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Pragmatic Profiling (PRA.PRO)

Pragmatic Profiling (PRA.PRO) focuses on the acquisition of pragmatic competence in the L2: Our core aims are to establish a general definition of pragmatic competence and to develop an instrument for its assessment in L2 learners, based on empirical analysis of actual differences in communicative behaviour between native speakers and learners.

In our latest study, we are interested in the predictability of native speaker and learner status based on the lexical material produced. For this we compare the lemmas used in learner data with all data in several corresponding native speaker corpora. The average overlap between a given learner response and all answers in a native speaker corpus serves as a rough estimate of nativelike communicative behaviour. This enquiry is complemented by a perception study in which native speakers are asked to assess whether the utterances shown to them were produced by a learner or a native speaker. Additionally, the informants rate these utterances on a number of perception scales.

past & future

PRA.PRO started in 2011. Based on the framework of Variational Pragmatics, we initially wanted to analyse pragmatic differences between varieties of English. We have broadened our approach since: In line with the L2 perspective described above, we have, for example, investigated the development of pragmatic competence in the course of a study abroad experience with support of the Bonn-based company Stepin. We conducted a longitudinal study with students in Stepin’s study abroad programmes, eliciting and analyzing their pragmatic performance over the course of their stay abroad. Using comparable data from native speakers in the target culture, we were also able to investigate the learners’ approximation to the native speaker norm.

PRA.PRO furthermore overlaps with PraNamE, a collaboration between BAEL and Professor Anne Schröder's chair at the University of Bielefeld which focuses on the pragmatics of Namibian English.

Future areas we would like to cover are the assessment of pragmatic competence in children and patients suffering from a neurological disorder (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease).

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