Author

Carnegie Mellon University, USA

Abstract

This  study  examined  the  effects  of  individual  difference  (ID)  factors  on  changing  pragmatic
abilities  among  L2  learners  of  English.  Participants  were  48  Japanese  EFL  students  in  an
English-medium  university  in  Japan.  They  completed  a  pragmatic  speaking  test  (k=12)  that
assessed  their  ability  to  produce  two  speech  acts:  requests  and  opinions,  in  high-  and  low-imposition  situations.  The  measure  was  given  three  times  during  one  academic  year.  Speech
acts  were  evaluated  for  appropriateness  and  fluency.  Three  ID  factors  (proficiency,  orientation
towards English study, and lexical access skill) were measured, and their effects on changes in
appropriateness and fluency of speech act production were assessed. Results revealed significant
effects  of  individual  factors  on  pragmatic  change,  but  the  effects  appeared  differently  between
appropriateness and fluency.

Keywords

Main Subjects

Introduction

The  study  of  learner  characteristics  or
individual  differences  (IDs)  has  a  long-standing interest in the field of interlanguage
pragmatics  (ILP)  as  factors  affecting
pragmatic  competence  (e.g.,  Kasper  &
Schmidt,  1996;  Kasper  &  Rose,  2002;
Kuriscak,  2010).  Among  the  ID  factors
examined,  L2  proficiency  has  accumulated
the  most  research.  Many  studies  took  a
cross-sectional  design  and  compared
pragmatic  competence  across  proficiency
levels  (e.g.,  Kuriscak,  2010;  for  a  review,
see Kasper & Rose, 2002; Kasper &  Röver,
2005).  However,  the  literature  is  rather
limited when other ID factors are concerned.
In  Kasper  and  Rose  (2002),  only  a  small
amount of ID research is cited. These studies
examined  such  factors  as  age  (Kim,  2000),
gender  (Rintel,  1984;  Kerekes,  1992),
motivation  (LoCastro,  2001),  and  social
identity (Iino, 1996; Siegal, 1996). A decade
after  Kasper  and  Rose's  book,  a  few  studies
have  updated  the  list,  including:  Shimura's
(2003) studies on personality  and pragmatic
competence,  Takahashi’s  (2005)  study  on
motivation  and  pragmatic  learning,
Taguchi's  (2008a,  2008b)  studies  on  the
effects  of  lexical  access  skill  and  working
memory  in  pragmatic  comprehension,
Yates's (2005) study on the effect of gender,
and  Davis's  (2007)  study  on  the  role  of
subjectivity  in  pragmatic  choice.  However,
very few longitudinal studies have examined
that  examined  the  effects  of  ID  factors  on
pragmatic  development  (e.g.,  Matsumura,
2003).  
 
This  study  expanded  the  existing  literature
by  investigating  the  impact  of  multiple  ID
factors  on  L2  learners'  longitudinal  change
in  pragmatic  competence.  Japanese  learners
of  English  completed  a  speaking  test
measuring  their  ability  to  produce  speech
acts  (requests  and  opinions)  three  times
during  one  academic  year.  The  study

 
measured  three  ID  variables  (proficiency,
motivation,  and  lexical  access)  and
examined their effects on pragmatic change.
 
Background
Because  large  individual  variations  are
typically  found  among  L2  learners  in  their
success  in  L2  acquisition,  the  study  of
individual  differences  (IDs)  has  been  a
paramount  area  of  SLA  research  that
explains  observed  individual  variations  in
L2  learning  (DÖrnyei,  2005,  2009;  Ellis,
2005).  The  field  of  ILP  has  followed  this
tradition and accumulated a body of research
that  examined  the  effect  of  individual
difference  on  pragmatics  ability.  However,
the  factors  examined  to  date  are  largely
concentrated  on  L2  proficiency.  Numerous
cross-sectional  studies  compared  L2
pragmatic  performance  across  different
proficiency  levels  determined  by
standardized exams, grade level, or length of
formal  study  (e.g.,  Al-Gahtani  &  Roever,
2012;  Dalmau  &  Gotor,  2007;  Félix-Brasdefer,  2004,  2007;  Garcia,  2004a;
Geyer,  2007;  Pinto,  2005;  RÖver,  2005;
Taguchi,  2007a,  2011;  Yamanaka,  2003;
Xu,  Case,  &  Wang,  2009).  These  studies
have  revealed  that  high  proficiency
generally  leads  to  better  pragmatic
performance  but  it  does  not  guarantee  a
native-like  performance.  For  example,  a
recent  study  by  Al-Gahtani  and  Roever
(2012)  used  a  role  play  task  to  examine
sequential  organization  in  the  production  of
requests  by  Arabic  learners  of  L2  English.
Participants  formed  two  proficiency  groups
based  on  their  course  levels  and
performance  on  proficiency  measures.  They
completed three role play tasks with a native
speaker  interlocutor.  Results  revealed  a
positive  effect  of  proficiency  on  learners’
sequential  organization  of  requests  with
regard to pre-expansions (e.g., greetings and
summons  prior  to  request)  and  insertion  of
expansions  (e.g.,  negation  about  timing  and
details of the request).   
 
