Pragmatic comprehension of apology, request and refusal: An investigation on the effect of consciousness-raising video-driven prompts


Allameh Tabataba’i University, Tehran, Iran


Recent  research  in  interlanguage  pragmatics  (ILP)  has  substantiated  that  some  aspects  of
pragmatics are amenable to instruction in the second or foreign language classroom. However,
there  are  still  controversies  over  the  most  conducive  teaching  approaches  and  the  required
materials.  Therefore,  this  study  aims  to  investigate  the  relative  effectiveness  of  consciousness-raising video-driven prompts on the comprehension of the three speech acts of apology, request,
and  refusal  on  seventy  eight  (36  male  and  42  female)  upper-intermediate  Persian  learners  of
English  who  were  randomly  assigned  to  four  groups    (metapragmatic,  form-search,  role  play,
and  control).  The  four  groups  were  exposed  to  45  video  vignettes  (15  for  each  speech  act)
extracted from different episodes of Flash Forward,  Stargate TV Series and Annie Hall Film for
nine  60-minute  sessions  of  instruction  twice  a  week.    Results  of  the  multiple  choice  discourse
completion test (MDCT) indicated that learners’ awareness  of  apologies,  requests  and  refusals
benefit  from  all  three  types  of  instruction,  but  the  results  of  the  Post  hoc  test  of  Tukey  (HSD)
illustrated  that  the  metapragmatic  group  outperformed  the  other  treatment  groups,  and  that
form-search group had a better performance than role-play and control groups. 


Main Subjects

Interlanguage  pragmatics  (ILP)  has  attained
a  considerable  attention  from  researchers
and practitioners, and it is still a burgeoning
area  in  second  language  acquisition.  Kasper
and Dahl (1991) define the discipline of ILP
as  the  study  of  non-native  speakers’
acquisition,  comprehension  and  production
of  pragmatics.  Within  ILP  development,
nevertheless, the pendulum has swung much
towards  production-oriented  studies  (Rose,
2009) and comprehension is “the least well-represented,  with  only  a  handful  of  studies
done to date” (Kasper & Rose, 2002, p.118).
Moreover,  although  it  is  widely  accepted
that  instruction  plays  a  crucial  role  in  the
acquisition  of  pragmatics  (Alcón-  Soler,  &
Martı´nez-Flor,  2005;  Jeon  &  Kaya,  2006;
Kasper,  1997;  Kasper  &  Roever,  2002;
Kasper  &  Schmidt,  1996;  Kondo,  2008;
Lyster,  1993,  1994;  Rose,  2005;  Rose  &
Kasper,  2001;  Taguchi,  2007,  2008),  the
foreign  language  classroom  may  expose
students  to  a  limited  environment  to  foster
pragmatics  learning.  There  is  consensus
among  pragmatics  practitioners  and
theoreticians  that  the  opportunities  for
human  interaction  are  rather  restricted
(Kasper,  2001;  Kasper  &  Rose,  1999;
Lyster,  1994),  and  the  materials  to  which
students  are  exposed  are  decontextualized
(Bardovi-Harlig,  Hartford,  Mahan-Taylor,
Morgan,  &  Reynolds,  1991).  Alternatively,
some  researchers  propound  that  textbook
conversations  are  rather  limited  and
unreliable  sources  of  input  to  tap  on
pragmatics  learning  (Bardovi-Harlig  et  al.,
1991;  Boxer  &  Pickering,  1995;  Gilmore,
2004;  Lo¨rscher  &  Schulze,  1988).
Moreover,  Rose  (1999)  states  that  large
classes,  limited  contact  hours,  and  little
opportunity  for  intercultural  communication
are  some  of  the  features  of  the  English  as  a
foreign language (EFL)  context that impede
pragmatic learning.   
Consequently,  the  use  of  authentic  audio-visual input and the role of instruction have
drawn scholars’ attention in research on ILP.
The  bodies  of  research  conducted  by
Washburn  (2001),  Alcon  (2005)  were
legitimized  by  the  fact  that  both
sociopragmatic  and  pragmalinguistic
awareness  are  especially  difficult  for  EFL
learners.    Given  that,  they  claim  that
authentic  audiovisual  input  caters  for  a
welter of opportunities to address all aspects
of language use in a whole array of contexts,
and  regarding  the  fact  that  most  studies  to
date have focused on pragmatics production
through  dichotomous  teaching  approaches
and responding to Kasper and Rose’s (2002)
claim  that  studies  on  pragmatics
comprehension  are  the  most  under-researched area (Kasper & Rose, 2002); it is,
therefore,  hypothesized  that  video-driven
vignettes may be useful to expose leaners to
the pragmatic aspects of the target language
to  not  only  address  pragmatics
comprehension  but  also  to  compensate  for
the inadequacy of textbooks, limited contact
hours, and classroom conversations.
Following  Leech’s  (1983)  demarcation,
pragmatic  competence  is  divided  into
sociopragmatic  and  pragmalinguistic
competence.  The  former  encompasses
knowledge  of  the  relationship  between
communicative  action  and  power,  social
distance, and the imposition associated with
the  past  and  future  (Brown  &  Levinson,  as
cited  in  Kasper  &  Rover,  2005,  p.  317),
knowledge of mutual rights and obligations,
taboos, and conventional practices (Thomas,
1983),  and  the  social  conditions  and
consequences of "what you do, when and to
whom" (Fraser, Rintal & Walters, as cited in
Kasper & Rover 2005, p. 317).  
The  latter,  on  the  other  hand,  comprises  the
knowledge and ability to use conventions of
means  (such  as  strategies  to  realize  speech
acts)  and  conventions  of  form  (such  as  the
linguistic  forms  implementing  speech  act
strategies)  (Clark,  as  cited  in  Kasper  &
Rover,  2005,  p.  317;  Thomas,  1983).  The
present  study  aimed  at  developing learners’
sociopragmatic  and  pragmalinguistic
competence  by  focusing  on  issues  such  as
power, social distance, and the imposition as
well  as  strategies  and  forms  of  apologies,
requests, and refusals.  
The rationale behind this study
Two  of  the  most  influential  cognitive
processing  approaches  proposed  in  second
language  acquisition  (SLA)  are  Sharwood
Smith’s  Consciousness-Raising  (CR)  and
Schmidt’s  Noticing  Hypothesis  (Schmidt,
1993,  2001;  Sharwood  Smith,  1980,  1993).
Sharwood  Smith  (1980)  conceptualizes  that
the  term  "consciousness-raising"  represents
a  deliberate  focus  on  the  formal  properties
of language with a respect toward enhancing
the  development  of  second  language
knowledge.  Sharwood  Smith  (1993)  argues
that  “CR  implies  that  the  learner’s  mental
state is altered by the input; hence, all input
is intake” (p. 176).  Given that CR plays  a
crucial  role  in  enhancing  properties  of
language,  Rose  (1994)  introduces  video-prompts  as  an  approach  to  promote
pragmatic  consciousness-raising  since  they

