Corpus Pragmatics

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 113–127 | Cite as

Corpus Pragmatics and Second Language Pragmatics: A Mutualistic Entente in Theory and Practice

  • Jesús Romero-Trillo


Ten years after the publication of the volume ‘Pragmatics and corpus linguistics: a mutualistic entente’ (Romero-Trillo, in: Romero-Trillo (ed) Pragmatics and corpus linguistics: a mutualistic entente, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, 2008), this article intends to delve into the mutualistic relationship between Corpus Pragmatics and Second Language (henceforth L2) Pragmatics. The underlying hypothesis is that to master an L2 a learner needs to adopt a new social, cultural and linguistic identity, and that the difficulty during the process is that the pragmatic features of the L2 do not necessarily match those of the first language (henceforth L1). This is the reason why, in the process of L2 learning, speakers may reach the state of pragmatic fossilisation, with a near-to-native grammatical and lexical competence but with a limited range of pragmatic resources (Romero-Trillo in J Pragmat 34: 769–784, 2002). Recent studies have benefited from the support of corpora to investigate L2 learners’ pragmatics as an invaluable tool to test the constructs of pragmatic theories with real data (Romero-Trillo in Corpus Pragmat 1: 1–2, 2017); Maguire and Romero-Trillo, in: Kecskes, Assimakopoulos (eds) Current issues in intercultural pragmatics, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 2017). The present study has three objectives: (1) to describe the theoretical concepts behind the notion of L2 pragmatics with a critical survey of the current literature; (2) to describe how corpus pragmatics has an overarching function in L2 pragmatic development; and (3) to analyse some essential insights of L2 pragmatic development, with particular reference to the role of prosody. The final section will offer suggestions for future research with practical implications for both theoretical and applied linguists.


Corpus pragmatics Pragmatic fossilisation Prosody Pragmatic competence Adaptive management 


Corpus pragmatics has been defined as ‘the science that describes language use in real contexts through corpora’ (Romero-Trillo 2017: 1) and the fast revolution of this relatively recent discipline shows that linguistics is up-to-date with the evolution of society. In my opinion, the use of computerised data, the web-as-corpus data (Kilgarriff and Grefenstette 2003; Fletcher 2012; Biber et al. 2015), the pervasiveness of social networks, and the use of the big data in linguistics, will determine the future of pragmatics in the next few years.

What is the role of corpora in L2 pragmatics? Although I will approach this question from various perspectives, there is a premise in any L2 learning: it is impossible to master a language with full competence without being exposed to the corpus of real-life language use. In other words, we should consider corpus pragmatics not as a tool for analysis, but as an essential element in L2 development. This intricate relationship between L2 development and the target language as a corpus is linked to the notion of pragmatic competence, as defined by Thomas (1983: 92): ‘the ability to use language effectively in order to achieve a specific purpose and to understand language in context’. Therefore, when we look at corpus pragmatics and L2 pragmatics, we should investigate, in the first place, the real-life language that L2 learners use (output), but always in relation with the language that they are exposed to (input). As a result, the object of corpus pragmatics and L2 pragmatics is to bridge the gap between the language that L2 learners listen to and the language that they produce.

Learner corpora research started in the late 1980s as a response to the static analytical approach to investigating how L2 learners express their ideas in a new linguistic code without paying attention to the linguistic context. Unlike the static approach, corpus linguistics in L2 studies takes a dynamic approach as it goes beyond the analysis of what L2 learners produce based on the lexical and grammatical elements and extends its scope to the analysis of how the real-world linguistic context influences their production. For this reason, I argue that the combination of corpus linguistics and L2 pragmatics opens new perspectives because it focuses on the target language of the real world and L2 learners’ language in the real world. The contrast between the target and the learners’ language becomes the basis of analysis to verify whether there are essential differences in the pragmatic realisations between the two languages.

Learner corpora start following the intuition that it is impossible to investigate the variety of L2 learners’ production unless a large computerised dataset is employed (Granger 1994). This intuition was supported by Biber and Conrad (2010), who argued for the use of corpus data when teaching grammar and vocabulary to L2 learners. However, as Römer (2011) pointed out, research on the efficient use of learner corpora is still in its infancy in comparison with the development of corpus linguistics as a full-fledged discipline.