Aside  from  proficiency,  other  ID  factors
have  been  addressed  only  sparsely  in  L2
pragmatics  research.  Kasper  and  Rose's
(2002) review cited only a handful of studies
that treated IDs as their central investigative
concern, emphasizing that the review should
be  "best  read  as  a  strong  invitation  to
research  on  individual  differences  in
learning  L2  pragmatics"  (p.278).  These
studies  examined  ID  factors  such  as  gender
(Kerekes,  1992;  Rintel,  1984),  age  (Kim,
2002),  and  social  identity  (Iino,  1996;
Siegal,  1996).  A  decade  after  Kasper  and
Rose's  book,  the  field  of  ILP  has  expanded
the  body  of  studies  that  situated  ID  as  the
central  investigation.  Below  I  will  review
recent  studies  on  individual  differences  in
ILP appeared after Kasper and Rose’s book.
Due  to  the  space  constraint,  I  will  limit  my
review  to  quantitative  studies,  which  are
directly relevant to my study.  
 
Takahashi  (2005)  examined  the  effect  of
motivation on L2 English learners' ability to
notice  target  request-making  expressions  in
written  dialogues.  Japanese  students  of
English  completed  a  motivation
questionnaire  and  then  completed  a
noticing-the-gap  task  on  request  forms.  The
degree  of  the  learners’  awareness  of  the
target  pragmalinguistic  forms  was  assessed
through  a  retrospective  questionnaire.
Results showed that more motivated learners
noticed  more  target  forms  and  were  more
metapragmatically  aware  than  less
motivated learners.  
 
Although Takahashi’s study is  probably  the
only  existing  study  that  measured
motivation  in  relation  to  pragmatics
learning,  motivation  has  been  examined
extensively  with  a  broader  construct  of  L2
ability  (see  DÖrnyei,  2005,  for  a  review).
 
 
For  example,  drawing  on  Gardner's  (1985)
concept of integrative motivation (i.e., desire
to interact with members in L2 community),
Yashima  (2002)  developed  a  survey  that
measures  motivational  orientation  (long-range  goals  for  learning  a  language)  among
Japanese  learners  of  L2  English.  Yashima
(2000)  and  Yashima  et  al  (2004)  found  that
integrative  and  instrumental  orientation  to
English  study  predicted  motivational
intensity,  which  in  turn  led  to  higher  L2
proficiency.  Hence,  the  orientation  toward
L2  study  seems  to  be  closely  related  to
motivation,  and  seizes  both  integrative  and
instrumental  orientations  toward  L2
learning.  
 
On  the  other  hand,  very  few  studies  have
examined  the  effect  of  personality  in
pragmatic  competence.  Shimura  (2003)
examined  the  relationship  between
personality and pragmatic competence in the
speech  act  of  advise-giving.  Japanese
students  of  English  completed  the  task  of
writing an advice letter in a formal situation.
Linguistic  strategies  were  analyzed
according  to  three  response  categories:
direct,  hedged,  and  indirect  advice.  There
was a significant effect of personality on the
choice  of  strategies:  introversion  types  used
more  direct  expressions  than  extroversion
types.  Although  Shimura’s  findings  are
promising,  at  the  moment  there  is  no
theoretical  model  that  describes  how
personality dimensions are related to various
aspects of SLA (DÖrnyei, 2005). Hence, the
use  of  personality  as  a  variable  calls  for  a
caution.  
 
Other  ID  factors  that  recently  entered  the
ILP  research  are  cognitive  factors.  Taguchi
(2008a, 2008b) assessed the extent to which
accurate  and  speedy  comprehension  of
conversational implicature is associated with
lexical  access  skill  and  amount  of  language
contact.  Forty-four  college  students  of
English  completed  three  measures  over  a
four-month  period:  (1)  the  pragmatic
listening test, (2) the lexical access test, and
(3)  the  language  contact  survey  measuring
the  amount  of  time  spent  in  four  language
skills.  Results  showed  that  lexical  access
skill  and  the  amount  of  time  spent  on
speaking and reading significantly correlated
with  gains  in  comprehension  speed,  but  not
with  gains  in  accuracy  of  pragmatic
comprehension.  
 
These  findings  revealed  that  the  lexical
access  skill  could  the  factor  that  directly
affects pragmatic comprehension. Pragmatic
comprehension  involves  the  lower-level
processing  of  attending  to  and  assigning
meaning  to  linguistic  stimuli,  as  well  as
higher-level  processing  of  supplementing
linguistic  information  with  non-linguistic
information  to  derive  meaning.  Lexical
access  speed  is  considered  to  form  one  of
the  lower-level  processes  that  contribute  to
pragmatic  comprehension.  However,  the
role  of  lexical  access  in  production  of
pragmatic  functions  has  not  been  attested.
Yet,  the  significant  relationship  between
lexical  access  and  oral  fluency  found  in
previous  research  (Segalowitz  &  Freed,
2004) implies that the ability to access word
meaning  quickly  could  influence  fluent
production of pragmatic functions.  
 