can  provide  the  fundamental  aspects  of
pragmatics which can be capitalized upon by
teachers  of  both  native  and  non-native
In  line  with  Sharwood  Smith,  Schmidt
(1993,  2001)  contends  that  the  noticing
hypothesis  is  primarily  concerned  with  the
initial  phase  of  input  processing  and  the
attentional requirements for input to become
intake.  Schmidt  (2001)  postulates  that  any
target  L2 feature needs to be noticed by the
learner for learning to occur: “while there is
subliminal perception, there is no subliminal
learning”  (p.  26).  Because  more  attention
results in more learning, “attention must be
directed to whatever evidence is relevant for
a  particular  learning  domain,  i.e.  that
attention  must  be  specifically  focused  and
not just global” (Schmidt, 2001, p. 30).  
He  then  extended  his  hypothesis  to
pragmatics  postulating  that,  “in  order  to
acquire  pragmatics,  one  must  attend  to  both
the  linguistic  form  of  utterances  and  the
relevant  social  and  contextual  features  with
which they are associated” (Schmidt, 2001).
He  also  mentions  that  “pragmatic
knowledge  seems  to  be  partly  conscious,
and  partly  accessible  to  consciousness,
although  it  cannot  be  the  case  that  all
pragmatic  knowledge  is  accessible  to
consciousness” (Schmidt, 1993, p. 23).
Being  motivated  by  these  cognitive-psychological  theories,  Eslami-Rasekh,
Eslami-Rasekh,  and  Fatahi1
 (2004),  for
example,  carried  out  a  study  to  explore  the
effect  of  explicit  metapragmatic  instruction
on  the  comprehension  of  speech  acts  of
request,  apology,  and  complaint  on  Iranian
advanced  EFL  students.  Teacher-fronted
 For  more  information  on  Persian  studies  on
Pragmatics,  see,  for  example,  Abdolrezapour  &
Eslami  Rasekh  (2012)  and  Parvaresh  &  Eslami
Rasekh, (2009).
discussions,  cooperative  grouping,  role
plays, and other pragmatically oriented tasks
were  used  to  promote  the  learning  of  the
intended  speech  acts.  A  pretest-posttest
control  group  design  was  used.  The
participants  were  senior  Iranian
undergraduates majoring in TEFL (Teaching
English as a Foreign Language). A group of
American students were used to provide the
baseline for the study.  
A multiple choice pragmatic comprehension
test  was  developed  in  several  stages  and
used  both  as  a  pretest  and  posttest  to
measure  the  effect  of  instruction  on  the
pragmatic  comprehension  of  the  students.
The results of the data analysis revealed that
students'  comprehension  of  speech  act
improved  significantly  and  that  pragmatic
competence  is  not  impervious  to  instruction
even in EFL settings.
Video-driven  prompts  as  influential  sources
of input
As  a  consequence  of  the  constraints  and
challenges involved in dealing with teaching
sociopragmatic  and  pragmalinguistic
features  in  the  foreign  language  context
mentioned  above,  the  use  of  authentic
audiovisual  and  video  enhanced  materials
and  the  role  of  instruction  have  gained
considerable attention in the development of
pragmatics.  Analogous  to  other  areas  of
language  learning,  Alcón-Soler  (2005)
contends  that  learners  could  be  exposed  to
pragmatic  input  through  classroom
interaction,  textbook  conversations  and
films.  Lo¨rscher  and  Schulze  (1988)  point
out that in EFL contexts the range of speech
acts  and  realization  strategies  is
marginalized, and that the typical interaction
patterns,  i.e.  initiation,  response,  and
feedback  (IRF)  impose  inherent  limitations
on  pragmatic  input  and  opportunities  for
practicing  discourse  organization  strategies.
Alternatively,  Crandall  and  Basturkmen
(2004)  stipulate  that  textbook  conversations
do  not  cater  sufficient  pragmatic  input.  In  a
similar  vein,  a  solid  body  of  research
findings  documents  that  textbook
conversations  are  not  a  reliable  source  of
pragmatic  input  (Bardovi-Harlig  et  al.,
1991;  Boxer  &  Pickering,  1995;  Gilmore,
2004). Rose (1994) observes that videotaped
discourse  contains  “rich  recoverable
contexts  which  can  be  exploited  in
consciousness-raising activities” (p. 58).  
Moreover,  Alcón-Soler  (2005)  investigates
the  efficacy  of  explicit  versus  implicit
instruction  on  the  ability  to  use  request
strategies.  One  hundred  and  thirty-two
students  were  randomly  assigned  to  three
groups  (explicit,  implicit  and  control).  The
three  groups  were  exposed  to  excerpts
including  requests  extracted  from  different
episodes  of  the  Stargate  TV  series.
However,  while  the  explicit  group  received
instruction  by  means  of  direct  awareness-raising  tasks  and  written  metapragmatic
feedback on the use of appropriate requests,
the  implicit  group  was  provided  with
typographical  enhancement  of  request
strategies  and  a  set  of  implicit  awareness-raising  tasks.  Results  of  the  study
demonstrate  that  learners’  awareness  of
requests  benefit  from  both  explicit  and
implicit  instruction.  However,  in  line  with
previous  research,  this  study  illustrates  that,
although  an  improvement  in  learners’
appropriate  use  of  requests  took  place  after
the  instructional  period,  the  explicit  group
showed an advantage over the implicit one.
Takahashi  (2005)  investigates  the  effects  of
instruction  on  L2  pragmatics  development
by  exploring  the  manner  in  which  Japanese
EFL  learners  notice  target  English  request
forms  through  a  form-comparison  (FC)
condition  and  a  form-search  (FS)  condition.
Participants  in  the  FC  group  compare  their
request forms with those provided by native
English      speakers    and    then    describe  any  
feature  of   native-speaker  request
realization,  and  learners  in  the    FS  group
point out any ‘‘native-like  usage’’  in the
input  containing    the    targets.    To  this  end,
49  Japanese  college  students  who  were
freshmen  or  sophomores  were  divided  into
two  general  English  classes:  25  students  in
FC  and  24  students  in  FS.  The  results
indicate  that  during  the  treatment,  the
learners  in  the  form-comparison  condition
noticed the target request forms to  a  greater
extent  than  those  in  the  form-search
condition.  Further,  the  learners’  higher
awareness  of  the  target  forms  tended  to
ensure the emergence of these  forms during
their post- test performance.
Bardovi-Harlig and Griffin (2005) sought to
examine  the  relative  effectives  of  pragmatic
awareness  activity  in  an  ESL  context.  For
doing  so,  they  selected  five  high
intermediate intact ESL classes consisting of
43  students  from  18  language  backgrounds.
The  learners  were  asked  to  work  in  pairs  to
identify  the  source  of  pragmatic  infelicities
in  video-taped  scenarios  and  to  frequently
perform  role-plays  to  remedy  the  addressed
infelicities.  The  main  objective  of  the  role-plays  was  to  determine  the  types  of
pragmatic  infelicities  that  are  recognized
and repaired by learners. Results of the role-plays  indicated  that  learners  noticed  and
completed  missing  speech  acts,  and
semantic  formulas,  although  pragmatic
improvements  in  terms  of  form  and  content
of  repairs  were  not  target-like.  To  put  it
precisely,  learners  were  able  to  supply  the
missing  apology  for  arriving  late  or
explanations  for  making  requests  or  for  not
having done a class assignment on time, but
the  form  or  content  were  not  culturally  or
linguistically  transparent.  They  conclude
that learners generally know what to change,
whether  speech  act,  formula,  form,  or
content,  but  how  to  change  it  in  the  area  of

