Input, Output, Interaction and Pragmatics. A Study of the Effects of Adult-Child Interaction on Singaporean Children's Acquisition of Speech Acts

Project Number
OER 10/11 NTTM

Project Duration
January 2012 - June 2014


Drawing on a social interactionist approach to language learning, this project aims to explore the role of input, output and interaction in early development of pragmatic competence by Singaporean bilingual children who speak English as the first (L1) or second (L2) language at home. Specifically, the project sets out to investigate the nature of parent-child interaction and its effects on the child's acquisition of various speech acts, e.g. greeting, leave-taking, thanking, requesting, apologizing, refusal, and disagreeing. Another aim of the study is to provide, for the first time, a typology of realization strategies for the various speech acts used by Singaporean speakers of English in the family context and to describe the developmental paths for these speech acts by Singaporean bilingual children. The current project has been motivated by the need for further research on the role of interaction in language acquisition (Saxton, 2009), especially with regards to pragmatic learning (Becker, 1988; Gass and Houck, 1999; Ellis, 2008). The importance of interaction in the development of language has been long recognized in both L1 and L2 acquisition research (see Ellis, 2008; Saxton, 2009 for a review). However, this body of research has placed a strong emphasis on grammar development while giving little attention to pragmatic development (Ellis, 2008), which is equally worthy of investigation.Thus, by attempting to link interaction with pragmatic development, the project is expected to add to our further understanding of this under-researched area. The second rationale for this project lies in the relative shortage of research attention on the pragmatic aspect of Singapore English (SE) as opposed to the substantial body of research on other aspects such as phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicology (see Deterding, 2007). Furthermore, to date there have been no studies into how Singaporean children 'unpack' the knowledge of using speech acts over time (see Kwan-Terry, 1991). While there has been an increasing number of studies on speech act acquisition by L1 and L2 child learners of Inner Circle varieties of English, the findings of these studies might not completely apply to Singaporean children, because SE significantly differs from these ''exonormative standards'' (Mackey and Silver, 2003, p.244). The current project is therefore conducted to address these gaps with a view to providing a typology of realization strategies for SE speech acts, thus contributing to the growing body of research on World Englishes.

Funding Source

Related Links
ReEd Vol 18 2015: Pragmatic Skills in Learning English

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