As  described  above,  previous  research
showed  that  certain  ID  factors  explain
individual  variations  in  L2  pragmatic
competence  and  development.  However,
there  are  several  gaps  in  the  existing
literature.  First,  previous  studies  were
almost  exclusively  confined  to  a  cross-sectional,  single-moment  design  by
examining  the  relationship  between  ID
factors  and  pragmatic  competence  at  given
point  of  time,  and  very  few  studies  have
addressed  the  role  of  IDs  from  a
developmental perspective. Although a large
 

volume  of  research  has  examined  the
relation  between  proficiency  and
pragmatics, very few studies have employed
longitudinal  research  design  to  examine
pragmatic  development  in  relation  to
changing  L2  proficiency.  In  order  to  gain  a
more  complete  understanding  of  the  impact
of  learner  characteristics  in  pragmatic
development, more studies should employ  a
longitudinal design.  
 
Second,  most  previous  studies
operationalized  pragmatic  competence  as
accurate,  appropriate  comprehension  and
production  of  pragmatic  functions,  and
fluency  aspect  of  pragmatic  performance
(speedy  processing  of  pragmatic  functions)
has  been  neglected  in  the  analysis  of  ID
effect. This is a serious neglect, considering
that  a  growing  number  of  recent  studies
have  measured  both  knowledge  (i.e.
accuracy  and  appropriateness)  and
processing  (i.e.  fluency)  in  pragmatic
performance.  These  studies  revealed  that
knowledge  and  processing  dimensions  are
distinct  from  one  another:  they  do  not
correlate  with  each  other;  they  exhibit
different  developmental  rates;  and  they  are
affected  differently  by  varying  learning
contexts,  the  amount  of  language  contact,
and  certain  cognitive  variables  (Taguchi,
2007b, 2008a, 2008b).  
   
The present study aimed to fill these gaps in
the literature and examined the effects of ID
factors  in  changing  pragmatic  competence.
Pragmatic change was traced in two aspects:
appropriateness  and  fluency  of  speech  act
production.  Changes  in  these  aspects  were
analyzed  in  relation  to  three  ID  factors:
proficiency,  orientation  toward  learning
(integrative  and  instrumental),  and  lexical
access skill. These variables were selected to
represent  a  range  of  individual  (both
cognitive  and  affective)  and  contextual
factors  that  were  found  to  affect  pragmatic
competence  in  the  previous  literature.  The
study  was  guided  by  the  research  question:
Do  individual  difference  factors  affect
changes in appropriate and fluent speech act
production?   
 
Methods
Participants
Participants  were  48  Japanese  students  of
English  as  a  foreign  language  (EFL)  in  an
English-medium university in Japan.
1
 In the
school all courses are taught in English,  50-60% of the instructors are foreign nationals,
and  10-15%  of  the  student  population  are
international students. All first-year students
live  in  a  dormitory  with  international
students.  The  participants  (hereafter  EFL
learners)  were  first  semester  Japanese
students  enrolled  in  the  intensive  English
program.  There  were  16  males  and  32
females,  ranging  in  age  from  18  to  21  with
an  average  age  of  18.33  (SD=.66).
2
  Three students  had  experienced  living  in  U.S.A.
for  one  month.  From  class  observations,
interviews  with  instructors,  and  textbook
analyses,  it  was  concluded  that  the
participants  did  not  receive  focused
instruction on pragmatics.
 
Instrument
This  study  examined  the  development  of
pragmatic production – the ability to convey
intentions  appropriately  and  fluently  in
speech  acts.  A  computerized  oral  discourse
completion  test  (oral  DCT)  was  developed
to  examine  this  ability.  Participants  read
situational  descriptions  and  produced  two
speech  acts:  requests  and  opinions.  These
two  were  selected  after  consulting  Garcia's
(2004b)  analysis  of  naturalistic
conversations  in  university  settings.  Garcia
analyzed  conversations  across  three
registers: conversations  between a professor
and  student,  conversations  among  study
group  members,  and  service  encounter
conversations. She found that speech acts of
 
directives  (request)  and  expressives
(opinions) are common in the corpora. From
the examples in the corpus data, request and
four opinion situations were adapted for this
study.  
 
Oral  rather  than  written  DCT  was  selected
because this study measured fluency  as part
of  the  construct  of  pragmatic  competence.
 
However,  I  acknowledge  the  weakness  of
the DCT instrument. While the DCT format
was  necessary  to  collect  a  large  amount  of
data  at  once,  DCT  has  been  criticized
because it lacks authenticity and participants
have more time to plan their responses than
in  face-to-face  interaction  (Geluykens,
2007).  These  limitations  should  be  kept  in
mind when interpreting the present findings.  
 