form  or  content  seemed  to  be  more
With the recognition of the role of pragmatic
competence  in  communicative  competence,
substantial  bodies  of  second  language  (L2)
research  have  scrutinized  learners’
pragmatic  performance  in  EFL/ESL
communicative  contexts.  In  the  existing  L2
literature,  pragmatic  competence  has  been
explored  primarily  from  production  skills,
specifically  production  of  speech  acts
(Kasper  &  Roever,  2002;  Rose,  2009;
Taguchi,  2013).  Little  L2  research  has
investigated  comprehension  of  pragmatic
functions  (Kasper  &  Rose,  2002).  A
relatively  small  number  of  L2  studies  have
examined  whether  learners  can  comprehend
implied  meaning  accurately  (Garcia,  2004;
Taguchi,  2002,  2005,  2008).  Most  studies
conducted  on  pragmatic  comprehension  are
confined  to  learners’  accuracy  and
comprehension  (Taguchi,  2007).  Another
underrepresented  area  in  the  previous
research  is  that  most  studies  on  pragmatic
comprehension have drawn on written input
to  sensitize  pragmatic  awareness  (Kondo,
2008),  and  only  a  few  studies  to  date  have
utilized video-vignettes as an input source to
develop  pragmatic  comprehension  (Alcón-Soler, 2005; Rose, 1994).   
Another  gap  in  the  existing  literature
pertains  to  teaching  methods  or  class
activities,  Kasper  (1997)  points  out  that
teachers can utilize activities through one of
the  inductive,  deductive,  implicit  or  explicit
approaches  to  instruction  or  through  an
informed  eclectic  approach.  Regarding  this,
most  studies  to  date  have  focused  on
dichotomous teaching approaches,  and what
is not examined systematically relates to the
implementation  of  informed  eclectic
approach.  Following  DeCoo  (1996),  in  our
instructional  approach  we  did  not  make  a
dichotomous division between ‘explicit’ and
‘implicit’,  nor did  we  draw on  ‘deductive’
and  ‘inductive’  instruction.  Rather  our
approach  to  intervention  was  a  mixture  of
complementary  approaches  and  purposeful
class activities, that is, informed eclecticism,
in  the  form  of  peer  work,  form-search,
metapragmatic  awareness,  and  role-plays.
As  to  the  many  types  of  teaching
approaches,  the  present  study  drew  on
metapragmatic  consciousness-raising  tasks,
form-search,  and  role  play  as  the  three
interventional approaches.
Given  that  the  video  medium  as  a  teaching
and  learning  tool  has  some  distinct
advantages  over  naturalistic  observations
and  textbooks  (Alcón-Soler,  2002;  Garza,
1996;  Grant  &  Starks,  2001;  Koike,  1995;
Lonergan,  1984;  Martı´nez-Flor,  2007;
Rose,  1994;    Stempleski  &  Tomalin,  1990;
Swaffar & Vlatten, 1997), and regarding the
fact that, to our knowledge, few studies have
empirically  scrutinized  the  effectiveness  of
video prompts on the development of speech
acts,  it  makes  sense  to  bridge  the  gap  by
conducting  a  study  on  the  effectiveness  of
consciousness-raising  video-driven  prompts
on  the  development  of  three  speech  acts  of
apology,  request,  and  refusal  in  a  foreign
language classroom.
Research questions  
In  order  to  bridge  the  gap  in  the  existing
literature  on  ILP  and  in  order  to  investigate
the possible contributions of a different kind
of  input,  video  vignettes  in  the  context  of
classroom-based  instruction  to  the
development  of  L2  pragmatic  competence,
this  study  aimed  to  investigate  the
effectiveness  of  consciousness-raising
video-driven prompts on the development of
three  speech  acts  of  apology,  request,  and
refusal.  The  study  addressed  two  main