Learner corpus studies began with first consistent steps in the early 1990s as an attempt to understand L2 production in comparison with L1 data (Granger 1993, 1994). One of the significant turning points in the compilation and use of learner corpora was the research led by Sylviane Granger and her team, who compiled several written and spoken learner corpora (cf. Granger et al. 2015). Their seminal work allowed researchers to observe significant differences between the target language and L2 data, which became evident with the Contrastive Interlanguage Perspective (Granger 2015). This methodology employs a fine-grained analysis of L2 speakers’ language patterns in comparison with those of native speakers, as well as in comparison with L2 speakers of different L1’s. Following this approach, Gilquin et al. (2008) conducted a contrastive interlanguage analysis in L2 English in which they compared linguistic patterns in native speaker corpora with comparative data from multilingual corpora.

Two of the most well-known L2 corpora of English, both directed by Granger, are the International Corpus of Learner English (ICLE) (Granger et al. 2009) (which marked the start in the now established compilation of written learner corpora) and the Louvain International Database of Spoken English Interlanguage (henceforth LINDSEI) (Gilquin et al. 2010). These two corpora include data from L2 speakers of English worldwide, and both were compiled with comparable features and guidelines. All participants filled out a learner profile questionnaire with relevant information about their linguistic background, and, in the case of the ICLE, all the participants contributed with either an argumentative essay or a literature exam paper. The corpus contains data of students from over 25 countries. The LINDSEI corpus involved spoken data of advanced learners of English from over 20 different countries. The data came from three tasks: a topic-based discussion, a free discussion, and a picture description.

To investigate the development of the L2 from a pragmatic perspective, Romero-Trillo and Llinares-García (2008) compiled notable learner corpus is the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid-Learner English Spoken Corpus (UAMLESC). This corpus consists of a longitudinal video-recorded corpus of classroom interaction of school children learning English as a foreign language in different types of educational contexts in Madrid. The recordings took place between 1998 and 2006 and started when the children were 5-years-old. The kinds of school programmes ranged from full-immersion English schools and bilingual schools to schools that offered English as a second language. Socio linguistic and socio-economic characteristics of the participants were recorded during the corpus compilation process.

The Centre for English Corpus Linguistics, based at Université Catholique de Louvain, has updated information about learner corpora that have been completed around the world. The long list of projects shows the development of corpus linguistics as research tools for analysing L2 written and spoken data. Nowadays students and teachers are already making use of real corpora in their daily tasks if we consider web-searchers as valid elements of corpus-search. In my opinion, the real challenge is to collect and systematise the L2 speakers’ production into more accessible corpora to compare L2 and L1 pragmatic competence.

Theoretical and Methodological Benchmarks of Corpus Pragmatics in L2 Research

At an early stage, the objective of learner corpus research was mainly concerned with the identification of the linguistic elements that were either overused or underused by learners in comparison with those of native speakers (Granger 2002). Obviously, this objective called for a quantitative analysis of the learner and native speaker linguistic output by considering the native speaker usage as the norm. The researcher’s aim was to look for the deviations of L2 patterns from the norm without considering any contextual or pragmatic features. However, this approach offered a pessimistic view of the learners’ performance and did not consider the complexity of L2 learners’ language use and development in context. In fact, some scholars like Ishihara and Cohen (2010) claimed that learner corpora were not informative enough for the study of L2 pragmatic development without the information of contexts and speakers’ backgrounds. This concern was also shared by Callies and Paquot (2015), who described learner corpora research as interdisciplinary work, attending to different areas of linguistic analysis to have a full picture of the L2 development process.

From a methodological perspective, Callies (2013) contrasts the use of learner corpora with L2 data elicitation techniques. Learner corpora consist of authentic, systematic and representative collections of spoken and written language produced by L2 learners. This methodology contrasts with the traditional data elicitation techniques that are based on task-oriented questionnaires (e.g., discourse completion tests) or heavily context-bound exercises that limit the learners’ freedom of expression (e.g., closed role plays).

