current study aims to evaluate EFL learners' pragmatic competence in terms of communicating the linguistic expressions of negative politeness. Accordingly, it investigates EFL university learners’ ability to show social distance and realize power relations towards addressees. The study also presents the negative politeness strategies on the basis of Brown and Levinson's (1987) theory.
It is hypothesized that learners are pragmatically unaware of showing negative face towards addressees. It is further assumed that learners show tendency to go on record without redressive action, which often threatens addressees’ negative face. Added to that, learners are not aware of the appropriate use of politeness strategies followed according to the English culture. To investigate this, a Discourse Completion Test consisting of hypothetical situations that are familiar to learners' university life has been formulated.
The study concludes that learners experience pragmatic failures while engaging in situations where there is a need to show negative face, and utter direct speech acts frequently. In addition, learners do not distinguish between the appropriate politeness strategies (positive, negative and off record) as far as the cultural orientation of the English language is concerned. They further disregard the appropriate use of address forms that constitute a paramount aspect of negative politeness.
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