1.  Do  metapragmatic  consciousness-raising  approach,  form-search
approach,  and  role-play  approach
enhance  learners’  comprehension  of
speech  acts  of  apology,  request,  and
2.  Is  there  any  difference  in  leaners’
pragmatic  comprehension  of  apology,
request,  and  refusal  across  the  three
kinds  of  consciousness-raising
intervention-  metapragmatic,  from-search, and role-play?  
Seventy eight Iranian EFL learners (36 male
and  42  female)  studying  English  at  an
English  Language  Institute  participated  in
this  study.  The  results  of  the  pilot  study
substantiated  that  the  upper-intermediate
EFL learners  are appropriate for the present
study;  therefore,  four  groups  of  upper-intermediate  EFL  learners  ranging  in  age
from  16  to  26  were  divided  into
metapragmatic  group,  form-search  group,
role-play  group,  and  control  group.  The
metapragmatic  group  consisted  of  22
learners (10 male and 12 female) ranging in
age  from  17  to  23  (average  age18.45).  The
form-search  group  consisted  of  21  learners
(11 male and 10 female) ranging in age from
16  to  22  (average  age  18.71).  The  role-play
group  had  18  learners  (8  male  and  10
female)  ranging  in  age  from  16  to  26
(average  age  18.05),  and  the  control  group
consisted  of  17  learners  (7  male  and  10
female)  ranging  in  age  from  17  to  26
(average  age  18.67).  None  of  the
participants  had  any  living  experiences  in
English speaking countries.
Test instruments: test of listening pragmatic
comprehension  of  apology,  request,  &
Bachman  and  Palmer  (1996)  conceptualize
that  for  any  given  test  to  be  useful,  it  must
be  developed  with  specific  purpose,  a
particular group of test takers and a specific
language use domain or  target language use
(TLU).  One  of  the  components  of  test
usefulness,  Bachman  and  Palmer  (1996)
believe,  is  authenticity  which  is
characterized  as  “the  degree  of
correspondence  of  the  characteristics  of  a
given  language  test  task  to  the  features  of  a
TLU  task”  (Bachman  &  Palmer,  1996,  p.
As  part  of  a  PhD  dissertation,  the  research
instrument  was  piloted  on  the  basis  of  the
insights  and  feedback  gained  from  the
Pragmatic  Assessment  Rubrics
demonstrated  below.  It  contained  25
conversations  extracted  from  Interchange
Series, Top Notch Series, American English
File  Series,  and  Touchstone  Series.  There
were 8 conversations featuring speech act of
apology,  8  conversations  featuring  speech
act of request, and 9 conversations featuring
speech  act  of  refusal  which  were  followed
by  one  practice  conversation  to  familiarize
the  test  takers  with  the  peculiarities  of  the
test. Each conversation had 8 questions three
of  which  tapping  upon  metapragmatic
ability,  one  of  which  measuring
sociopragmatic ability, three other questions
measuring  pragmalinguistic  ability,  and  last
but  not  least  question,  i.e.,  question  8
measured  the  comprehension  of  the  speech
act  which  was  subsumed  under
pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic ability.
For  more  information  see  appendix  A.
Students just listen to the conversation. They
do not see the audio scrip.   
A  fundamental  consideration  of  teacher-based  assessment  stipulates  that  the  choice
of  criteria  in  the  evaluation  rubric  aligns
with  the  instructional  goals  in  a  consistent
manner  (Brown,  2004).  Therefore,  the
present  study  took  into  account  the
Pragmatic  Assessment  Rubrics
encompassing  three  constructs  which  are  as
a.  Linguistic  aspects  (pragmalinguistic
b.  Cultural  aspects  (sociopragmatic
ability); and  
c.  Analytic  aspects  (ability  to  analyze  and
evaluate  pragmatic  use-referred  to  as
metapragmatic ability, Ishihara, 2010).  
From  the  pragmalinguistic  perspective,  and
bearing  authenticity  in  mind,  the  present
study  drew  upon  vocabulary  and  phrases,
strategies  for  a  speech  act,  and  choice  and
use  of  pragmatic  tone  (Ishihara,  2010,  p.
293).  With  regard  to  sociopragmatic
competence,  this  study  embarked  upon  the
level  of  formality  and  politeness  (Ishihara,
2010,  p.  295).  Besides  evaluating  linguistic
and cultural aspects of learners’ pragmatics,
it is also possible to assess learners’ ability
to  analyze  the  pragmatics  of  the  L2.  Such
metapragmatic  information  can  include
contextual  information  analyzed  in  terms  of
social  status,  social  and  psychological
distance, and degree of imposition (Ishihara,
2010, p.295).  
Scoring System and Reliability
Since  just  one  answer  was  regarded  as  the
correct  answer,  correct  responses  and
incorrect  ones  were  assigned  1  and  0,
respectively.  To  determine  the  reliability
index of binary variables KR20 formula was
employed  which  is  a  special  case  of
Cronbach's  Alpha.  The  internal  consistency
and reliability of the pragmatic rating rubric
used  in  the  present  study  to  assess  the
responses of the participants on the listening
pragmatic  comprehension  of  apology,
request,  and  refusal  was  obviously  an
important  area  of  concern  in  reviewing  the
study results. The results of the calculations
of  the  coefficient  alpha  for  internal
consistency  indicated  acceptable  level  for
the  DCT  (α  =  .82).  The  reliability  level
calculated  for  these  results  were  above  the
0.7 threshold considered acceptable in social
science research (Vogt, 2005).
Instructional treatment materials
Forty-five  video  vignettes  15  apologies,  15
requests,  and  15  apologies  were  extracted
from  different  episodes  of  Flash  Forward,
Stargate  TV  series  and  Annie  Hall  film.
Alcón-Soler  (2005)  takes  advantage  of
Stargate  TV  series  working  on  the
identification  and  analysis  of  direct  and
indirect  requests.  Following  Rose  (1999),
Annie  Hall  film  was  opted  because  it  could
provide  the  students  with  the  analysis  of
language  forms  and  strategies  of  requests
and apologies as well as good discussions on
the  appropriateness  of  forms  in  relation  to
the  contexts.  The  number  of  video  prompts
for each speech act was 15 covering various
situations  such  as  work,  school,  home,
hospital,  prison,  restaurant,  and  store,  to
name  just  a  few.  The  excerpts  encompass
direct requests (Annie, tell Dr. Flicker; Stop
it,  Annie),  conventionally  indirect  (Annie,
would  you  like  a  lift?),  and  non-conventionally  indirect  requests  (I  have  a
car;  Annie’s  friend  talking  to  him  at  the
The  vignettes  also  included  different
strategies of apologies such as an expression
of  apology  (I’m  really  sorry.),
acknowledgment of responsibility (It was all
my  fault.),  an  explanation  or  account  (I  got
stuck in the traffic.), an offer of repair (How
can  I  make  it  up  to  you?  Can  I  buy  you
lunch  on  Friday?),  and  a  promise  of  non-recurrence (I’ll make sure to turn the volume
down.)  (Cohen  &  Olshtain,  1981,  pp.  119-125).
The  appropriate  design  of  the  present  study
was  a  pre-test  post-test  control  group  one.

