Lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of the use of modifiers

Lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of the use of modifiers Abstract The textual and interpersonal functions of modifiers are extensively discussed in the literature. However, how these linguistic devices can be strategically used to assist lecture comprehension has been under-investigated, particularly in EFL/ESL contexts. Drawing on corpus analyses, interviews, and questionnaires, this study compares Taiwanese lecturers’ use of modifiers and their explanations of this use with their students’ perceptions of the modifiers’ functions in English-medium lectures at a Taiwanese university. Considerable differences in perceptions (for example highlighting information versus signalling unexpectedness) between the two groups are revealed. The disparity suggests that effort needs to be made to raise the awareness of both teachers and students with respect to the multiple yet overlapping functions of modifiers. A number of pedagogical tasks are thus proposed for incorporation into EAP courses including consciousness-raising activities, substitution exercises, and contrastive analyses, in order to highlight the value of these modifiers in facilitating academic listening. Introduction Academic listening, or in more general terms, lecture comprehension, has become a key concern for both classroom researchers and practitioners, as the skills involved are crucial to knowledge acquisition. With the growing prominence of the English language worldwide, the enhancement of non-native students’ comprehension of English-medium lectures in both native and non-native academic contexts has received a great deal of attention. At the macro level, researchers have examined lecturing styles, the structure of lectures, and listening strategies. At the micro level, effort has been made to examine specific linguistic features such as lexical bundles, discourse markers, and pragmatic force modifiers (PFMs). In particular, the wide distribution of PFMs in native and non-native lecture corpora has been shown to facilitate coherent discourse and enhance interpersonal relationships between lecturers and students (Lin 2010). However, few studies have discussed lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of their functions, and thus the topic merits further investigation. Review of pragmatic force modifiers PFMs are defined as linguistic devices that can be used to strengthen or weaken the force with which propositions are expressed, while simultaneously fulfilling manifold social pragmatic purposes (Lin ibid.). These linguistic elements have been studied under different names such as hedges, boosters, or pragmatic markers, in a range of contexts, especially: casual conversation (Schiffrin 1987; Erman 2001), research articles (Hyland 2005), and academic speaking (Liao 2009). They have been widely acknowledged as performing an array of interpersonal and textual functions, which are deemed more prominent than their ideational functions (that is, the use of language to talk about experience of the world; Liu 2013). As noted by Wei (2011: 3456): [a]t the textual level, they hold various parts of the discourse together and aid the addressee in comprehending their interrelatedness intended by the speaker; at the interpersonal level, they focus on the relationship between speaker and hearer, index various contextual aspects of interaction, provide clues about the speaker’s attitude to the hearer and surrounding discourse, and grease the interaction between discourse participants. For instance, in the utterance ‘well actually I think it isn’t very good’, ‘actually’ contributes to the organization of discourse by prefacing a contradictory opinion, and ‘I think’ achieves an interpersonal function by softening the face-threatening disagreement which follows. Previous work on PFMs in lectures (Liao op.cit.) has identified their crucial role in the construction of comprehensible lecture discourse and the establishment of in-group solidarity. A lack of understanding of the discourse-structuring and interpersonal functions of PFMs may prevent students from grasping the main ideas presented in lectures. In the majority of previous research, the functions of PFMs and their influence on non-native student comprehension have been analysed from the researchers’ perspective; what appears to be missing in the literature is (non-)native lecturers’ and students’ own perceptions of such linguistic features in academic lectures. It is necessary for both lecturers and their students to gain a better understanding of the intended and perceived functions of PFMs, as any gap between the two can impede knowledge transfer and acquisition. Based on a comparative analysis of Taiwanese lecturers’ use of PFMs and their explanations of this use, and students’ perceptions of their functions in English-medium lectures at a Taiwanese university, this study aims to shed new light on this under-researched area. Corpus analytic techniques were drawn on to research the most salient PFMs in lectures, and the results served as essential information for designing teacher interviews and student questionnaires. The findings of the study are relevant to (non-)native teachers and students in other academic settings because lectures largely remain the primary instruction method in tertiary-level education. Recommendations are made for pedagogies that could enhance academic listening skills, particularly within EFL/ESL contexts. Data generation Three instruments were used to generate the data: a quantitative analysis of PFMs in a corpus of lecture transcripts, semi-structured interviews with lecturers, and student questionnaires. Quantitative analysis of PFMs in lecture transcripts Two Taiwanese lecturers from the Applied Linguistics and Foreign Languages Department (FL) and two from the Management Department (M) at a research-oriented university in northern Taiwan were recruited for the study. These two departments were selected because they offered courses taught entirely or almost entirely in English. The four lecturers (two males and two females) were native speakers of Mandarin Chinese who had previously studied abroad in English-speaking countries. The four undergraduate lectures delivered by the Taiwanese teachers, amounting to 43,939 words, were recorded and transcribed. The software package WordSmith Tools was used to search for PFMs in the corpus of the lectures. Table 1 shows the most common PFMs in the corpus (occurring more than 10 times per 10,000 words) and their frequency in each lecture. A high frequency was one of the criteria used to select PFMs for further analysis of the lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of PFM use. Table 1 Frequency of PFM use in lectures   Average frequency*  M1  M2  FL1  FL2  ‘Just’  34.59  37  29  27  34  ‘Kind of’  24.80  0  20  15  24  ‘Actually’  19.57  30  11  25  12  ‘Of course’  19.34  11  23  40  2  ‘You know’  15.02  10  6  15  12  ‘I think’  12.06  11  7  11  34  ‘Really’  12.74  12  21  4  16    Average frequency*  M1  M2  FL1  FL2  ‘Just’  34.59  37  29  27  34  ‘Kind of’  24.80  0  20  15  24  ‘Actually’  19.57  30  11  25  12  ‘Of course’  19.34  11  23  40  2  ‘You know’  15.02  10  6  15  12  ‘I think’  12.06  11  7  11  34  ‘Really’  12.74  12  21  4  16  Note: *Frequencies normalized per 10,000 words View Large The PFMs ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ were selected for in-depth investigation for two main reasons. First, they were among the most commonly used PFMs in the lecture corpus under study. Second, the multiple functions of these particular linguistic devices have been studied in other contexts, allowing the current observations to be combined with insights from previous research to gain a better understanding of the devices. As this article is pedagogically driven, these two PFMs are used only as illustrative examples. Lecturer interviews and student questionnaires To obtain lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of ‘actually’ and ‘of course’, individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with the four lecturers, and questionnaires were administered to 138 Taiwanese students in the lecturers’ classes shortly after analysing the transcribed lectures. All of the participating students were undergraduates and native speakers of Mandarin Chinese who were present at the recorded lectures; all had consented to participate in the project. Their language proficiency levels ranged from intermediate to upper-intermediate (CEFR B1 to B2) based on their scores in the college entrance exam. The lecturers and students were first asked to read transcripts of lectures that featured uses of ‘actually’ and ‘of course’. Next, they were asked about their perceptions of the functions of PFMs in lecturer interviews and student questionnaires, and the purposes, if any, of the specific PFMs used in the excerpts from the lectures. Some of the important functions of ‘actually’ and ‘of course’, as identified in previous research, were provided as prompts in the student questionnaires (see  Appendix). Findings Comparing Taiwanese lecturers’ uses of ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ with their students’ perceived functions in English-medium lectures revealed considerable differences in the perceptions between the two groups. These differences are discussed as follows. The case of ‘actually’ A clear dissonance in perceptions of the functions of ‘actually’, reflecting an approximate 45–80 per cent disparity between the lecturers and their respective students, was observed (see Table 2). Example 1, for instance, shows that Lecturer FL1 seems to have intended to use the PFM ‘actually’ to preface information likely to contradict the students’ expectations. Indeed, as demonstrated in previous studies, this modifier is often used to let listeners know that surprising or unexpected information is forthcoming (Aijmer 2002). Example 1: Lecturer FL1 Lecture excerpt We don’t say that a certain dialect is good, better than the other dialect, but, of course, people tend to think that way. Uh, actually, uh, when we say ‘bad language’ we don’t mean the, uh, like, when we curse, or when we say four-letter words. That is bad language, but you know we are not using the term ‘bad language’ in that sense. Interview excerpt I was saying that, um, bad language would not be like when we curse or when we say four-letter words. And, so, um, I was probably trying to warn students of the use, of my use, of the term ‘bad language’ may not be what they think, so they will not misunderstand what I was trying to say. The students in Lecturer FL1’s class responded differently to the use of ‘actually’ in this excerpt. Only 26 per cent of the students agreed with Lecturer FL1 that ‘actually’ was used to introduce unexpected information. The majority of the students considered the modifier to signal transition (34 per cent) or to emphasize content (21 per cent), while 19 per cent of the students were unable to identify its function. With regard to Example 2, Lecturer FL2, like Lecturer FL1, seemed to have used the PFM ‘actually’ to highlight information inconsistent with the students’ expectations (‘the poem is not really [as] difficult as they imagine’). Example 2: Lecturer FL2 Lecture excerpt Now, please read the first poem on your own because it is not difficult; actually, it is a very simple poem. So, please read on your own, and, uh, I will just, okay, I will give you a kind of atmosphere of how to read this poem. Interview excerpt Well, I think, I use it to emphasize that the poem is not really difficult as they imagine because usually students are afraid of poetry. Then I use it to emphasize that if you read it you will find that actually it’s not, really it is not that difficult. Lecturer FL2 explained that although students are ‘usually […] afraid of poetry’ due to its perceived difficulty, the poem mentioned in the lecture is surprisingly easy to understand. In the lecture excerpt, ‘actually’ was used not only to preface surprising information, but to indicate the veracity of this information. Therefore, the function of ‘actually’ as perceived by Lecturer FL2 is best assigned to the categories labelled ‘unexpected’ and ‘emphasis’ (in this case, emphasis on the truthfulness of information). Approximately 55 per cent of Lecturer FL2’s students identified the function of the word as either prefacing unexpected information or emphasizing information. However, the ‘emphasis’ category was chosen by more than twice as many students as those who chose the ‘unexpected’ category. Nearly 30 per cent of the students were either unable to identify the function of ‘actually’ or felt that it had no function. The ‘transition’ category accounts for 15 per cent. Similarly, Lecturer M2 explained that her use of the word ‘actually’ in Example 3 was to highlight and introduce surprising information. In this case, however, the information was not expected to surprise the students attending the lecture; ‘actually’ was used to signal a surprising discovery for the company referenced internally in the example (Harley-Davidson). Example 3: Lecturer M2 Lecture excerpt For instance, gender here, and previously, we used Harley-Davidson as one example. So, they found out that they actually attract a large amount of female riders but originally Harley-Davidson was not targeting at females, but they have much more, uh, potential female customers who are interested in their products. Interview excerpt I kind of want to show that HD was surprised about their products being able to attract non-male customers or some new discoveries for Harley-Davidson. Although Lecturer M2 intended the PFM to signal unexpected information, nearly 75 per cent of her students interpreted the use of the word differently. Almost 40 per cent of M2’s students believed that ‘actually’ was used to emphasize the veracity of the point made by the lecturer. Again, therefore, the lecturer and students had very different perceptions of the function of the modifier ‘actually’. In Example 4, Lecturer M1 explained that the modifier ‘actually’ was used in the lecture excerpt to introduce a real, tangible example of the application of the concept under discussion. This function would be categorized as ‘emphasis’ in the student survey. Example 4: Lecturer M1 Lecture excerpt Of course, young people like that, right? And think about it, there actually are other three companies: Siemens, and, uh, what else? CEMEX, and, uh, Samsung, OK? Samsung, actually, these three companies, um, don’t provide such programme, they just have a normal expat programme, they don’t have this short-term programme. Interview excerpt Oh, okay, I want to provide them the real situation because in the case they didn’t mention too much about how they actually run the programme just a general description of the expat programme. So, that is, uh, information to let them know that is a real way they manage this programme. Fewer than 20 per cent of the students agreed with the lecturer that ‘actually’ was used for emphasis. Surprisingly, whereas students in the other classes tended to assign PFM functions to the category of ‘emphasis’, more than 75 per cent of Lecturer M1’s students felt that the PFM signalled a transition or introduced unexpected information. The case of ‘of course’ As Table 2 shows, the level of agreement between lecturers and students was higher for ‘of course’ than ‘actually’. The excerpts in Example 5 reflect Lecturer FL1’s assumption that his listeners had preconceived ideas about the topic under discussion, and would not, therefore, be surprised by the information presented. The use of ‘of course’ to signal unsurprising information is consistent with the findings of past research on this PFM (Aijmer op.cit.). Table 2 Agreement (%) between lecturers and students in identifying the functions of ‘actually’ and ‘of course’   Percentage of agreement    Lecturer FL1 and students (%)  Lecturer FL2 and students (%)  Lecturer M1 and students (%)  Lecturer M2 and students (%)  ‘Actually’  26  55  19  26  ‘Of course’  76  41  69  0    Percentage of agreement    Lecturer FL1 and students (%)  Lecturer FL2 and students (%)  Lecturer M1 and students (%)  Lecturer M2 and students (%)  ‘Actually’  26  55  19  26  ‘Of course’  76  41  69  0  View Large Example 5 Lecturer FL1 Lecture excerpt We don’t say that a certain dialect is good, better than the other dialect, but, of course, people tend to think that way. Uh, actually, uh, when we say ‘bad language’ we don’t mean the, uh, like, when we curse, or when we say four-letter words. That is bad language, but you know we are not using the term ‘bad language’ in that sense. Interview excerpt I assume that people have the idea that some languages are better than others. Uh, so, that’s why I say people tend to think that way. I just want to know, to correct their impression. Lecturer FL1’s interpretation was shared by 76 per cent of the students who also felt that the function of the PFM was to preface unsurprising information or information known by others. Only about 15 per cent of the students assigned the function of the PFM to the ‘emphasis’ category; 9 per cent chose no function. This proportion was significantly smaller than in any of the other classes. Lecturer FL2’s interpretation of her own use of ‘of course’ in Example 6 was based on the assumption that if her students understood the nature of God, the information presented would not be surprising or unexpected, as shown below. Both Lecturers FL1 and FL2 explained that they had expected at least some of the students attending their lectures to be unsurprised by the information provided. Example 6: Lecturer FL2 Lecture excerpt So, when a tiger uses its claw, its deadly terrors; the creator must be able to clasp. Of course, he doesn’t really use his hands but he uses some kinds of tools, right? Interview excerpt The function of ‘of course’ is that, uh, if you understand God. He is very hard to define, very hard to define because you cannot really find human terms to describe him. So, when he creates, ‘of course’ he doesn’t really use that kind of hands in our imagination but some kind of tools similar to hands. Nevertheless, unlike the students taking Lecturer FL1’s course, Lecturer FL2’s students offered an interpretation of the modifier’s function that differed conspicuously from that of their lecturer. Approximately 40 per cent of the students assigned the function of the PFM to the category of ‘emphasis’ (describing uses of the PFM to stress the importance of a point made by the lecturer), and another 40 per cent felt that it was used to highlight unsurprising information. In addition, approximately 20 per cent of the students felt that the PFM had no function or was produced merely out of habit. As for Example 7, Lecturer M1 explained that he had used the modifier to ‘connect’ the students with the information presented. He believed that the students would ‘love’ the particular expatriation programmes under discussion because they were examples of ‘young talent’, similar to the employees of the real-life companies referenced. The modifier ‘of course’ has been shown to have pragmatic effects such as engaging listeners and increasing their sense of involvement with a topic (Holmes 1988), and Lecturer M1 appears to have used the modifier for precisely these purposes. In addition, the lecturer used the modifier to present unsurprising information, due to his conviction that the students would enjoy participating in the programme described (‘I believe it is yes you will love this’). Example 7: Lecturer M1 Lecture excerpt They like young people, they like young people you know? Any idea? Fresh, they are fresh, so, they are fresh fish, so what? Do you like this job? People they send you, you, for example, to, uh, China. Of course, young people like that, right? And think about it, there actually are other three companies: Siemens, and, uh, what else? CEMEX, and, uh, Samsung, OK? Interview excerpt I want to connect students to the company expat program, okay? Because in the material, some firms design the programme for young talent. So, I want to know that, uh, if you are young people, young talent, would you like such a programme? Okay? And, I believe it is yes you will love this. The student questionnaire results for this class are fairly similar to those for Lecturer FL1’s class. Nearly 70 per cent of the students assigned the modifier’s function to the ‘not surprising’ category. Again, the ‘emphasis’ category received considerable attention, accounting for roughly 30 per cent of the students’ perceptions of the function of the PFM. However, in contrast with the results for Lecturer FL2’s class, only a very small percentage of the students (2.6 per cent) felt that the PFM was produced merely as a habitual utterance, and none of the students felt that it served no function. Interestingly, unlike other lecturers, Lecturer M2 seemed to think that the modifier ‘of course’ in Example 8 served no function, and that the passage would be improved by its omission. Example 8: Lecturer M2 Lecture excerpt So, then Starbucks started to collect their own album. Of course, they don’t create their own songs they just collect different songs and make them into CDs. Interview excerpt I would just eliminate it. The ‘of course’, I would eliminate that. In sharp contrast, none of Lecturer M2’s students agreed that the PFM ‘of course’ served no function in this transcript. The ‘emphasis’ category (55 per cent) received more student responses than all of the other categories combined (‘not surprising’: 35 per cent; ‘unidentifiable function’: 10 per cent). Therefore, whereas the majority of the students strongly believed that the modifier was used to emphasize important information, the lecturer felt that the passage would be improved by the removal of the PFM, possibly creating a problematic dissonance between the two groups. As Lecturer M2 used ‘of course’ quite frequently in her lectures (23 times per 10,000 words), students’ understanding of the content presented may have been negatively affected by the assumption that the PFM served a function not intended by the lecturer. Discussion This small-scale, comparative study of Taiwanese teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the functions of the PFMs ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ in English-medium university lectures has yielded some interesting findings. First, the PFMs ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ were used by the Taiwanese lecturers in this study mainly to indicate contrasts and to preface unsurprising information/common ground. The corresponding Chinese expressions qishi (actually) and dangran (of course) have similar meanings and functions: the former guides the listener towards a particular interpretation intended by the speaker (Sperber and Wilson 1995), such as a shift in meaning, and the latter signals expected or predictable information. In the lecture context, English PFMs and their Chinese equivalents perform similar textual functions: organizing discourse by indicating relationships between pieces of information and shaping students’ expectations of forthcoming information. Although not having been thoroughly investigated in our study, first-language transfer may positively affect lecturers’ production and students’ understanding of PFMs in lectures. In addition to their textual functions, ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ were used by the lecturers for interpersonal purposes. In particular, the PFMs were used for emphasis to maximize personal involvement and increase students’ connection with the content, thereby establishing a sense of in-group intimacy and understanding. This finding is consistent with previous observations that the interpersonal and textual functions of modifiers are more important than their ideational functions (Liao op.cit.; Lin op.cit.). In