Researchers within cross-cultural pragmatics believe that the culture we live in influences our everyday life and world knowledge. Moreover, they claim that culture has an effect on the way we speak and use speech acts, implicates or politeness conventions. In fact, according to Yule (1996) from the basic experiences and life knowledge we have, we create a cultural schema which helps us make sense of the world. Every culture creates different cultural formworks and this leads to cross-cultural variation. Varying cultural schemata can indeed cause difficulties and misunderstandings when visiting foreign countries, since cultural schemata vary from culture to culture, it is common that foreign people seem to behave and speak differently from what the visitor is used to in the home country. Cross-cultural pragmatics is “the study of differences in expectations based on cultural schemata” (Yule 1996). Cross-cultural pragmatics examines how speakers from different cultures construct meaning. It studies different cultural ways of speaking or pragmatic accents (Yule, 1996). Research within this field suggests that in cross-cultural communication, it is important to understand and pay attention to the pragmatic accents of others.
2.6 Factors Influencing L2 Learners, pragmatic Acquisition
The acquisition of pragmatic competence by L2 learners is significantly influenced by linguistic competence, length of residence in a target country, exposure to authentic input, and pragmatic awareness (Hicks, 1992; Harlig, 1999; Kasper & Rose, 2002; Rasekh, 2005). This section will provide brief review of existing literature concerning these factors.
2.6.1 Linguistic competence
Linguistic competence of a target language has received great attention as a factor affecting pragmatic competence. It has been extensively studied to prove whether learners with high language proficiency will possess relatively high level of pragmatic competence. Examples of this studies include Hoffman and Hicks (1992), Bardovi and Harlig (1999), and Li (2007).
Hoffman and Hicks (1992), for example, examined the relationship between linguistic and pragmatic competence. Three tests (a standardized multiple-choice test of French, a role-play question, and a discourse completion test) were employed in the study. The results from the study showed that linguistic competence was essential for pragmatic development. It was a means that allowed the learners to express their pragmatic knowledge. Hoffman and Hicks also posited that linguistic competence does not guarantee pragmatic competence. In other words, the level of linguistic competence needed for adequate communication in given language use situations does not necessarily assure learners of social cultural appropriateness in the contexts. In reviewing previous research , Brasov and Harlig (1999) found that in comparison to low language proficiency learners , high proficient learners seemed to possess higher level of pragmatic competence (e.g. Scarcella, (1979); Blum & Kulka, and Olshtain, (1986). However, these studies showed that even advanced learners did not mastered some basic pragmatics. In some pragmatic aspects, they still performed differently from native speakers.
Further, Li (2007) carried out a study to investigate the relationship between the learners, linguistic proficiency and pragmatic ability. Forty two non- English major students at Beijing University were the participants. A Chinese English test of the year (2004) was used to test the participants, linguistic competence while the tests made by the researcher (multiple choice discourse completion test and true or false test) were used to examine their pragmatic competence. The second. The finding showed a positive relationship between the two kinds of competence, but at very weak level. Therefore, Li (2007) concluded that linguistic competence was necessary but not sufficient for pragmatic development.
In conclusion, previous studies have proven that linguistic competence is a necessary tool for pragmatic acquisition. However, it does not guarantee the high level of pragmatic ability.
2.6.2 Length of Residence in a target Country
In addition to linguistic competence, the length of residence in a target Country is admitted beneficial to L2 learners’ pragmatic development. Harlig (1999) posits that the length of residence in a target country has a great influence on the acquisition of pragmatic competence. Kulaka and Olshtain (1985, cited in Harlig, 1999) find out from their study that an acceptance of direct request strategies by nonnative speaker of Hebrew increase as their length of stay increases.
Sasaki and Beamer (2002) compared the transfer of learners’ perceptions of refusal speech act from their first language to their length of residence in the target language environment. Data were collected from three different groups with a total of 16 Japanese native speakers living in Japan, 32 Japanese learner of English living in USA, and 17 American English native speakers. The data obtained from Japanese EFL learners were then compared to those from Japanese living in Japan and from Americans to investigate the L1 effect. This study provided evidence for the pragmatic transfer of refusal strategies with respect to length of residence in a target language environment, which indicates that length of residence does mitigate negative transfer of refusal strategies among Japanese learners of English.