The  control  group’s  performance  was  an
indicator  to  see  how  the  other  three  groups
became  aware  of  the  sociopragmatic  and
pragmalinguistic features. The three  groups,
except  the  control  group  which  received  a
normal  conversational  treatment,  were
exposed to vignettes extracted from different
episodes of Flash Forward, and Stargate TV
Series  and  Annie  Hall  Film.  The  major
objective  of  these  vignettes  was  to  make
students  aware  of  the  sociopragmatic  and
pragmalinguistic aspects involved in making
apologies, requests, and refusals. Each group
received 45 video excerpts, 15 apologies, 15
requests,  and  15  refusals  nine  60-minute
sessions of instruction on the video prompts
twice a week. The treatment that each group
received is explicated separately as follows:  
Form Search Group (FSG): The form search
group consisted of 21 learners (11 male and
10  female)  ranging  in  age  from  16  to  22.
Following  Takahashi  (2005),  in  this  group
any  ‘‘native-like  usage’’  in  the  input
containing  the  target  language  forms  was
highlighted.  We  drew  on  vocabulary  and
phrases  (e.g.,  a  big  favor,  I  just  need  .  .  .),
grammatical  structures  (e.g.  Can  you  .  .  .  /
Would  you  .  .  .  /  I  was  wondering  if  .  .  .  /
Would  it  be  possible  .  .  .  ?),  strategies  for  a
speech  act  (i.e.,  the  selection  of  formulas
and  the  way  they  are  used)  (e.g.,  giving  a
reason  for  a  request,  apologizing  for  the
trouble,  ),  and  choice  and  use  of  pragmatic
tone  (e.g.,  how  sincere  the  speaker  appears
with verbal and non-verbal cues).  
The  Metapragmatic  Awareness  Raising
Group  (MPG):  The  participants  in  this
group  were  22  learners  (10  male  and  12
female)  ranging  in  age  from  17  to  23.  The
pragmalinguistic and sociolinguistic features
were explicitly highlighted. To this  end, the
researchers  followed  a  four-step  procedure
adopted from Asadifar (2010):  
1.  Developing learners’ understanding of
the  importance  of  pragmatics  by
presenting  the  key  elements  of
pragmalinguistics  and
2.  Raising  learners’  awareness  of  the
appropriate  use  of  L1  requests,
apologies, and refusals;
3.  Providing  explicit  information  on  the
pragmalinguistic forms of L2 requests,
apologies, and refusals;
4.  Discussing  the  appropriate  use  of  L2
requests,  apologies,  and  refusals,  e.g.,
issues  of  social  distance,  power  and
imposition, the speaker’s intention, etc.
The  Role-Play  Group  (RPG):  The  role-play
group  had  18  learners  (8  male  and  10
female)  ranging  in  age  from  16  to  26.  They
were  allowed  to  take  notes  as  they  were
watching the episodes, and then played roles
like  the  native  models.  Students  were  also
provided  with  the  scripts.  They  acted  out
different  patterns  and  ways  of  making
requests, apologies, and refusals in different
situations  both  formally  and  informally.
Moreover,  they  worked  on  the  role
relationships  between  the  interlocutors,  the
distance  between  them,  and  the  degree  of
imposition.  Like  the  other  groups,  different
strategies  for  making  requests,  apologies,
and  refusals  were  acted  out  from  direct
request  and  refusal  strategies  to  non-conventionally  indirect  request  and  refusal
strategies  and  from  simple  apologies  to  a
promise of non-occurrence.  
Like  the  other  groups,  from  the
pragmalinguistic  vantage  point,  specific
dimensions  of  language  were  acted  out
including  the  choice  and  use  of  vocabulary
and  phrases  (e.g.,  a  big  favor),  grammatical
structures  (e.g.  I  was  wondering  if……….),
strategies for a speech act (i.e., the selection
of formulas and the way they are used (e.g.,
giving  a  reason  for  request,  apologizing  for
trouble),  choice  and  use  of  pragmatic  tone,
and  choice  and  use  of  discourse  markers
(e.g.,  by  the  way,  well,……….).  Role-plays
are possible to simulate conversational turns
and  to  get  the  interlocutor  to  use
conversational pressures that are not present
in  a  DCT  (Cohen  &  Olshtain,  1994),  but
they  are  generally  time-consuming  and
require  interlocutor  training  if  they  want  to
be utilized as a means of assessment, but in
the present study role-plays were used as an
interventional  means  to  practice  the  dialogs
which  is  a  common  practice  in  almost  all
conversational classes.   
The control group (CG):  The control group
consisted  of  17  learners  (7  male  and  10
female)  ranging  in  age  from  17  to  26.  The
control group did not receive any instruction
on the use of speech  acts.  The presentation
of  the  video  vignettes  was  followed  by
comprehension  questions,  repetition,  and
vocabulary  focus.  The  pragmalinguistic  and
sociolinguistic  features  were  not  brought  to
the fore.
Data analysis
In  order  to  determine  if  any  pragmatic
development  occurred  between  the  pre-test
and the post-test, t-test for repeated measure
data  was  used.  In  order  to  measure  inter-group differences and development one-way
between  groups  ANOVA  and  the  post  hoc
test of Tukey (HSD) were used.  
Research  Question  One:  Do  metapragmatic
consciousness-raising  approach,  form-search  approach,  and  role-play  approach
enhance learners’ comprehension of speech
acts of apology, request, and refusal?
In order to investigate the significance of the
difference in each group, a paired samples t-test  had  to  be  used.  Table  1  shows  the
difference in learners’ comprehension of the
three  speech  acts  of  apology,  request,  and
refusal  across  the  four  groups  before  and
after the treatment. The descriptive statistics
reveal  that  the  four  groups  were
homogenous  in  terms  of  their
sociopragmatic  and  pragmalinguistic
knowledge  in  pre-intervention  stage.
Moreover,  as  can  be  seen  in  this  table,  the
total mean (107.04) of the four groups in the
post-test was higher than that (81.23) of the
four groups in the pre-test, showing that the
instruction has had an effect on the learners’
pragmatic  development.  As  presented  in
Table 2, t-test (t = -.671, df = 16,   α= 0.05, p
= .512) analysis of results did not report any
statistical  difference  in  the  control  group
before  and  after  the  interventional  period
because p value was more than α.  
However,  there  were  differences  in  the
treatment  groups.  Table  1  shows,  for
instance,  that  the  metapragmatic  group
(MPG)  obtained  a  mean  of  129.09  with  its
standard deviation of 16.900 on the post test.
Likewise, as it can be seen in Table 2, the  t
value  (-19.082)  denotes  statistically
significant  differences  that  point  to  a  p=
0.000  level  of  probability  for  the
metapragmatic  group.  Correspondingly,  the
difference regarding learners’ awareness in
the  form-search  group  (FSG)  before  and
after the treatment is statistically significant.
As  shown  in  Table  2,  the  t  value  (-14.446)
and  the  probability  level  (p=  0.000)  reveal
statistically  significant  differences  in  the
form-search  group.  Moreover,  as  Table  2
indicates, the results from the comparison of
the  means  of  the  role-play  group  (RPG)
showed  there  was  a  significant  difference
between  the  means  of  the  two  groups  (t  =  -7.032, df =17, α= 0.05, p = .000). Because p
value was less than α, there was a significant
difference  between  the  means  of  the  role-play  group  before  and  after  the  treatment.
Based on the analysis of the pretest and post
test  results,  it  is  therefore  concluded  that

