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BAEL presentation at Dies Academicus

"Forschungsprojekte bei BAEL: Methoden in der empirischen Pragmatik"

At the 2010/2011 term’s Dies Academicus, the BAEL team presented their recent project work in the lecture hall of the IAAK. This event took place as part of a lecture series organised by the “Linguistisches Forum” of the University of Bonn.

The presentation began with a brief introduction by Professor Schneider, outlining different areas in Applied Linguistics and, more specifically, pragmatics. He also used the opportunity to place special emphasis on the fact that research work at BAEL is conducted conjointly across all academic stages.

Gathering pragmatic data across varieties

Following up on Prof. Schneider’s account of pragmatics, research assistant Pawel Sickinger focused on the question how we – as competent native speakers of a language – know that an utterance is appropriate or inappropriate. He proposed that linguistic behaviour is governed by general consensus between language users, and that empirical pragmatics is committed to the task of detecting these norms in everyday language use. One of the tools BAEL employs for this purpose is the Questionnaire on English Usage (QEU). It is used to present a range of pragmatic tasks to native speakers of several varieties of English, German learners of English and German native speakers.

“Cool party, isn’t it?!” – Investigating party small talk

Then, student assistant Friederike Sell talked about coding and analysing the data of the QEU’s situation 7, which investigates party small talk behaviour across different varieties of English. The most recent addition to the project Small Talk Across Cultures is the data collected from German learners of English and the data elicited with a German version of the QEU. After explaining the coding procedure, she presented a sample of our results that clearly showed differences between the varieties of English, such as different forms of greetings typically used in English, Irish and American English. She continued with a comparison of English data provided by native speakers and German learners of English. Here, divergences as well as similarities in the choice of topics and the functional elements used in small talk between the groups became apparent.

“Yours sincerely” or “Kind regards”? – Analyzing appropriateness in email communication

With the focus shifting to written communication, research assistant Gregor Geiermann and student assistant Katharina Weber reported on Emerging Email Etiquette. Starting with the story of the project’s initiation, they described the ongoing analysis of student mails written to their professor. Here, they called the audience’s attention to the formal properties of email communication, especially with regard to the wide variation of greeting formulas and possible farewells. The final part of the talk gave an outlook on the next steps of the project: building a corpus database and establishing collaboration with other researchers.

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