In this sense one example of a systematic collection of L2 spoken data is the Corpus of Language and Nature (Romero-Trillo 2013) in which the participants describe 24 photographs showing natural landscapes. The corpus has been compiled to investigate L2 English speakers’ linguistic responses to the perception of natural landscapes and, for that purpose, the corpus collection methodology is based on the theoretical tenets of landscape ecology and on their interpretation in linguistic terms (Romero-Trillo and Espigares 2012). The combination of landscape variables in the selection of (e.g., humid vs. dry, and domesticated vs. undomesticated landscapes), with the biographical, linguistic and geographical origin of the participants that were recorded via questionnaire, is the basis of the analysis of the descriptions of photographs. The corpus data (i.e., audio and video recorded) is later subjected to statistical analyses to examine the relationship between the linguistic characteristics of the data and the other variables. Results generate interesting insights both for L2 pragmatics and landscape ecology (Romero-Trillo and Espigares 2015).

Adaptive Management in L2: the Polyhedric Pragmatic Model

To gain a full perspective on pragmatic development, we need to consider L2 pragmatics research from two perspectives—pragmalinguistics and sociopragmatics, which do not necessarily run parallel but are complementary to each other. Following Leech (1983) and Thomas (1995), Schneider (2014: 114) states that ‘pragmalinguistics deals with the linguistic resources of a language which can be employed to serve a specific communicative function’ and ‘sociopragmatics… examines the social circumstances under which a particular speech act can be performed’. In other words, to understand the whole array of pragmatic nuances that are present in the L1 and L2 of any speaker, we need to make a pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic investigation combined, which constitutes the essence of L2 pragmatic research.

In addition to pragmalinguistics and sociopragmatics, we need a comprehensive model that captures the process of communication from a pragmatics perspective. To illustrate the relationship between what is said and what is meant in a given interaction, which is the essence of pragmatics, we must emphasise that the origin of a communicative act is in the speaker’s intention to say something, which is then realised in different ways by different speakers depending on the specific linguistic, cognitive, contextual and social parameters of participants in an interaction. This relationship is represented in Fig. 1, which represents what I have described as the polyhedric pragmatic model, in which the speaker takes into account all the factors that intervene in a communicative act in the course of milliseconds.
Fig. 1

The polyhedric pragmatic model for L1 speakers

The polyhedric pragmatic model illustrates how pragmatic competence is circular and multidimensional, in a sense that all the elements in it are mutually informative. The most important factor is that the information provided by each component has positive feedback and cumulative effect on the other elements, as they all play a mutually essential role and contribute to the final communicative act.

In the case of L2 learners, the polyhedric pragmatic model has a different structure as it follows a continuum that starts from the pragmatic competence of learners’ L1 and evolves towards the native-like competence. This development incorporates in each of its stages the richness of all the parameters that are specific to L1, as illustrated in Fig. 2.
Fig. 2

The polyhedric pragmatic model for L2 learners

While in L1 pragmatics the process from intention to the production of the intention is rather straightforward, in L2 pragmatics, the learners’ L1 affects the communication process. Therefore, L2 speakers must adjust their communicative intention to a new (target) language and must frame the message within a new linguistic, cognitive, contextual, and social scenario. This process presents several challenges to L2 learners, as pragmatic information is not always represented in linguistic forms, but is often contextually encoded. In fact, it is noticeable that the development of grammatical, lexical, and phonological knowledge in the L2 does not usually make progress in unison with the development of pragmatic competence in L2. This phenomenon has been described as ‘pragmatic fossilisation’ (Romero-Trillo 2002), and results from the absence of exposure to authentic target language input. Corpus pragmatics can serve as an essential tool to compensate for the limited exposure to the target language because it provides genuine, representative, and contextualised discourse for language instruction (Romero-Trillo 2017).

