Pragmatic competence and pragmatic tolerance in foreign language acquisition – revisiting the case of scalar implicatures
Recent studies used binary judgment tasks to investigate scalar implicature (e.g. some X implicates some but not all X) derivation differences between L1 and L2 speakers. They examined to which extent participants accept sentences with weak scalar expressions (Timothy ate some of the pretzels) when stronger ones are true (Timothy ate all of the pretzels). Some studies indicate L2 learners are less likely than L1 speakers to accept such statements while others found the opposite, concluding that implicature derivation is “costly” for L2 learners, making them less pragmatically competent than L1 speakers. Importantly, related L1 developmental research suggests that such ‘unpragmatic’ responding may be reduced in child learners when graded rather than binary tasks are used. Exploring this in L2 learners, we tested English L1 speakers and competent German L2 English learners in two experiments using binary and graded tasks. In both tasks, we found clear evidence of pragmatic responses with no evidence of differences between groups. Bayes Factor analyses of the graded data favoured H0 over both the hypotheses of L2 learners being less sensitive to underinformativeness than L1, and the hypothesis that they were more sensitive than L1. We discuss implications for L2 learners’ pragmatic competence and tolerance.

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Date: 13 November 2023, 12:45 (Monday, 6th week, Michaelmas 2023)
Venue: 15 Norham Gardens, 15 Norham Gardens OX2 6PY
Venue Details: Seminar Room A and online
Speaker: Johannes Schulz (University of Oxford)
Organising department: Department of Education
Organiser: Dr Ariel Lindorff (University of Oxford)
Host: Dr Lars-Erik Malmberg (University of Oxford)
Part of: Quantitative Methods Hub - Seminar Programme MT 2023
Booking required?: Not required
Audience: Public
Editor: Hannah Freeman