Target  speech  acts  of  requests  and  opinions
were  divided  into  two  different  situational
categories based on three contextual factors:
interlocutors'  power  difference  (P),  social
distance  (D),  and  the  size  of  imposition  (R)
(Brown & Levinson, 1987). In one situation
type,  the  power  relationship  was  equal,  the
distance  between  the  interlocutors  was
small,  and  the  degree  of  imposition  was
small (PDR-low). In the other situation type,
the  listener  had  greater  power,  the
interlocutor  distance  was  larger,  and  the
degree  of  imposition  was  also  large  (PDR-high).  See  Table  1  for  sample  speech  acts.
Appendix  A  contains  the  copy  of  the
instrument.

The  length  of  situational  descriptions  was
controlled  across  test  items.  The  number  of
words used in each description ranged from
55  to  57  with  a  mean  of  55.55  (SD=.60).
The  vocabulary  used  to  write  descriptions
came  from  the  top  3,000  words  in  the
JACET  (Japan  Association  of  College
English  Teachers)  basic  word  list  (JACET,
2003).  Two  versions  of  the  test  were
prepared  and used alternatively  to minimize
the  practice  effect.  The  versions  differed  in
proper  nouns  used,  object  names,  dates  and
times,  and  conversation  topics  in  the
scenarios.  The  order  of  the  items  was
randomized each time.  
 
The  final  version  of  the  instrument  had  a
total of 14 items: four PDR-low speech acts,
four PDR-high speech acts, four filler items,
and  two  practice  items.  The  oral  DCT  was
computerized using the Revolution software
(Runtime  Revolution  Ltd.,  1997).  The
situations were presented in written form on
the  screen.  The  instrument  was  piloted  with
25  native  English  speakers  and  12  ESL
students prior to the main study.  
 
Evaluation  of  speech  acts:  Appropriateness
and fluency
Participants'  speech  acts  were  evaluated  on
appropriateness  and  fluency.
Appropriateness was defined as the ability to
perform  speech  acts  at  the  proper  level  of
politeness,  directness,  and  formality.  It  was
assessed  using  a  five-point  rating  scale
ranging  from  1  (very  poor)  to  5  (excellent)
(see  Appendix  B).  Four  native  speakers  of
English  evaluated  the  samples.
3
  Interrater
reliability  was  r=.92.  About  2.2%  of  the
samples  that  had  two  points  off  in  rating
were  discussed  in  the  follow-up  meetings.
For the cases with one point off, the average
 
score  was  assigned  as  the  final  score.  In
order  to  maintain  consistency  in  rating,
speech samples used in the norming session
included  samples  taken  from  different  data
collection  sessions.  Fluency  was
operationalized  as  speech  rate  and  was
measured  as  the  number  of  words  spoken
per minute. False starts and repetitions were
excluded from word count.  
 
Measures for individual differences (ID)  
Three  ID  factors  were  measured:  general
proficiency,  orientation  toward  English
study,  and  lexical  access  skill.  All  factors
were  measured  multiple  times  during  the
study  period,  conforming  to  the  current
process-oriented  approach  that  individual
differences factors  are not fixed and  change
over time (DÖrnyei, 2009).  
 
Proficiency
Participants'  proficiency  was  measured  with
the  institutional  TOEFL  (ITP  TOEFL),
consisting  of  three  sections:  listening,
grammar, and reading. The ITP TOEFL was
given three times at about same timing with
the  oral  DCT.  Different  versions  of  the  test
were used to avoid practice effect.  
 
Orientation to English study
 
This  study  used  a  portion  of  Yashima's
(2002) survey to measure orientation toward
English  study  because  the  measure  was
developed  specifically  for  Japanese  learners
of  English  who  were  also  the  target
population  in  this  study.  Yashima  used  12
items  to  measure  Japanese  EFL  learners’
specific  orientations  toward  studying
English.  Adapting  Gardner  and  Lambert’s
(1972)  motivation  framework,  half  of  the
items  measured  the  degree  of  integrative
orientation  toward  learning  English  (i.e.,
learning  English  to  develop  friendship  with
English  speakers),  and  the  other  half
measured  the  degree  of  instrumental
orientation (i.e., learning English for utility-
based  purposes).
5
  Students  rated  the  degree
to  which  each  statement  matched  their
reason  to  study  English  on  a  7-point  scale.
See  examples  (The  items  are  in  Yashima,
2002, p.66):
 
As a reason to study English:
 
1.  It  will  allow  me  to  get  to  know  various
cultures and people.
2.  It will be useful for a future career.  
 
Lexical access test
Lexical  access  skill  was  operationalized  as
the  ability  to  make  speedy  lexical
judgments.  It  was  measured  by  a
computerized  word  recognition  test  called
lexical  access  test  (LAT)  adapted  from
Segalowitz and Freed  (2004). The  LAT had
40  frequent  English  words  (e.g.,  "tiger"),
and  participants  made  quick  judgments  on
whether  each  word  that  appeared  on  a
computer  screen  referred  to  a  living  or
nonliving  object.  The  words  were
considered  familiar  to  the  Japanese
participants because they appear in the basic
vocabulary  list  in  school  textbooks
authorized  by  the  Japanese  Ministry  of
Education.  In  addition  to  English  lexical
access,  Japanese  lexical  access  was
measured  in  order  to  control  individual
differences coming from L1 processing. The
test  was  given  three  times  at  same  timing
with  the  oral  DCT  with  a  different  version
each time.  
 