How do L2 learners overcome pragmatic fossilisation and develop pragmatic competence? This can be achieved through a mechanism that I call ‘adaptive management’. Adaptive management has been defined as follows:

The capacity of a speaker to adapt the grammatical, lexical and pragmatic parameters of discourse through a series of remedial elements and a principled process, to comply with the demands of a new cognitive stage in a conversation via a cognitive standardised process. (Romero-Trillo 2007: 83).

In other words, adaptive management can be described as the linguistic mechanism used by participants in an interaction to prevent misunderstanding and to establish remedial mechanisms with the aim of liaising the speaker and the listener’s cognitive status in the case of communication failure.

More specifically, adaptive management allows the interlocutors to communicate successfully through a revision, adaptation, and contextualisation process that allows them to understand the speaker’s communicative intention. In this framework, the interpretation of possible meanings in a given situation is carried out through the process of ‘contextual sifting’, which is defined as the ‘process of cognitive filtering that leaves out the incorrect assumptions in a given communicative situation, and sieves through the correct elements to guarantee successful communication’ (Romero-Trillo and Lenn 2011: 234).

As can be seen in Fig. 3, adaptive management is always functioning in L2 speakers to feed the necessary polyhedric information into the new pragmatic system. The pragmatic, discursive, and social interpretation of reality by L2 speakers is always different from that of L1 speakers. Therefore, L2 speakers need to use adaptive management to avoid misunderstanding and to encode/decode all elements of a message.
Fig. 3

Adaptive management and pragmatic competence for L2 speakers

Corpus Pragmatics enables L2 learners and teachers to identify the pragmatic factors that can facilitate adaptive management to avoid misunderstanding and pragmatic fossilisation. For example, using the UAMLESC corpus, Romero-Trillo (2015a) investigated the use of specific pragmatic markers, and of their prosodic realisation, as turn-starters in the conversation of L1 English speakers and how they contribute to adaptive management. He found that the appearance of topic starters (a type of pragmatic markers) in the native English speaker corpus contrasted with those produced by native English teachers regarding frequency and distribution. Corpus Pragmatics, therefore, can help compare patterns of pragmatic language use between the classroom and real-life settings. Similarities and differences gleaned from the comparison can be applied to L2 instruction. We can identify critical pragmatic elements that promote adaptive management and reduce pragmatic fossilisation in L2 speakers. Adaptive management is, therefore, the mechanism that adapts the original pragmatic competence to the new pragmatic competence in the target language.

Empirical Findings

When analysing L2 learners’ language use from the corpus pragmatics perspective, researchers typically follow an analogous methodology to that employed in L1 corpus pragmatics by combining a quantitative analysis of a large amount of data and a qualitative study of a small dataset. Since it is beyond the scope of this article to review all available findings in L2 pragmatics, the primary concern in this section is to trace important synergies that have gradually emerged between L2 pragmatics and Corpus Pragmatics, and that have fostered new research trajectories. Traditionally, a drawback of the pragmatic analysis using corpora resided in the fact that there is often a lack of sufficient amount of tagged information about social and textual contexts, and thus, it was not always easy to infer the real contextual features of the texts. However, in recent years, this drawback has been addressed in many corpora that include detailed descriptions about the social, geographical and personal backgrounds of participants. Including such contextual information is fundamental to the credibility of the analysis conducted quantitatively and qualitatively.

The standard model of corpus research in L2 pragmatics consists of what is labelled as the comparative method, i.e., identifying a pragmatic function and searching for linguistic and non-linguistic elements (e.g., words, phrases, interjections, and silences), which are used to realise the particular function. Specific software is frequently employed to illustrate the contextualization of the pragmatic elements or pragmatic functions in the corpora. Researchers can also carry use inferential statistics to determine whether L2 speakers overuse, underuse or maintain the patterns of the pragmatic elements and functions under study in comparison with L1 speakers, or between different groups of L2 learners. For example, using five L1 spoken English corpora and three L2 English corpora, Glabasova et al. (2017) tried to account for the statistical reliability, comparability and representativeness of the comparative method by exploring alternative methods to frequency-based analysis, with particular attention to interspeaker variation. In other studies, several mathematical models such as specificity indexes have been used explicitly for pragmatic analysis by combining qualitative and quantitative information obtained from the corpus data (Romero-Trillo 2001, 2015b). These mathematical models have an advantage over frequency counts because they interpret the reliability of the pragmatic data vis-à-vis their representation within a corpus and, sometimes, across corpora.