learners’  comprehension  of  speech  acts  of
apology, request, and refusal across the three
teaching  approaches–  metapragmatic,  form-search,  and  role-play  -  enhanced  after  the

Research  Question  Two:  Is  there  any
difference  in  leaners’  pragmatic
comprehension  of  apology,  request,  and
refusal  across  the  three  kinds  of
consciousness-raising  intervention-
metapragmatic, from-search, and role-play?

The  effect  of  the  four  kinds  of
interventional  treatments  on  developing
pragmatic  comprehension  in  apologies,
requests,  and  refusals  was  measured  by
analyzing  learners’  awareness  of  these
speech  acts  in  the  post-test.  Regarding  the
learners’  awareness  on  the  post-test  and
seeking  the  answer  to  the  second  research
question,  we  compared  the  four  groups
simultaneously  to  see  if  there  were  any
meaningful  differences  among  them.
Therefore,  a  one-way  repeated  measures
ANOVA  statistical  test  was  applied.    As
seen  in  Table  3,  the  amount  of  variability
between  groups  (SS  between  groups=
17997.954)  is  different  from  the  amount  of
variability  within  the  groups  (SS  within
groups=  25775.758),  which  indicates  that
there  is  some  difference  in  the  groups.
Moreover, the F ratio (with three degrees of
freedom) is larger than the observed value of

F  (21.900),  which  means  that  significant
group differences were observed with regard
to  performance  of  the  four  groups.  The
ANOVA table shows just the fact that there
is  a  meaningful  difference,  but  it  does  not
tell  us  where  the  differences  exactly  are.
Therefore,  in  order  to  pinpoint  exactly
where the differences lie we resort to a post
hoc test of Tukey (HSD).

The  post-hoc  Tukey  (HSD)  tests  reveal  that
the  participants  of  metapragmatic,  form-search,  and  role-play  groups  significantly
outperformed  the  control.  It  also  shows  that
there  is  a  meaningful  difference  between
metapragmatic  group,  form-search  group
(p=  .034),  role-play  group  (p=  .000)  and
control group (p= .000).Moreover, the mean
differences  between  metapragmatic  group,
and  form-search  group,  and  role-play  group
are  15.  807,  and  32.268,  respectively
indicating  that  metapragmatic  group
outperforms  the  other  groups.  
Correspondingly,  as  it  can  be  seen  in  the
same  table,  there  is  a  meaningful  difference
between  form-search  and  role-play  group
(p=  .037),  and  form-search  outperforms
role-play  group  as  indicated  in  the  mean
difference  between  the  two  groups  (16.46).
It  is,  however,  interesting  to  note  that  no
meaningful  difference  is  found  between
role-play  group  and  control  group  which
holds a level of significance of (.154).