Data collection procedures
The  oral  DCT  was  given  individually  three
times  during  one  academic  year:  Time  1
(April),  Time  2  (July),  and  Time  3
(December).  Two  versions  of  the  oral  DCT
were  used  across  three  time  points  (see
instrumentation  section).  Students  put  on
headphones with a microphone attached and
read  directions  in  English  with  Japanese
translations.  They  were  told  to  read  each
 
situational  scenario  and  respond  as  if  they
were  in  a  real  situation  and  performing  the
role. They had two practice items. Each item
started  with  a  situational  scenario  on  the
computer screen. They were allowed to take
as  much  time  to  read  the  scenario  and
prepare  for  the  speech  act.  When  they  were
ready, they clicked on the "continue" button.
Planning  time  was  measured  between  the
moment  when  the  situational  scenario
appeared  on  the  computer  screen  until  the
moment when the participants clicked on the
"continue"  button.  Once  they  clicked  the
button,  the  scenario  disappeared  and  the
message  "start  speaking"  appeared  on  the
screen.  After  they  finished  the  item,  they
moved  on  to  the  next  item.  The  computer
recorded their speech.  
 
The LAT was given to the participants using
the  same  computers.  The  participants  read
instructions on the screen in Japanese. After
practicing  four  items,  they  completed  the
test  items.  When  a  word  appeared  on  the
screen,  they  made  a  quick  judgment  on
whether  the  word  referred  to  a  living  or
nonliving  object  by  pressing  the  key  '1'  for
'living'  and  '2'  for  'nonliving,'  which  were
adjacent  to  each  other  on  the  keyboard.
Response  time  was  measured  between  the
moment  when  the  target  word  appeared  on
the  screen  and  the  moment  when  the
participants  made  a  judgment  and  pressed
the  number  key.  The  computer  recorded  all
responses  and  their  latencies.  After  the
participants finished the oral DCT and LAT,
they  completed  a  paper-and-pencil  version
of the survey measuring learners’ orientation
to  English  study.  The  survey  was  given
twice,  at  Time  1  and  3.  Participants  took
about  10  minutes  to  complete  the  survey.
The  ITP  TOEFL  was  given  on  separate
days,  approximately  one  week  after  they
completed the oral DCT.  
 
 
Data analysis procedures
This  study  examined  the  effects  of  learner
characteristics on the  ability to produce two
speech  acts  (requests  and  opinions)
appropriately  and  fluently.  Appropriateness
was evaluated on an interval scale between 0
and 20 across two situation types: PDR-low
(requests and opinions combined; k=4, scale
of 0-20) and PDR-high speech acts (requests
and opinions combined; k=4, scale of 0-20).
Fluency  was assessed as  speech rate  (words
per minute).  
 
The  effects  of  ID  factors  on  pragmatic
change were examined by using hierarchical
linear  modeling  (HLM),  with  "time"  as  an
independent  variable,  pragmatic  abilities
(i.e.,  appropriateness  and  fluency)  as
dependent variables, and the ID and context
measures  as  covariates.  This  was
accomplished  by  using  a  mixed  model
approach  that  revealed  whether  the
covariates  have  a  significant  main  effect  on
pragmatic change or a significant interaction
effect  with  "time"  on  pragmatic  change.
HLM  was  used  for  two  reasons.  First,  it  is
appropriate  for  data  collected  from  intact
classes  without  random  sampling
(Raudenbush &  Bryk, 2002). Second,  it can
be  used  for  covariates  that  form  repeated
measures  data  (data  taken  from  the  same
individuals  over  multiple  times).  Because
the  covariates  were  measured  at  multiple
times  in  this  study,  HLM  allowed  us  to
examine  the  effect  of  covariates  that  may
change over time. Normality of distributions
of residuals was checked by inspecting Q-Q
plots.  Because  planning  time  data  and
lexical  access  response  times  data  were  not
normally  distributed,  following  Tabachnick
and  Fidell  (2001),  a  logarithmic
transformation  was  performed  before
submitting  the  data  to  statistical  analyses.
The alpha-level was set at .05.6

Results
Descriptive statistics
Tables  2  and  3  display  descriptive  statistics
of  the  two  aspects  of  speech  act  production
analyzed  in  this  study:  appropriateness
scores  and  speech  rate.  There  was  a  large
discrepancy  between  low-  and  high-imposition  speech  acts  in  both  measures  at
all  time  points,  confirming  the  distinct
differences  between  the  two  situation  types.
Low-imposition speech acts were easier and
faster  to  produce  than  high-imposition
speech  acts.  Paired-sample  t-test  results
confirmed  the  situational  differences  for  all
variables, at all time points. 