Corpus Pragmatics approach to L2 pragmatics research has proved fruitful as seen in an increasing number of studies in this area, as in the case of pragmatic markers in L1 and L2 corpora. Pragmatic markers perform different communicative functions in speech and have different frequency distributions across languages. Buysse (2015) carried out a comparative analysis of the pragmatic marker ‘well’ among L2 learners of English in the Dutch, French, German, Spanish and Chinese sections of the LINDSEI corpus. He compared her findings with Aijmer’s (2011) findings for the Swedish component of LINDSEI and a reference native speaker corpus, where she found that the pragmatic marker ‘well’ was more frequent in the learner corpora than in the native speaker corpus, except for learners with L1 Chinese background. Amongst the reasons for these results, the author emphasises the L2 speakers’ limited repertoire of pragmatic markers, their extensive exposure to well, L1 interference, and the linguistic context.

Other studies examined the use of general extenders, such as ‘and stuff’, ‘or something’ in L2 speakers. Buysse (2014), for instance, investigated their use in the speech of Dutch learners of L2 English by comparing learners’ use with native English speaker’ use. The study explored how Dutch learners of English use general extenders such as ‘and stuff’ and ‘or something’ in comparison with the use of these elements by native speakers of English. The results revealed the quantitative similarity between the two groups of speakers, but also discrepancies from a qualitative perspective. The suggested reasons for this difference were L1 transfer, the intensity of exposure to the target language, and the learners’ restricted repertoire of pragmatic devices.

Diskin (2017) investigated the pragmatic marker ‘like’ in the speech of Polish and Chinese migrants in Dublin. The study investigated the frequency of ‘like’ and its position within the clause in relation to its pragmatic function. Results showed that the length of residence had a more significant impact on in the similar frequency of the marker in the two groups, while proficiency in English was not the significant factor, suggesting the essential role of L1 exposure.

In the case of Spanish as an L2, Campillos and Gozalo (2014) analysed the use of discourse markers among learners of L2 Spanish of different L1′s in a spoken corpus compared to the use of the markers in a corpus of L1 Spanish speakers. Their analysis investigates the use of the most frequent markers in the two groups and compares the influence of the linguistic competence of the learners (they had A2 and B1 levels according to the European Framework of Reference) with the realisation of the markers by the Spanish speakers. Their results show it is not only the linguistic competence but also the influence of the learners’ L1, what determines the use of discourse markers in the L2.

While pragmatic markers and discourse markers have dominated the literature, speech acts have also been the object of L2 corpus pragmatics research. For instance, Carretero et al. (2014) investigated the use of expressive speech acts in online task-oriented interaction by L2 speakers of English. Their data comes from an e-forum history online collaborative writing corpus, and their results confirm the importance of expressive speech acts in online communication.

As regards the relationship between pragmatic markers and adaptive management, some studies have shown that markers such as ‘you know’, ‘I mean’, and ‘you see’ prototypically realise adaptive management in native speakers of English, as they prefer using overt adaptive management expressions such as ‘Do you see what I mean?’ and ‘Do you understand what I mean?’ to check understanding, especially when misunderstanding appeared during the conversation (Romero-Trillo and Lenn 2011).