general, the Taiwanese lecturers exhibited a shared understanding of the pragmatic functions of the PFMs. Comparison of the lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of the functions of PFMs revealed a clear dissonance in interpretation. The four lecturers generally felt that ‘actually’ was used to signal contrast and/or for emphasis, and three of the four lecturers felt that ‘of course’ presaged unsurprising information or helped them to establish a rapport with their students. The lecturers’ intended functions did not match those identified by their students. This observation corresponds to previous research findings related to discrepancies in the functions of PFMs performed by native speakers of English and speakers/learners with different mother-tongue backgrounds (Fung and Carter 2007). Distinctive perceptions of the functions and variations in their strategic use may be due in part to the multifunctionality of PFMs and lack of explicit instruction in the classroom, resulting in the ‘lexical invisibility’ (Low 1996) of these linguistic elements. In contrast, the Taiwanese lecturers’ exposure to natural English when studying abroad in English-speaking countries and their higher English proficiency—two key factors influencing the use of PFMs by non-native speakers (Liu op.cit.)—appear to contribute to a shared understanding. The results of this study are relevant not only to the Taiwanese context, but to other academic settings, as lectures are generally the primary instruction method in higher education. While the observed disparities in perceptions between the lecturers and their students may not necessarily cause serious misunderstanding of the lecture content, we believe narrowing such a gap can be pedagogically beneficial for both groups. Specifically, effort needs to be made to determine the functions of PFMs to facilitate academic listening. As pointed out by many scholars (for example Hellermann and Vergun 2007), ‘small words’ such as modifiers are not taught explicitly in the classroom, and are thus likely to pose particular problems for non-native speakers of English. To ensure that the functions of PFMs are not taken for granted or trivialized, opportunities should be provided to negotiate their meanings and discuss their potential uses and purposes. In addition to overt teaching of these PFMs, exercises could be built into EAP courses to enable students to compare and discuss the meaning of excerpts with and without PFMs. Such consciousness-raising activities would help students to understand that these modifiers can be used strategically to assist the comprehension of lectures. This would be particularly useful for students who have only had experience of learning English as an academic subject, rather than learning through English as a medium of instruction. Linguistic clues such as modifiers or lexical bundles (Martinez, Adolphs, and Carter 2013) help to enhance academic listening skills, and thus need to be properly introduced and explained to students. To sensitize students to the multifunctionality and multiple, overlapping meanings of PFMs, substitution exercises could be instituted in which students are asked to exchange PFMs or replace them with other appropriate expressions in selected lecture excerpts. Contrastive analysis could also be used to raise students’ awareness of the similarities and differences in the functions of PFMs between English and their native language (Mandarin Chinese in the context of this study). Students should not only be familiarized with the functions of PFMs, but given ample opportunities to apply them in oral production tasks such as presentations and discussion. Teacher and peer feedback should then be solicited on how effectively the PFMs were used to facilitate interaction between speaker and listener, as applying such modifiers mechanically can be counterproductive. Chia-Yen Lin is an Associate Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages and Applied Linguistics, Yuan Ze University. Her research interests include pragmatics, discourse analysis, and English for Specific Purposes. Ken Lau is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Applied English Studies, the University of Hong Kong. His research interests include discourse analysis, language policy and teaching, and learning in tertiary contexts. Jacob Cousineau obtained his MA in Applied Linguistics from Yuan Ze University. His research interests include corpus linguistics and English for Academic Purposes. References Aijmer K. 2002. English Discourse Particles: Evidence from a Corpus . Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Erman B. 2001. ‘ Pragmatic markers revisited with a focus on “you know” in adult and adolescent talk’. Journal of Pragmatics  33/ 9: 1337– 59. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Fung L. and Carter R.. 2007. ‘ Discourse markers and spoken English: native and learner use in pedagogic settings’. Applied Linguistics  28/ 3: 410– 39. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Hellermann J. and Vergun A.. 2007. ‘ Language which is not taught: the discourse marker use of beginning adult learners of English’. Journal of Pragmatics  39/ 1: 157– 79. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Holmes J. 1988. ‘ “Of course”: a pragmatic particle in New Zealand women’s and men’s speech’. Australian Journal of Linguistics  8/ 1: 49– 74. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Hyland K. 2005. Metadiscourse: Exploring Interaction in Writing . London: Continuum. Liao S. 2009. ‘ Variation in the use of discourse markers by Chinese teaching assistants in the US’. Journal of Pragmatics  41/ 7: 1313– 28. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Lin C-Y. 2010. ‘ “… that’s actually sort of you know trying to get consultants in …”: functions and multifunctionality of modifiers in academic lectures’. Journal of Pragmatics  42/ 5: 1173– 83. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Liu B. 2013. ‘ Effect of first language on the use of English discourse markers by L1 Chinese speakers of English’. Journal of Pragmatics  45/ 1: 149– 72. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Low G. 1996. ‘ Intensifiers and hedges in questionnaire items and the Lexical Invisibility Hypothesis’. Applied Linguistics  17/ 1: 1– 37. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Martinez R. Adolphs S. Carter R.. 2013. ‘ Listening for needles in haystacks: how lecturers introduce key terms’. ELT Journal  67/ 3: 313– 23. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Schiffrin D. 1987. Discourse Markers . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Sperber D. and Wilson D.. 1995. Relevance: Communication and Cognition . Oxford: Blackwell. Wei M. 2011. ‘ Investigating the oral proficiency of English learners in China: a comparative study of the use of pragmatic markers’. Journal of Pragmatics  43/ 14: 3455– 72. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Appendix Excerpt from student questionnaires The following section contains excerpts from Dr Wu’s lecture. Please read each excerpt and answer the questions that follow. 以下部分為吳老師授課內容的片段。請閱讀以下片段並回答問題。 Excerpt 1: And think about it, there actually are other three companies: Siemens, and, uh, what else? CEMEX, and, uh, Samsung, OK? Samsung, actually, these three companies, um, don’t provide such program, they just have a normal expat program, they don’t have this short-term program. Q8. What do you think is the function of ‘actually’ in Excerpt 1? (Check all that apply)  你認為“actually”在片段1的功能是甚麼?請勾選。 □ Transition from one point to the next (轉換到下一個重點) □ Let me know that something possibly unexpected is coming (讓我知道接下來有一些意想不到的內容) □ It is just a word that Dr Wu frequently uses (這只是一個吳老師常用的字彙而已) □ To emphasize that the point he is making is true (吳老師在強調他說的重點是真的) □ Other functions ______________________________ (其它功能) □ It has no function (沒有任何功能) © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png ELT Journal Oxford University Press

Lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of the use of modifiers

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Abstract

Abstract The textual and interpersonal functions of modifiers are extensively discussed in the literature. However, how these linguistic devices can be strategically used to assist lecture comprehension has been under-investigated, particularly in EFL/ESL contexts. Drawing on corpus analyses, interviews, and questionnaires, this study compares Taiwanese lecturers’ use of modifiers and their explanations of this use with their students’ perceptions of the modifiers’ functions in English-medium lectures at a Taiwanese university. Considerable differences in perceptions (for example highlighting information versus signalling unexpectedness) between the two groups are revealed. The disparity suggests that effort needs to be made to raise the awareness of both teachers and students with respect to the multiple yet overlapping functions of modifiers. A number of pedagogical tasks are thus proposed for incorporation into EAP courses including consciousness-raising activities, substitution exercises, and contrastive analyses, in order to highlight the value of these modifiers in facilitating academic listening. Introduction Academic listening, or in more general terms, lecture comprehension, has become a key concern for both classroom researchers and practitioners, as the skills involved are crucial to knowledge acquisition. With the growing prominence of the English language worldwide, the enhancement of non-native students’ comprehension of English-medium lectures in both native and non-native academic contexts has received a great deal of attention. At the macro level, researchers have examined lecturing styles, the structure of lectures, and listening strategies. At the micro level, effort has been made to examine specific linguistic features such as lexical bundles, discourse markers, and pragmatic force modifiers (PFMs). In particular, the wide distribution of PFMs in native and non-native lecture corpora has been shown to facilitate coherent discourse and enhance interpersonal relationships between lecturers and students (Lin 2010). However, few studies have discussed lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of their functions, and thus the topic merits further investigation. Review of pragmatic force modifiers PFMs are defined as linguistic devices that can be used to strengthen or weaken the force with which propositions are expressed, while simultaneously fulfilling manifold social pragmatic purposes (Lin ibid.). These linguistic elements have been studied under different names such as hedges, boosters, or pragmatic markers, in a range of contexts, especially: casual conversation (Schiffrin 1987; Erman 2001), research articles (Hyland 2005), and academic speaking (Liao 2009). They have been widely acknowledged as performing an array of interpersonal and textual functions, which are deemed more prominent than their ideational functions (that is, the use of language to talk about experience of the world; Liu 2013). As noted by Wei (2011: 3456): [a]t the textual level, they hold various parts of the discourse together and aid the addressee in comprehending their interrelatedness intended by the speaker; at the interpersonal level, they focus on the relationship between speaker and hearer, index various contextual aspects of interaction, provide clues about the speaker’s attitude to the hearer and surrounding discourse, and grease the interaction between discourse participants. For instance, in the utterance ‘well actually I think it isn’t very good’, ‘actually’ contributes to the organization of discourse by prefacing a contradictory opinion, and ‘I think’ achieves an interpersonal function by softening the face-threatening disagreement which follows. Previous work on PFMs in lectures (Liao op.cit.) has identified their crucial role in the construction of comprehensible lecture discourse and the establishment of in-group solidarity. A lack of understanding of the discourse-structuring and interpersonal functions of PFMs may prevent students from grasping the main ideas presented in lectures. In the majority of previous research, the functions of PFMs and their influence on non-native student comprehension have been analysed from the researchers’ perspective; what appears to be missing in the literature is (non-)native lecturers’ and students’ own perceptions of such linguistic features in academic lectures. It is necessary for both lecturers and their students to gain a better understanding of the intended and perceived functions of PFMs, as any gap between the two can impede knowledge transfer and acquisition. Based on a comparative analysis of Taiwanese lecturers’ use of PFMs and their explanations of this use, and students’ perceptions of their functions in English-medium lectures at a Taiwanese university, this study aims to shed new light on this under-researched area. Corpus analytic techniques were drawn on to research the most salient PFMs in lectures, and the results served as essential information for designing teacher interviews and student questionnaires. The findings of the study are relevant to (non-)native teachers and students in other academic settings because lectures largely remain the primary instruction method in tertiary-level education. Recommendations are made for pedagogies that could enhance academic listening skills, particularly within EFL/ESL contexts. Data generation Three instruments were used to generate the data: a quantitative analysis of PFMs in a corpus of lecture transcripts, semi-structured interviews with lecturers, and student questionnaires. Quantitative analysis of PFMs in lecture transcripts Two Taiwanese lecturers from the Applied Linguistics and Foreign Languages Department (FL) and two from the Management Department (M) at a research-oriented university in northern Taiwan were recruited for the study. These two departments were selected because they offered courses taught entirely or almost entirely in English. The four lecturers (two males and two females) were native speakers of Mandarin Chinese who had previously studied abroad in English-speaking countries. The four undergraduate lectures delivered by the Taiwanese teachers, amounting to 43,939 words, were recorded and transcribed. The software package WordSmith Tools was used to search for PFMs in the corpus of the lectures. Table 1 shows the most common PFMs in the corpus (occurring more than 10 times per 10,000 words) and their frequency in each lecture. A high frequency was one of the criteria used to select PFMs for further analysis of the lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of PFM use. Table 1 Frequency of PFM use in lectures   Average frequency*  M1  M2  FL1  FL2  ‘Just’  34.59  37  29  27  34  ‘Kind of’  24.80  0  20  15  24  ‘Actually’  19.57  30  11  25  12  ‘Of course’  19.34  11  23  40  2  ‘You know’  15.02  10  6  15  12  ‘I think’  12.06  11  7  11  34  ‘Really’  12.74  12  21  4  16    Average frequency*  M1  M2  FL1  FL2  ‘Just’  34.59  37  29  27  34  ‘Kind of’  24.80  0  20  15  24  ‘Actually’  19.57  30  11  25  12  ‘Of course’  19.34  11  23  40  2  ‘You know’  15.02  10  6  15  12  ‘I think’  12.06  11  7  11  34  ‘Really’  12.74  12  21  4  16  Note: *Frequencies normalized per 10,000 words View Large The PFMs ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ were selected for in-depth investigation for two main reasons. First, they were among the most commonly used PFMs in the lecture corpus under study. Second, the multiple functions of these particular linguistic devices have been studied in other contexts, allowing the current observations to be combined with insights from previous research to gain a better understanding of the devices. As this article is pedagogically driven, these two PFMs are used only as illustrative examples. Lecturer interviews and student questionnaires To obtain lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of ‘actually’ and ‘of course’, individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with the four lecturers, and questionnaires were administered to 138 Taiwanese students in the lecturers’ classes shortly after analysing the transcribed lectures. All of the participating students were undergraduates and native speakers of Mandarin Chinese who were present at the recorded lectures; all had consented to participate in the project. Their language proficiency levels ranged from intermediate to upper-intermediate (CEFR B1 to B2) based on their scores in the college entrance exam. The lecturers and students were first asked to read transcripts of lectures that featured uses of ‘actually’ and ‘of course’. Next, they were asked about their perceptions of the functions of PFMs in lecturer interviews and student questionnaires, and the purposes, if any, of the specific PFMs used in the excerpts from the lectures. Some of the important functions of ‘actually’ and ‘of course’, as identified in previous research, were provided as prompts in the student questionnaires (see  Appendix). Findings Comparing Taiwanese lecturers’ uses of ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ with their students’ perceived functions in English-medium lectures revealed considerable differences in the perceptions between the two groups. These differences are discussed as follows. The case of ‘actually’ A clear dissonance in perceptions of the functions of ‘actually’, reflecting an approximate 45–80 per cent disparity between the lecturers and their respective students, was observed (see Table 2). Example 1, for instance, shows that Lecturer FL1 seems to have intended to use the PFM ‘actually’ to preface information likely to contradict the students’ expectations. Indeed, as demonstrated in previous studies, this modifier is often used to let listeners know that surprising or unexpected information is forthcoming (Aijmer 2002). Example 1: Lecturer FL1 Lecture excerpt We don’t say that a certain dialect is good, better than the other dialect, but, of course, people tend to think that way. Uh, actually, uh, when we say ‘bad language’ we don’t mean the, uh, like, when we curse, or when we say four-letter words. That is bad language, but you know we are not using the term ‘bad language’ in that sense. Interview excerpt I was saying that, um, bad language would not be like when we curse or when we say four-letter words. And, so, um, I was probably trying to warn students of the use, of my use, of the term ‘bad language’ may not be what they think, so they will not misunderstand what I was trying to say. The students in Lecturer FL1’s class responded differently to the use of ‘actually’ in this excerpt. Only 26 per cent of the students agreed with Lecturer FL1 that ‘actually’ was used to introduce unexpected information. The majority of the students considered the modifier to signal transition (34 per cent) or to emphasize content (21 per cent), while 19 per cent of the students were unable to identify its function. With regard to Example 2, Lecturer FL2, like Lecturer FL1, seemed to have used the PFM ‘actually’ to highlight information inconsistent with the students’ expectations (‘the poem is not really [as] difficult as they imagine’). Example 2: Lecturer FL2 Lecture excerpt Now, please read the first poem on your own because it is not difficult; actually, it is a very simple poem. So, please read on your own, and, uh, I will just, okay, I will give you a kind of atmosphere of how to read this poem. Interview excerpt Well, I think, I use it to emphasize that the poem is not really difficult as they imagine because usually students are afraid of poetry. Then I use it to emphasize that if you read it you will find that actually it’s not, really it is not that difficult. Lecturer FL2 explained that although students are ‘usually […] afraid of poetry’ due to its perceived difficulty, the poem mentioned in the lecture is surprisingly easy to understand. In the lecture excerpt, ‘actually’ was used not only to preface surprising information, but to indicate the veracity of this information. Therefore, the function of ‘actually’ as perceived by Lecturer FL2 is best assigned to the categories labelled ‘unexpected’ and ‘emphasis’ (in this case, emphasis on the truthfulness of information). Approximately 55 per cent of Lecturer FL2’s students identified the function of the word as either prefacing unexpected information or emphasizing information. However, the ‘emphasis’ category was chosen by more than twice as many students as those who chose the ‘unexpected’ category. Nearly 30 per cent of the students were either unable to identify the function of ‘actually’ or felt that it had no function. The ‘transition’ category accounts for 15 per cent. Similarly, Lecturer M2 explained that her use of the word ‘actually’ in Example 3 was to highlight and introduce surprising information. In this case, however, the information was not expected to surprise the students attending the lecture; ‘actually’ was used to signal a surprising discovery for the company referenced internally in the example (Harley-Davidson). Example 3: Lecturer M2 Lecture excerpt For instance, gender here, and previously, we used Harley-Davidson as one example. So, they found out that they actually attract a large amount of female riders but originally Harley-Davidson was not targeting at females, but they have much more, uh, potential female customers who are interested in their products. Interview excerpt I kind of want to show that HD was surprised about their products being able to attract non-male customers or some new discoveries for Harley-Davidson. Although Lecturer M2 intended the PFM to signal unexpected information, nearly 75 per cent of her students interpreted the use of the word differently. Almost 40 per cent of M2’s students believed that ‘actually’ was used to emphasize the veracity of the point made by the lecturer. Again, therefore, the lecturer and students had very different perceptions of the function of the modifier ‘actually’. In Example 4, Lecturer M1 explained that the modifier ‘actually’ was used in the lecture excerpt to introduce a real, tangible example of the application of the concept under discussion. This function would be categorized as ‘emphasis’ in the student survey. Example 4: Lecturer M1 Lecture excerpt Of course, young people like that, right? And think about it, there actually are other three companies: Siemens, and, uh, what else? CEMEX, and, uh, Samsung, OK? Samsung, actually, these three companies, um, don’t provide such programme, they just have a normal expat programme, they don’t have this short-term programme. Interview excerpt Oh, okay, I want to provide them the real situation because in the case they didn’t mention too much about how they actually run the programme just a general description of the expat programme. So, that is, uh, information to let them know that is a real way they manage this programme. Fewer than 20 per cent of the students agreed with the lecturer that ‘actually’ was used for emphasis. Surprisingly, whereas students in the other classes tended to assign PFM functions to the category of ‘emphasis’, more than 75 per cent of Lecturer M1’s students felt that the PFM signalled a transition or introduced unexpected information. The case of ‘of course’ As Table 2 shows, the level of agreement between lecturers and students was higher for ‘of course’ than ‘actually’. The excerpts in Example 5 reflect Lecturer FL1’s assumption that his listeners had preconceived ideas about the topic under discussion, and would not, therefore, be surprised by the information presented. The use of ‘of course’ to signal unsurprising information is consistent with the findings of past research on this PFM (Aijmer op.cit.). Table 2 Agreement (%) between lecturers and students in identifying the functions of ‘actually’ and ‘of course’   Percentage of agreement    Lecturer FL1 and students (%)  