This  study  revealed  improvement  of
pragmatic ability among EFL learners over a
nine 60-minute sessions of instruction on the
video  prompts  twice  a  week  in  terms  of
making  direct  requests  and  refusals,
conventionally  indirect,  and  non-conventionally  indirect  requests  and
refusals, and in terms of apologizing such as
an  expression  of  apology,  acknowledgment
of responsibility, an  explanation or account,
an  offer  of  repair,  and  promise  of  non-recurrence.  
The  first  research  question  addressed  the
effectiveness  of  different  instructional
approaches  on  the  comprehension  of
apology, request, and refusal, and the second
research  question  sought  to  answer  which
group  could  possibly  lead  to  more  
awareness. Although the results of the study
revealed  that  all  three  treatment  groups
significantly  improved  their  comprehension
of  the  three  speech  acts  after  the
interventional  period,  the  metapragmatic
group  outperformed  form-search,  role-play,
and  control  groups.  Moreover,  it  was  found
that  form-search  group  had  a  better
performance  than  role-play  group  and
control  group.  The  findings  of  this  study
confirm  previous  research  on  the  positive
effect  of  instruction  on  learners’
development  of  pragmatics  (Alcón-Soler,
2005; Alcón-Soler, & Martı´nez-Flor, 2005;
Bardovi-Harlig,  2001;  Jernigan,  2012;
Kasper & Roever, 2002; Olshtain & Cohen,
1990;  Rose,  2005;  Rose  &  Kasper,  2001;
Taguchi, 2005, 2008, 2013).  
Rose  and  Kasper  (2001)  call  for  a  need  to
make  a  link  between  interlanguage
pragmatic  research  and  second  language
acquisition  theories.  Taking  into
consideration  the  learners’  pragmatic  gain,
our  data  lend  support  to  Schmidt’s  (1993)
noticing  hypothesis  and  Sharwood  Smith’s
(1980)  consciousness-raising  since
instruction  has  played  a  crucial  role  in
making learners aware of a number of extra-linguistic  contextual  factors  such  as  social
status,  distance,  and  imposition.  The  results
are  supportive  of  the  fact  that  learning  in  a
foreign  language  context  does  not
necessarily  disadvantage  pragmatic
development  (Ohta,  as  cited  in  Taguchi,
2007,  p.  328).  As  Taguchi  (2007)  puts  it,
pragmatic  learning  is  dependent  on  the  way
learning  is  organized  and  presented  that
fosters or hinders pragmatic development. In
line  with  postulations  posited  by  Rose
(1994),  Garza  (1996),  Grant  and  Starks
(2001) on the potential advantages of video-prompts  as  authentic  sources  of  input,  the
results of the present study prove that video-vignettes can be utilized by EFL teachers to
sensitize  learners  to  sociopragmatic  and
pragmalinguistic features.  
As  a  measure  to  overcome  the  discourse-structural  restrictions  of  the  IRF  and  the
asymmetrical  power  relations  between
teacher and students that IRF produces, peer
activities  have  become  a  regular
instructional  practice.    Peer  interactions
among  foreign  language  students  in  task-structured  activities  and  role-plays  have
proven  to  offer  substantially  productive
environments for fostering L2 pragmatic and
interactional  competence  (Tateyama,  as
cited  in  Tateyama  &  Kasper,  2008,  p.  45).
Regarding  this,  Bardovi-Harlig  and  Griffin
(2005)  utilized  role-plays  as  an
interventional method to determine the types
of  pragmatic  infelicities  that  are  recognized
and repaired by learners. Results of the role-plays  indicated  that  learners  noticed  and
completed  missing  speech  acts,  and
semantic formulas.  
The  results  of  the  present  study,  on  the  one
hand,  are  supported  by  Bardovi-Harlig  and
Griffin’ (2005) study on the effectiveness of
role-plays  as  a  means  of  developing
pragmatic  competence.  Although  Bardovi-Harlig  and  Griffin’  (2005)  study  reported
that  role-plays  have  great  advantages  to
empower  learners  in  interactions  and
improve  pragmatic  awareness,  they  did  not
compare  role-plays  with  any  other
interventional  methods.  On  the  other  hand,
the  results  of  our  study  did  not  demonstrate
the  supremacy  of  role-plays  over
metapragmatic  and  form-search  in
developing  pragmatic  comprehension.  The
contradictory  findings  can  be  explained  on
the  grounds  that  learners  in  metapragmatic
group  were  provided  with  more  explicit
explanations  on  the  key  elements  of
pragmalinguistics  and  sociopragmatics,
explicit information on the pragmalinguistic
forms  of  L2  requests,  apologies,  and
refusals,  and  the  appropriate  use  of  L2
requests, apologies, and refusals, e.g., issues
of social distance, power and imposition, the
speaker’s  intention,  etc..  Alternatively,
learners in form-search group were provided
with  necessary  vocabulary  and  phrases,
grammatical  structures,  strategies  for  a
speech act, and choice and use of pragmatic
tone. More precisely, the fact that leaners in
metapragmatic  and  form-search  groups  had
a  better  performance  than  role-play  group
can be legitimized on the grounds that those
sociopragmatic  and  pragmalinguistic
features  in  the  video  vignettes  were  noticed
and brought to the metapragmatic and form-search  learners’  attention  more  than  the
leaner’s attention in role-play group, lending
support  to  Schmidt’s  (1993)  noticing
hypothesis  and  Sharwood  Smith’s  (1980)
Analogous  to  the  studies  investigating  the
effects  of  video-vignettes  on  the  pragmatic
development,  Jernigan  (2012)  for  instance,
investigated  the  effectiveness  of  an  output-focused  instructional  treatment  featuring
video  vignettes  in  an  intensive  English
program  setting.  The  results  of  her  study
support  the  previous  research  on  the
effectiveness  of  instruction  on  pragmatic
development  of  learners’  performance  on
the  perception-oriented  pragmatic
acceptability  judgment  test.  However,  the
results  of  the  written  DCT  pinpointing
learners’  ability  to  express  acceptable
pragmalinguistic  forms  were  less  clear.
Although  a  relatively  large  effect  size  was
observed  for  the  group  receiving  the  output
instruction,  no  significant  effects  were
identified.  In  line  with  Jernigan’s
perception-oriented  acceptability  test,  the
present  research  lends  support  to  the
previously  done  bodies  of  research  on  the
amenability of pragmatic instruction.   
The  results  of  the  present  study  are  also
supported by Alcón-Soler’s (2005) study on
the effectiveness of video-instruction on the
development of requests. While Alcón-Soler
focuses  on  the  commonly  dichotomous
intervention,  that  is,  explicit  and  implicit,
the  present  study  takes  advantage  of
different  teaching  approaches.  But,  the
findings  of  both  studies  lend  support  to  the
fact  that  leaners’  pragmatic  competence
developed.  In  relation  to  the  effect  of
explicit  versus  implicit  instructional
approaches  on  learners’  awareness  of
request,  Alcón-Soler  (2005)  found  that  the
explicit  group  outperformed  the  implicit
group,  the  results  of  which  contradict
Kubota’s  (cited  in  Alcón-  Soler,  2005,  p.
427)  study  reporting  that  implicit  group
outperformed the explicit group. In line with
Alcón-Soler’s (2005) study, in our study the
metapragmatic group outperformed the other
groups.  One  explanation  for  this  difference
could  be  that  the  metapragmatic  group
received  explicit  instruction  on  the
pragmalinguistic  forms  of  L2  requests,
apologies,  and  refusals,  and  discussed  the