In this sense, several corpus-based studies have generated implications for teaching pragmatics, emphasising the need to raise L2 learners’ (meta) pragmatic awareness using corpora. For example, Ifantidou (2013a: 93) proposes a revision of the notion of pragmatic awareness ‘in terms of an open-ended array of pragmatically inferred implicatures rather than a fixed set of routines (e.g. speech acts) or isolated implicatures’. Her approach is further developed in Ifantidou (2013b: 116) by highlighting the difference between pragmatic awareness, ‘the ability to retrieve (or produce) pragmatically inferred effects in the form of implicated conclusions’, and metapragmatic awareness (Ifantidou, 2013b: 117), i.e., ‘the ability to meta-represent the link between pragmatic effects retrieved and relevant linguistic markers used as a guide into pragmatic meaning by means of appropriate metalinguistic terms’. In this sense, metapragmatic awareness would be an essential element in L2 instruction as a tool to identify how pragmatic information is realised in the L2 in contrast with the L1. In the same vein, Llinares-García and Romero-Trillo (2008) carried out a detailed analysis of the function of the English discourse markers used by native and non-native teachers in history classes of a CLIL programme in Madrid and compared the results with the markers used by native teachers of Spanish in history classes. The corpus results show that L2 teachers in a CLIL context use more markers than in their L1 teaching and, also, a higher number (three times on average) than CLIL English native teachers. These results have clear implications on the language input that students taught by non-native English teachers receive, represented in this case in the frequency, diversity and distribution of pragmatic markers and of the functions that they realise.

Corpora can be essential to raise pragmatic awareness both in teachers and in L2 learners because they help to obtain a direct and multifaceted representation of the use of real language in the L1 context. In fact, I agree with Taguchi and Roever (2017) when they state that formal teaching environments constitute the best second language learning environments to date, so there is an urgent need to promote a sociopragmatic-cum-pragmalinguistic approach in the class and the teaching materials.

For example, Furniss (2016) suggests that one of the critical questions in L2 development is the difficulties that learners have in the identification of the formulaic phrases that can realise several pragmatic functions, because in many cases these may be different from those in their L1. The underlying idea is that repetition of spoken formulae is not enough to enact (meta) pragmatic awareness as formulaic expressions can appear in different contexts with various functions. Corpus linguistics can help teachers and learners in the systematic identification and use of these formulaic expressions, so they can be introduced in pedagogic materials and can even be tailored to students’ needs according to proficiency levels.

Another crucial element in the pragmatics of the L2 is the use of accurate prosodic awareness and production. In my opinion, prosody is a fundamental tool for the understanding and the creation of context. Prosody is a dynamic component in conversation that conveys the necessary pragmatic information to identify the speaker’s emotions, attitudes and communicative intention. The mismatch between grammatical and prosodic choices often results in anomalous communication and, even, in deficient social rapport.

For this reason, the appropriate use of prosodic information guarantees fluent communication regarding adaptive management and is essential to avoid misunderstanding or clarification requests. In this sense, L2 speakers must pay particular attention to the use of differing-and sometimes multiple-prosodies of the target language in comparison with their L1. Research on the pragmatics of prosody is critical for the development of teaching materials and teacher training (Riesco-Bernier 2012).

Prosodic pragmatics research in learner corpora can help L2 learners not only to acquire native-like competence in speaking but also to avoid miscommunication or any ‘performance insecurity’ when interacting with native speakers. Furthermore, understanding prosody can help L2 speakers to process information correctly when prosodic cues are monitored and understood correctly. For example, Riesco-Bernier and Romero-Trillo (2008) investigated the relationship between the assignment of tonicity and the identification of “given” and “new” information in the UAMLESC. Specifically, the study investigated if tonic elements only convey “new” information in the classroom context and if the duration and fundamental frequency of the tonics corresponded to different degrees of information. The results showed that 42.8% of the tonics conveyed “given” information in teacher talk. This changes the traditional notion of tonicity and introduces the genre aspect by which it could be said that tonics will also convey “given” information in pedagogic discourse. In the case of the realisation of tones in question tags, Ramírez-Verdugo and Romero-Trillo (2005) proved that non-native speakers use rising tone similarly to native speakers when the tag questions express uncertainty. However, they overgeneralize this rising tone also to tags where a falling contour would be required to accomplish the intended message. The result, therefore, is that pragmatic meaning differs in native and non-native discourse in the use of falling-tone question tags.