Lecturer FL2 and students (%)  Lecturer M1 and students (%)  Lecturer M2 and students (%)  ‘Actually’  26  55  19  26  ‘Of course’  76  41  69  0    Percentage of agreement    Lecturer FL1 and students (%)  Lecturer FL2 and students (%)  Lecturer M1 and students (%)  Lecturer M2 and students (%)  ‘Actually’  26  55  19  26  ‘Of course’  76  41  69  0  View Large Example 5 Lecturer FL1 Lecture excerpt We don’t say that a certain dialect is good, better than the other dialect, but, of course, people tend to think that way. Uh, actually, uh, when we say ‘bad language’ we don’t mean the, uh, like, when we curse, or when we say four-letter words. That is bad language, but you know we are not using the term ‘bad language’ in that sense. Interview excerpt I assume that people have the idea that some languages are better than others. Uh, so, that’s why I say people tend to think that way. I just want to know, to correct their impression. Lecturer FL1’s interpretation was shared by 76 per cent of the students who also felt that the function of the PFM was to preface unsurprising information or information known by others. Only about 15 per cent of the students assigned the function of the PFM to the ‘emphasis’ category; 9 per cent chose no function. This proportion was significantly smaller than in any of the other classes. Lecturer FL2’s interpretation of her own use of ‘of course’ in Example 6 was based on the assumption that if her students understood the nature of God, the information presented would not be surprising or unexpected, as shown below. Both Lecturers FL1 and FL2 explained that they had expected at least some of the students attending their lectures to be unsurprised by the information provided. Example 6: Lecturer FL2 Lecture excerpt So, when a tiger uses its claw, its deadly terrors; the creator must be able to clasp. Of course, he doesn’t really use his hands but he uses some kinds of tools, right? Interview excerpt The function of ‘of course’ is that, uh, if you understand God. He is very hard to define, very hard to define because you cannot really find human terms to describe him. So, when he creates, ‘of course’ he doesn’t really use that kind of hands in our imagination but some kind of tools similar to hands. Nevertheless, unlike the students taking Lecturer FL1’s course, Lecturer FL2’s students offered an interpretation of the modifier’s function that differed conspicuously from that of their lecturer. Approximately 40 per cent of the students assigned the function of the PFM to the category of ‘emphasis’ (describing uses of the PFM to stress the importance of a point made by the lecturer), and another 40 per cent felt that it was used to highlight unsurprising information. In addition, approximately 20 per cent of the students felt that the PFM had no function or was produced merely out of habit. As for Example 7, Lecturer M1 explained that he had used the modifier to ‘connect’ the students with the information presented. He believed that the students would ‘love’ the particular expatriation programmes under discussion because they were examples of ‘young talent’, similar to the employees of the real-life companies referenced. The modifier ‘of course’ has been shown to have pragmatic effects such as engaging listeners and increasing their sense of involvement with a topic (Holmes 1988), and Lecturer M1 appears to have used the modifier for precisely these purposes. In addition, the lecturer used the modifier to present unsurprising information, due to his conviction that the students would enjoy participating in the programme described (‘I believe it is yes you will love this’). Example 7: Lecturer M1 Lecture excerpt They like young people, they like young people you know? Any idea? Fresh, they are fresh, so, they are fresh fish, so what? Do you like this job? People they send you, you, for example, to, uh, China. Of course, young people like that, right? And think about it, there actually are other three companies: Siemens, and, uh, what else? CEMEX, and, uh, Samsung, OK? Interview excerpt I want to connect students to the company expat program, okay? Because in the material, some firms design the programme for young talent. So, I want to know that, uh, if you are young people, young talent, would you like such a programme? Okay? And, I believe it is yes you will love this. The student questionnaire results for this class are fairly similar to those for Lecturer FL1’s class. Nearly 70 per cent of the students assigned the modifier’s function to the ‘not surprising’ category. Again, the ‘emphasis’ category received considerable attention, accounting for roughly 30 per cent of the students’ perceptions of the function of the PFM. However, in contrast with the results for Lecturer FL2’s class, only a very small percentage of the students (2.6 per cent) felt that the PFM was produced merely as a habitual utterance, and none of the students felt that it served no function. Interestingly, unlike other lecturers, Lecturer M2 seemed to think that the modifier ‘of course’ in Example 8 served no function, and that the passage would be improved by its omission. Example 8: Lecturer M2 Lecture excerpt So, then Starbucks started to collect their own album. Of course, they don’t create their own songs they just collect different songs and make them into CDs. Interview excerpt I would just eliminate it. The ‘of course’, I would eliminate that. In sharp contrast, none of Lecturer M2’s students agreed that the PFM ‘of course’ served no function in this transcript. The ‘emphasis’ category (55 per cent) received more student responses than all of the other categories combined (‘not surprising’: 35 per cent; ‘unidentifiable function’: 10 per cent). Therefore, whereas the majority of the students strongly believed that the modifier was used to emphasize important information, the lecturer felt that the passage would be improved by the removal of the PFM, possibly creating a problematic dissonance between the two groups. As Lecturer M2 used ‘of course’ quite frequently in her lectures (23 times per 10,000 words), students’ understanding of the content presented may have been negatively affected by the assumption that the PFM served a function not intended by the lecturer. Discussion This small-scale, comparative study of Taiwanese teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the functions of the PFMs ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ in English-medium university lectures has yielded some interesting findings. First, the PFMs ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ were used by the Taiwanese lecturers in this study mainly to indicate contrasts and to preface unsurprising information/common ground. The corresponding Chinese expressions qishi (actually) and dangran (of course) have similar meanings and functions: the former guides the listener towards a particular interpretation intended by the speaker (Sperber and Wilson 1995), such as a shift in meaning, and the latter signals expected or predictable information. In the lecture context, English PFMs and their Chinese equivalents perform similar textual functions: organizing discourse by indicating relationships between pieces of information and shaping students’ expectations of forthcoming information. Although not having been thoroughly investigated in our study, first-language transfer may positively affect lecturers’ production and students’ understanding of PFMs in lectures. In addition to their textual functions, ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ were used by the lecturers for interpersonal purposes. In particular, the PFMs were used for emphasis to maximize personal involvement and increase students’ connection with the content, thereby establishing a sense of in-group intimacy and understanding. This finding is consistent with previous observations that the interpersonal and textual functions of modifiers are more important than their ideational functions (Liao op.cit.; Lin op.cit.). In