Variational pragmatics in the foreign language classroom

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Situational variation has long been an accepted form of intra-lingual variation in speech act realisations. The effect of macro-social factors, such as region, ethnic background, age, social status and gender, on intra-lingual pragmatic conventions has, however, received comparatively little attention in the study of pragmatics to date [Kasper, G., 1995. Wessen Pragmatik? Für eine Neubestimmung fremdsprachlicher Handlungskompetenz. Zeitschrift für Fremdsprachenforschung 6 (1), 69-94, 72-73]. In addition, only very limited attention has been paid to macro-social pragmatic variation in modern dialectology, a discipline which focuses on the effect of macro-social factors on linguistic choices [cf. Wolfram, W., Schilling-Estes, N., 1998. American English. Dialects and Variation. Blackwell, Malden, MA, p. 89]. Variational pragmatics is a newly established sub-field of pragmatics which aims to meet this research gap. It is situated at the interface of pragmatics and dialectology and aims at a systematic investigation of the effect of macro-social pragmatic variation on language in action [cf. Schneider, K.P., Barron, A., 2005. Variational pragmatics: Contours of a new discipline. Unpublished paper presented at the 9th International Pragmatics Conference, Riva del Garda, July 10-15, 2005]. This paper highlights the need for a focus on macro-social factors. It draws attention to the fact that the rather blinkered focus on intra-lingual variation to date has meant that in research and teaching, languages have been generally viewed as homogenous wholes, devoid of regional and social variation. By means of data from a selection of regional intra-lingual pragmatic studies, the paper attempts to highlight a number of parameters relevant to intralingual pragmatic variation. On this basis, a case is made for language teaching to include a variational perspective on conventions of language use.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)519-536
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 01.09.2005
Externally publishedYes