Finally, corpora can be an excellent tool to improve L2 prosodic competence (Trouvain et al. 2017), if proper instruction is given to language teachers. As regards L2 teacher training possibilities, Ramírez-Verdugo (2008) investigated the prosodic realisation of directives and its pragmatic effects in classroom discourse by native and non-native teachers of English. She analyses the intonation patterns used in scripted dialogues in comparison with the patterns used in natural classroom discourse in the UAMLESC. The results reveal the existence of prosodic differences in the choice of intonation patterns produced by the two language groups in reading aloud and naturalistic speech, and hence, variations on the pragmatic meaning transmitted in similar communicative contexts. These results can confirm the essential role of prosody in L2 pragmatics and the possibilities of using the language class production as a corpus to improve teaching practices and materials (Romero-Trillo 2012).

Conclusions: What’s Next?

Pragmatics was defined in its early steps as ‘the science of language use’ (Haberland and Mey 1977: 1). Nowadays the discipline has evolved significantly and can boast well-established research domains like cognitive pragmatics (Schmid 2012), developmental pragmatics (Kasper and Rose 2003), intercultural pragmatics (Kecskes 2014), or clinical pragmatics (Cummings 2017), inter alia. (cf. Huang 2017 for a comprehensive overview of pragmatics). In this sense, I think that the discipline is witnessing the start of a new epoch featured by corpus pragmatics that is bound to have an overarching impact on all subfields of the discipline.

As the article has shown, current corpus L2 research is now delving into ground-breaking aspects of pragmatic communication, and the results show that many pragmatic intuitions can be proven in L2 contexts with the aid of corpora. The five research avenues that I envisage are the following:
  1. 1.

    There is a need to establish a close relationship between L2 pragmatics research and second language teaching. Currently, L2 pragmatics research is gaining scientific stature as it emphasises the relationship between communicating in an L2 and the contextual parameters modelling the interaction. It seems to me that second language teaching can benefit from the current findings and, at the same time, become an essential input in the development of teaching materials.

  2. 2.

    Theoretical pragmatics and L2 pragmatics must engage in more intense active collaboration to try and apply the theoretical constructs of the former on the theoretical and practical practices of the latter. In this sense, L2 pragmatics can surely be a source of information for theoretical pragmatics as some of its current tenets may have to be modified when discussing L2 pragmatic development.

  3. 3.

    Up to now most statistical tests in L2 corpus pragmatics are based on hypothesis testing and typically employ parametric tests for normal distributions and non-parametric tests for non-normal distributions. However, advances in statistics have shown that Generalised Linear Models (GLM) techniques allow for more accuracy in the analysis of non-parametric data, as they can explain better the changes of response variables by a variety of explanatory variables that do not need to conform with a normal distribution. GLM techniques are becoming more frequent in corpus pragmatics and will undoubtedly be important in the future evolution of L2 corpus pragmatics too. However, the availability of the big data will always have to be parallel to the detailed inspection on the use of language in context, which is at the core of the pragmatic analysis.

  4. 4.

    I think that the fourth research avenue is the extensive implementation of prosody and multimodality in L2 pragmatics. Corpus pragmatics is increasingly improving annotation techniques in L1 corpora to be able to identify both prosodic and multimodal features that constitute essential tools in communication. The application of these annotation techniques to the L2 corpora, with the difficulties that this process convey due to the lack of accuracy of the L2 speakers in many respects, will undoubtedly lead to fascinating results on how L2 pragmatic performance compares with that of L1 speakers.

  5. 5.

    The last research avenue relates to the expression of emotions in the L2 as a fundamental element of pragmatic performance. Most of the information load that we convey in our L1 is filtered through our emotions. In other words, we can say that language is ancillary to our emotions and feelings, and vice versa. The question is: how do L2 speakers realise emotions through pragmatic marking? Are L2 speakers able to express their feelings with the same force as they do in their L1? Is the pragmatics of emotions teachable? This is an open question that will inevitably need interdisciplinary collaboration with other sciences such as psychology and neurobiology that will surely provide new evidence on how corpus pragmatics is at the forefront of L2 research.




This work was supported by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Spain) under Grant FFI2016-75160-R.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Filología InglesaUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

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