Notes.  Low-  and  high-imposition  situations
include  speech  acts  of  requests  and  opinions
combined.  Appropriateness  was  assessed  on  a
five-point scale ranging from 1 to 5.

Notes. Speech rate refers to the average number
of words spoken per minute.  
 
Tables 4 to 6 display descriptive statistics of
individual  differences  (ID)  factors.  As
shown in Table 4, the learners demonstrated
an  increasing  proficiency  over  time.  Paired-sample  t-test  results  revealed  significant
differences  for  all  time  contrasts,  t=-18.34
(p=.000)  at  Time  1-2,  and  t=-4.91  (p=.000)
at Time 2-3.

Table  5  displays  descriptive  statistics  for
orientation  toward  English  study.  This
variable  showed  no  significant  change
between Time 1 and 3: t=-.42, p=.68 for the
integrative  orientation,  and  t=.69,  p=.50  for
the  instrumental  orientation.  At  both  times,
the  learners'  integrative  orientation  was
higher than their instrumental orientation.

Notes.  Six  items  of  the  seven-point  Likert  scale
measured  integrative  and  instrumental
orientation.  The  mean  refers  to  the  average.  A
 
larger  number  means  a  greater  degree  of
orientation.  
 
The  learners  showed  improvement  in  their
lexical  access  speed  (Table  6).  Paired-sample  t-test  showed  significant  difference
in  the  response  times  at  Time  1-2  (t=3.33,
p=.002) and at Time 2-3 (t=4.06, p=.000).

Effects  of  individual  differences  and
language contact on pragmatic change
Statistical  analyses  were  performed  to
examine  the  effects  of  ID  factors  on
learners’ changing ability to produce speech
acts. The first ID factor assessed was general
proficiency.  The  mixed-model  revealed  no
significant  main  effect  of  proficiency  on
changes  of  appropriateness  or  fluency,
neither  PDR-high-  or  low  speech  acts.
Findings  indicate  that  pragmatic  abilities
measured  did  not  change  over  time
corresponding  to  the  changes  in  the  ITP
TOEFL score.  
 
Regarding  the  orientation  toward  English
study,  the  mixed-model  revealed  the
significant  main  effect  of  integrative
orientation  on  the  appropriateness  score  of
PDR-low  speech  acts,  F=14.72,  p=.000
(Cohen’s  d=.50  for  Time  1-2;  Cohen’s
d=.97 for Time 2-3). Results suggest that the
students  who  reported  studying  English
because of their interest in social interaction
with English speakers showed a greater gain
in  their  ability  to  produce  PDR-low  speech
acts  appropriately.  Instrumental  orientation,
however, had no significant effect on any of
the  pragmatic  abilities  measured  in  this
study.
 
Finally,  the  mixed-model  revealed
significant main effect of lexical access skill
on  speech  rate,  F=9.62  (p=.003)  for  PDR-low  speech  acts  (Cohen’s d=1.32  for  Time
1-2  and  .79  for  Time  2-3)  and  F=9.32
(p=.003) for PDR-high speech acts (Cohen’s
d=1.40  for  Time  1-2  and  .47  for  Time  2-3).
Results  indicate  that  the  faster  the  lexical
access  became,  the  faster  the  speech  rate
became, regardless of the situation type.
7
 
Discussion
This study found that the change in different
aspects  of  pragmatic  competence
(appropriateness  and  fluency)  over  different
task  situations  (PDR-high  and  low)  was
affected  differently  by  different  ID  factors.
No  effect  of  general  proficiency  on
pragmatic change was somewhat surprising,
considering  that  a  large  body  of  existing
literature  clearly  suggests  an  influence  of
proficiency  on  pragmatic  performance.
Previous  cross-sectional  studies  generally
found  that  higher  proficiency  learners
perform  pragmatic  functions  more
appropriately and fluently, and employ more
target-like  pragmalinguistic  forms  than
lower  proficiency  learners  (e.g.,  Dalmau  &
Gotor,  2007;  Félix-Brasdefer,  2004,  2007;
Garcia,  2004a;  Geyer,  2007;  Pinto,  2005;
RÖver,  2005;  Taguchi,  2007a,  2011;
Yamanaka, 2003; Xu et al., 2009). There are
several  interpretations  for  the  contradicting
findings  from  this  study.  First,  proficiency
could  differentiate  levels  of  pragmatic
performance  but  may  not  be  the  factor  that
influences  developmental  changes.  Previous
research  largely  explored  the  proficiency-pragmatics  relations  in  a  cross-sectional,
single-moment design by  comparing learner
groups  of  different  proficiency  levels.
Hence,  in  a  longitudinal  design,  proficiency
may  exhibit  different  degrees  of  influence