general, the Taiwanese lecturers exhibited a shared understanding of the pragmatic functions of the PFMs. Comparison of the lecturers’ and students’ perceptions of the functions of PFMs revealed a clear dissonance in interpretation. The four lecturers generally felt that ‘actually’ was used to signal contrast and/or for emphasis, and three of the four lecturers felt that ‘of course’ presaged unsurprising information or helped them to establish a rapport with their students. The lecturers’ intended functions did not match those identified by their students. This observation corresponds to previous research findings related to discrepancies in the functions of PFMs performed by native speakers of English and speakers/learners with different mother-tongue backgrounds (Fung and Carter 2007). Distinctive perceptions of the functions and variations in their strategic use may be due in part to the multifunctionality of PFMs and lack of explicit instruction in the classroom, resulting in the ‘lexical invisibility’ (Low 1996) of these linguistic elements. In contrast, the Taiwanese lecturers’ exposure to natural English when studying abroad in English-speaking countries and their higher English proficiency—two key factors influencing the use of PFMs by non-native speakers (Liu op.cit.)—appear to contribute to a shared understanding. The results of this study are relevant not only to the Taiwanese context, but to other academic settings, as lectures are generally the primary instruction method in higher education. While the observed disparities in perceptions between the lecturers and their students may not necessarily cause serious misunderstanding of the lecture content, we believe narrowing such a gap can be pedagogically beneficial for both groups. Specifically, effort needs to be made to determine the functions of PFMs to facilitate academic listening. As pointed out by many scholars (for example Hellermann and Vergun 2007), ‘small words’ such as modifiers are not taught explicitly in the classroom, and are thus likely to pose particular problems for non-native speakers of English. To ensure that the functions of PFMs are not taken for granted or trivialized, opportunities should be provided to negotiate their meanings and discuss their potential uses and purposes. In addition to overt teaching of these PFMs, exercises could be built into EAP courses to enable students to compare and discuss the meaning of excerpts with and without PFMs. Such consciousness-raising activities would help students to understand that these modifiers can be used strategically to assist the comprehension of lectures. This would be particularly useful for students who have only had experience of learning English as an academic subject, rather than learning through English as a medium of instruction. Linguistic clues such as modifiers or lexical bundles (Martinez, Adolphs, and Carter 2013) help to enhance academic listening skills, and thus need to be properly introduced and explained to students. To sensitize students to the multifunctionality and multiple, overlapping meanings of PFMs, substitution exercises could be instituted in which students are asked to exchange PFMs or replace them with other appropriate expressions in selected lecture excerpts. Contrastive analysis could also be used to raise students’ awareness of the similarities and differences in the functions of PFMs between English and their native language (Mandarin Chinese in the context of this study). Students should not only be familiarized with the functions of PFMs, but given ample opportunities to apply them in oral production tasks such as presentations and discussion. Teacher and peer feedback should then be solicited on how effectively the PFMs were used to facilitate interaction between speaker and listener, as applying such modifiers mechanically can be counterproductive. Chia-Yen Lin is an Associate Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages and Applied Linguistics, Yuan Ze University. Her research interests include pragmatics, discourse analysis, and English for Specific Purposes. Ken Lau is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Applied English Studies, the University of Hong Kong. His research interests include discourse analysis, language policy and teaching, and learning in tertiary contexts. Jacob Cousineau obtained his MA in Applied Linguistics from Yuan Ze University. His research interests include corpus linguistics and English for Academic Purposes. References Aijmer K. 2002. English Discourse Particles: Evidence from a Corpus . Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Erman B. 2001. ‘ Pragmatic markers revisited with a focus on “you know” in adult and adolescent talk’. Journal of Pragmatics  33/ 9: 1337– 59. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Fung L. and Carter R.. 2007. ‘ Discourse markers and spoken English: native and learner use in pedagogic settings’. Applied Linguistics  28/ 3: 410– 39. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Hellermann J. and Vergun A.. 2007. ‘ Language which is not taught: the discourse marker use of beginning adult learners of English’. Journal of Pragmatics  39/ 1: 157– 79. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Holmes J. 1988. ‘ “Of course”: a pragmatic particle in New Zealand women’s and men’s speech’. Australian Journal of Linguistics  8/ 1: 49– 74. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Hyland K. 2005. Metadiscourse: Exploring Interaction in Writing . London: Continuum. Liao S. 2009. ‘ Variation in the use of discourse markers by Chinese teaching assistants in the US’. Journal of Pragmatics  41/ 7: 1313– 28. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Lin C-Y. 2010. ‘ “… that’s actually sort of you know trying to get consultants in …”: functions and multifunctionality of modifiers in academic lectures’. Journal of Pragmatics  42/ 5: 1173– 83. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Liu B. 2013. ‘ Effect of first language on the use of English discourse markers by L1 Chinese speakers of English’. Journal of Pragmatics  45/ 1: 149– 72. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Low G. 1996. ‘ Intensifiers and hedges in questionnaire items and the Lexical Invisibility Hypothesis’. Applied Linguistics  17/ 1: 1– 37. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Martinez R. Adolphs S. Carter R.. 2013. ‘ Listening for needles in haystacks: how lecturers introduce key terms’. ELT Journal  67/ 3: 313– 23. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Schiffrin D. 1987. Discourse Markers . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Sperber D. and Wilson D.. 1995. Relevance: Communication and Cognition . Oxford: Blackwell. Wei M. 2011. ‘ Investigating the oral proficiency of English learners in China: a comparative study of the use of pragmatic markers’. Journal of Pragmatics  43/ 14: 3455– 72. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Appendix Excerpt from student questionnaires The following section contains excerpts from Dr Wu’s lecture. Please read each excerpt and answer the questions that follow. 以下部分為吳老師授課內容的片段。請閱讀以下片段並回答問題。 Excerpt 1: And think about it, there actually are other three companies: Siemens, and, uh, what else? CEMEX, and, uh, Samsung, OK? Samsung, actually, these three companies, um, don’t provide such program, they just have a normal expat program, they don’t have this short-term program. Q8. What do you think is the function of ‘actually’ in Excerpt 1? (Check all that apply)  你認為“actually”在片段1的功能是甚麼?請勾選。 □ Transition from one point to the next (轉換到下一個重點) □ Let me know that something possibly unexpected is coming (讓我知道接下來有一些意想不到的內容) □ It is just a word that Dr Wu frequently uses (這只是一個吳老師常用的字彙而已) □ To emphasize that the point he is making is true (吳老師在強調他說的重點是真的) □ Other functions ______________________________ (其它功能) □ It has no function (沒有任何功能) © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved.

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