Page Content

Questionnaire on English Usage (QEU)

Logo of the QEU project

About the QEU

The Questionnaire on English Usage is a tool for eliciting pragmatic data across varieties of English. It was designed during the foundation of the discipline now known as Variational Pragmatics, which is a relatively recent field of inquiry in empirical pragmatics developed by Professor Klaus P. Schneider and Dr. Anne Barron (cf. Schneider & Barron 2008, Barron & Schneider 2009, Schneider 2010).

The QEU is a mixed-task questionnaire, which includes 15 tasks of three different formats, viz. discourse completion tasks (DCTs), dialogue production tasks (DPTs) and multiple choice questions (MCQs). The main focus is on the realizations of such speech acts as requesting, apologizing, responding to compliments and insults, as well as on issues of (im)politeness. Prototypical discourse patterns are also elicited. Some of the tasks have been adapted from earlier projects in cross-cultural pragmatics as, e.g., the Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (cf. Blum-Kulka et al. 1989) to permit comparison across research projects. QEU data have for instance been used in Barron (2008 and 2009) and Schneider (2005 and 2008).

Data gathering

So far, the QEU has been completed by native speakers of American English, Canadian English, English English, and Irish English, and by African speakers of English as a Second Language. These data sets are complemented by a large corpus of responses to a German equivalent of the questionnaire for cross-linguistic comparison and a growing corpus of English questionnaires filled out by German learners of English as a means of assessing pragmatic competence in English as a Foreign Language.

Research goals

The QEU is not usually analyzed as a whole and then compared across varieties or languages. Rather, its individual parts are the basis for subsequent research projects that focus on one aspect of the pragmatics of English (or German). For example, situation 7 in the QEU forms the data basis for the Small Talk Across Cultures (STAC) project, in which typical move patterns in small talk are analyzed across varieties of English. In a similar vein, other parts of the QEU are meant as resources for future projects, including student research in the course of bachelor and master programs at the IAAK.

External partners

As the QEU is meant to reveal pragmatic differences between varieties of English, a crucial issue for this project is the recruitment of native speaker informants of as many English varieties as possible. BAEL has recently found a partner that will cooperate in this logistically extensive task. This partner is Stepin, a company located in Bonn that organizes and supervises stays abroad for German students. With their connections to various parts of the English-speaking world and hundreds of German learners of English participating in their programs, Stepin is well suited to facilitate the often strenuous task of locating and tapping data sources.

Pragmatic competence

The cooperation between BAEL and Stepin is based on a common interest: The development of pragmatic competence in the course of a study abroad experience (cf. also Barron 2003). With the QEU data from English native speakers used to establish typical pragmatic performance for the varieties in question, BAEL will conduct longitudinal studies with groups of students in Stepin’s study abroad programs, eliciting their pragmatic performance and analyzing changes over the course of their stay abroad. Findings from this particular phase of the QEU project will be passed on to Stepin to provide a scientific foundation to the company’s activities.

Related Content