on  pragmatic  competence.  The  findings
suggest  that  a  threshold-level  proficiency  is
necessary  to  perform  pragmatic  functions,
but  proficiency  alone  is  not  sufficient  for
learners  to  make  further  progress  toward  a
full  mastery  of  pragmatic  abilities.  In
addition,  the  length  of  this  study  (eight
months)  might  have  affected  the  results.  In
earlier cross-sectional studies that compared
pragmatic  competence  across  different
proficiency levels, the difference in learners’
proficiency  between  lower  and  higher
proficiency  groups  was  much  greater  than
the  differences  between  the  learners’
proficiency across time spans in this study.  
 
If  not  proficiency,  what  factors  affect
pragmatic development? This study revealed
different  effects  of  IDs  across  different
dimensions  of  pragmatic  abilities.
Appropriateness  of  PDR-low  speech  acts
was  affected  by  integrative  orientation.
According to Gardner (1985), an integrative
orientation  involves  a  wish  to  develop  an
understanding  and  possibly  become  part  of
the  target  language  culture.  In  Yashima
(2002),  integrativeness  (termed  as
"intercultural  friendship  orientation")
predicted motivation, which in turn led to L2
proficiency.  In  the  present  study,  this  same
orientation  had  a  positive  impact  in  the
development  of  PDR-low  speech  acts,
indicating  that  a  positive  affective
disposition  toward  the  L2  community  and  a
desire  to  interact  and  identify  with  its
members was a key mediating factor for the
attainment  of  PDR-low  speech  acts.  The
PDR-low  situations  used  in  this  study  were
informal  situations  involving  talking  to
friends  about  routine  matters.  Making  a
small request to a friend or giving a personal
assessment on a subtle matter were probably
frequent  in  the  bilingual  campus
environment  and  were  part  of  daily
communication  among  the  learners  studied
here.  Integrative  orientation  explained  this
type of speech act’s gains probably because
one's needs and desire to become part of the
target language culture led to  greater  access
to the L2 community, which involved plenty
of  opportunities  to  practice  the  target  PDR-low speech acts.  
 
Appropriateness  of  PDR-high  speech  acts,
on  the  other  hand,  was  not  affected  by  the
integrative  orientation  probably  because
formal  communication  opportunities  (e.g.,
talking  to  a  professor  on  a  serious  matter)
were  not  as  frequent.  As  a  result,  learners'
interest  in  social  interaction  with  members
in the L2 community did not matter as much
for  the  development  of  PDR-high  speech
acts because the type of social interaction in
the  community  did  not  provide  as  many
opportunities  to  observe  or  practice  formal
language.  This  was  somewhat  supported  by
learners’ responses in the language  contact
survey I administered as background survey.
Average  amount  of  time  spent  talking  to
teachers  (presumably  involving  formal
speech)  was  less  than  one  hour  per  week,
while  that  of  talking  to  friends  (presumably
involving  informal  speech)  was  2.35  hours
per  week.  However,  regrettably,  this  study
was  not  able  to  examine  the  actual  level  of
formality  involved  in  interaction  with
teachers  versus  with  friends.  Because  no
variables  in  this  study  revealed  significant
impact  on  PDR-high  speech  act,  it  remains
for  future  research  to  reveal  precise  factors
that  affect  the  development  of  this  type  of
speech act.  
 
Gains  on  the  fluency  of  speech  acts  (i.e.,
speech  rate)  were  significantly  affected  by
lexical  access  skill.  The  learners  with  faster
lexical  access  showed  a  faster  speech  rate
regardless  of  the  situation  type.  These
findings  are  consistent  with  previous
findings  that  revealed  a  significant
relationship between lexical access skill and
processing  speed  in  pragmatics.  Taguchi

 
(2007b)  found  that  lexical  access  skill  was
associated with response times of pragmatic
comprehension,  but  not  with  accuracy  of
comprehension.  Similarly,  in  Taguchi
(2008b),  lexical  access  speed  and  language
contact significantly correlated with gains in
pragmatic  comprehension  speed,  but  not
with  gains  in  accuracy.  These  previous
findings  suggest  that  the  lexical  access  skill
–  the  ability  to  assign  meaning  quickly  –
serves  as  a  component  process  that  affects
the  comprehension  speed  of  pragmatic
meaning.  The  present  study  adds  to  the
previous  findings  in  that  speedy  lexical
access  could  promote  fluent  production  of
speech  acts.  The  present  results  are  also
consistent with Segalowitz and Freed (2004)
who  found  significant  correlation  between
oral  fluency  and  lexical  access  speed,
indicating  that  the  ability  to  access  word
meaning quickly could enhance oral fluency
in general.  
 