appropriate  use  of  L2  requests,  apologies,
and  refusals,  e.g.,  issues  of  social  distance,
power  and  imposition,  the  speaker’s
intention, etc.
In  line  with  research  opting  dichotomous
teaching  approaches  such  as  the  ones
undertaken  by  Alcón-Soler’s  (2005),  Rose
and Ng (2001), Takahashi  (2001), our study
reveals  that    an    improvement    in  
pragmatics  comprehension  occurred    in    all  
groups    but    the    metapragmatic  group  had
an  advantage  over  the  form-search,  role-play,  and  control  groups.  The  superiority  of
metapragmatic  group  over  the  other  groups
can  also  be  legitimized  with  reference  to
Leech  (1983)  and  Takimoto  (2007,  cited  in
Kargar  et  al.,  p.  71)  pointing  out  that
teaching  pragmatics  should  encompass
raising  leaners'  awareness  on  the
relationship  between  forms  and  meanings,
forms  and  strategies  for  realizing  speech
intentions  and  social  conditions  for  the  use
of  the  target  structures.  Gass  (1988  cited  in
Kargar  et  al,.  p.  71)  states  that  mere
presentation  of  explicit  and  implicit
language information does not guarantee the
learners'  success  to  convert  input  to  output.
Likewise,  the  form-search  group
outperformed the role-play group. Following
Takahashi  (2005),  this  difference  could  be
explained  by  the  fact  that  leaners  in  the
form-search  group  received  explicit
instruction  on  the  vocabulary  and  phrases,
strategies  for  speech  acts,  and  choice  and
use of pragmatic tone.   
Conclusion  and  implications  of  the
findings for EFL/ESL contexts
Teaching  pragmatics  sounds  complex  and
challenging,  as  pragmatic  behavior  changes
to  a  large  extent  depending  on  the
sociocultural  contexts  (Kondo,  2008).
However, the results document that all three
groups  developed  their  interlanguage
pragmatics  and  became  cognizant  of
pragmatic  similarities  and  differences
between their native language and the target
language. Since videos can simulate real life
situations,  authenticate  real  life  situations
and  bring  the  closest  approximation  of  real
life situations to the classroom environment,
they  raised  awareness  concerning  various
pragmatic  aspects  involved  in  the  speech
acts  of  apology,  request,  and  refusal.
Secondly, the paper sought to find out which
group-  metapragmatic,  form-search,  or  role
play- performed better. The results indicated
that  the  metapragmatic  group  outperformed
the  other  two  in  gaining  more  pragmatic
knowledge  lending  support  to  other  studies
done.  Moreover,  it  was  found  that  form-search  group  had  a  better  performance  than
role-play group.   
Providing  learners  with  rich  and
contextually  appropriate  input  has  been
considered  as  a  necessary  condition  to
enhance  learners’  pragmatic  ability  when
understanding and performing speech acts in
the  target  language  (Bardovi-Harlig,  2002;
Kasper,  2001;  Kasper  &  Roever,  2002;
Rose, 2005). Therefore, the context in which
a  language  is  learned  seems  to  play  an
indispensable  role  in  terms  of  both  the
quantity  and  quality  of  input  to  which
learners  are  exposed  (Wahburn,  2001).
Learners in the second language community
have  more  opportunities  to  come  into
contact  with  the  target  language,  so
exposure  to  it  can  improve  their  pragmatic
ability.  Conversely,  learners  in  a  foreign
language  context  are  in  a  disadvantageous
environment,  since  they  depend  exclusively
on  the  input  that  arises  in  the  classroom
(Kasper  &  Roever,  2002).  Rose  (1999)
emphasizes  that  large  classes,  limited
contact  hours,  and  little  opportunity  for
intercultural communication are some of the
features of the English as a foreign language
(EFL)  context  that  impede  pragmatic
learning.  Moreover, Washburn (2001) states
that “the materials developed explicitly for
teaching  pragmatic  language  use  are
basically  impoverished  in  terms  of  the
characters,  their  relationships  and
motivations, and even the language” (p. 24).
Regarding  the  necessity  of  contextualized
input  in  EFL  settings  and  alleviating  some
of  the  inherent  restrictions  of  EFL  contexts,
this  study  has  several  implications  for
EFL/ESL contexts. The significant impact of
consciousness-raising  video-driven  prompts
on the development of apology, request, and
refusal  indicated  that  pragmatics  is
amenable to teaching.  
Due  to  the  lack  of  adequate  materials  and
training and a lack of emphasis on pragmatic
issues  in  EFL  courses,  the  pedagogical
implication  then  for  teachers  is  to  make
students  recognize  the  importance  of  the
pragmalinguistic  and  sociopragmatic
features  which  is  replete  throughout  the
language learning. This can be accomplished
by  providing  learners  with  extended
opportunities  to  receive  contextualized,
pragmatically  appropriate  input.  As  an
extracurricular  activity,  teachers  can  ask
their  students  to  analyze  movies  from  a
pragmatic  vantage  point.  When  teaching
different  speech  acts,  teachers  can  highlight
those  parts  in  the  movies  leading  to  more
pragmatic  awareness,  comprehension,  and
production.  Teachers  can  also  bring  to  the
fore  those  conventional  expressions  used  in
video-prompts  and  ask  learners  to  compare
the  conventional  expressions  cross-linguistically  with  their  L1s.  Such  an
activity  could  raise  learners’  awareness  of
conventionality. Teachers need to know that
scenes  from  movies,  dramas,  or  plays  often
serve  as  a  rich  source  of  pragmatic  input
because  they  contain  a  variety  of
conversational  exchanges  in  which  the
speaker’s  reply  does  not  provide  a
straightforward answer to the question.  
In  terms  of  pedagogy  and  curriculum
development,  the  results  are  suggestive  of
the  fact  that  there  is  a  strong  need  to
improve  ILP  abilities  on  the  part  of  the
learners and that the inclusion of pragmatics
materials  especially  video-driven  clips  in
curricula  and  learning  materials  is
beneficial.  Language  materials  developers
should  incorporate  a  variety  of  real  life
activities  and  learning  tasks  with  regard  to
different  speech  acts.  However,  care  should
be  taken  to  generalize  our  results  to  other
instructed  foreign  language  learning
Although the present study contributes to the
literature  on  pragmatic  development  and
pedagogy,  the  findings  could  have  been
enhanced  if  written  discourse  completion
test  had  been  utilized  along  with  MCDT  to
let  participants  produce  the  speech  acts  of
apology,  request,  and  refusal.  Our  analysis
did  not  account  for  dichotomous  teaching
approaches  on  the  pragmatic  development,
nor did it take into account the production of
speech  acts.  Further  studies  are  needed  to
investigate  the  abovementioned  issues.
Additionally,  since  the  effect  of  different
interventional  treatments  depends  highly  on
learners’  individual  variables,    such  as
motivation,  age,  and  language  proficiency
level, as well as the kind of input, and length
of  stay,  further  studies  are  required  to  find
out the effect of all these variables. It should
also be born in mind that a delayed posttest
would yield noteworthy results.


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Volume 3, Issue 1
January 2014
Pages 67-86
  • Receive Date: 06 September 2013
  • Revise Date: 16 May 2017
  • Accept Date: 18 December 2013
  • First Publish Date: 01 January 2014