In  conclusion,  responding  to  Kasper  and
Rose's  (2002)  claim  that  individual
differences  and  L2  pragmatic  development
is the most under-researched area, this study
investigated the effect of three ID factors on
gains  in  pragmatic  production.  Results
showed  that  there  was  no  single  ID  factor
that had a significant effect on all aspects of
pragmatic competence. The findings suggest
that the aspect of pragmatic competence and
individual  characteristics  interact  with  one
another.  The  interaction  gleaned  in  this
study  is  two-fold:  gains  in  fluency  of
pragmatic  competence  (speech  rate)  was
affected  by  the  cognitive  variable,  namely
lexical  access,  while  gains  in  the
appropriateness  of  pragmatic  competence
was  affected  by  the  affective  variable,
namely  learners’  orientation  toward  target
language  community  (integrative
orientation).  These  findings  lend  support  to
the recent claim that individual attributes are
multi-componential  (DÖrnyei,  2009).  There
is a combined operation of mixed individual
factors  on  change  in  language  abilities,  and
it  was  found  to  be  true  in  pragmatic
competence in this study.  
 
Limitations  of  the  study  and  directions
for future research
This  study  has  several  limitations  that  need
to  be  addressed  in  future  research.  First,
because  the  ID  factors  examined  in  this
study  were  no  way  exhaustive,  future
research should explore a greater number of
affective and cognitive factors to expand the
scope  of  ID  research.  With  a  larger  sample
size,  future  research  could  use  a  different
statistical  method,  such  as  structural
equation  modeling  and  path  analysis,  to
visualize  the  hierarchy  and  direction  of
interaction  among  the  ID  factors  in  their
effect  on  pragmatic  achievement.  Similarly,
this  research  is  limited  in  that  it  examined
the  development  of  one  type  of  pragmatic
function,  namely  the  production  of  speech
acts, using a small-scaled instrument. With a
larger test battery, future research should  be
able  to  expand  the  scope  of  the  target
pragmatic  features  and  track  down  the
change  of  different  pragmatic  sub-competencies  in  relation  to  learner-specific
and contextual factors.  
 
Finally,  this  study  pursued  a  quantitative,
group-based analysis of IDs focusing on the
central tendency of certain characteristics. In
future  research,  a  qualitative,  individual-level  analysis  focusing  on  idiosyncratic
deviations from the group average would be
useful  in  investigating  pragmatic
development from a perspective of a socially
situated individual process. When combined,
the  group  and  individual-level  findings  will
mutually inform each other with the synergy
between  them  illuminating  the  complex
intersect  between  individuals,  context,  and
changes in pragmatic abilities.  

 
Notes
1.  In  addition  to  the  L2  learners,  24
native speakers of English completed
the oral DCT and provided base-line
data. Due to the space limit, the data
is not reported here.  
2.  The  sample  was  skewed  toward
women  because  the  male-female
ratio  in  the  institution  is  three-to-seven.  I  acknowledge  the  possibility
that  findings  from  this  study  were
gender-biased.  
3.  Four  raters  of  mixed  cultural
background:  an  Australian  white
male  and  female,  an  African-American  male,  and  a  female
Japanese-American,  evaluated  the
samples.  They  had  little  background
in  Applied  Linguistics  or  related
field,  and  had  limited  experience  in
teaching  English.  They  were  not
instructors of the participants.  
4.  Gardner  (1985)  distinguishes
between  motivation  and  orientation.
Orientation  refers  to  the  long-range
goals  for  learning  a  language,  while
motivation  refers  to  the  effort
learners  are  prepared  to  make  to
learn  L2.  This  study  measured
orientation  following  Yashima
(2002).  
5.  The  reliability  for  the  orientation
survey  was  .78  in  Yashima  (2002).
In my study it was .73.
6.  Although I consulted with a statistics
expert  to  ensure  the  appropriateness
of  the  use  of  HLM  with  the  current
sample  size  of  48,  results  should  be
interpreted  with  caution  due  to  the
small  sample  size.  Separate  mixed-model  analyses  were  performed  for
individual  covariates  the  covariates
did not correlate significantly. When
there  was  no  interaction  effect  but
main  effect,  the  model  was  adjusted
by  re-running  HLM  without
interaction  effects.  The  main  effect
of  covariate  was  confirmed  in  all
cases.  Effect  size  (Cohen’s  d)  was
calculated  by  dividing  parameter
estimate by the standard deviation of
dependent  variable.  Model  fit  was
checked  by  inspecting  the  residuals-covariate scatter plot.  
7.  As  a  post  hoc  analysis,  the
participants’  lexical  access  in  their
L1  (Japanese)  was  measured  and
assessed  in  relation  to  their  L2
lexical  access  (English).  There  was
also  a  significant  interaction  effect
between  English  lexical  access  and
Japanese  lexical  access  on  speech
rate:  F=9.52  (p=.003)  for  PDR-low
and  F=9.29  (p=.003)  for  PDR-high
speech  acts.  Hence,  the  effect  of
English lexical access on speech rate
depended  on  the  Japanese  lexical
access speed.

 

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