English language and linguistics research seminar: Pia Järnefelt, Uppsala University: What does 'egentligen' actually mean? How L1 speakers and advanced L2 speakers of Swedish process and interpret pragmatic particles.

3 april 2024 13:15 till 15:00 Seminarium

Pragmatic particles are used to express speaker attitudes and create common ground between interlocutors. They are communicatively obligatory and notoriously hard for L2 speakers to acquire (Hogeweg et al., 2016). This study examines how advanced L2 Swedish speakers, compared to L1 Swedish speakers, process and interpret the Swedish particles egentligen (‘really’, ‘actually’) and faktiskt (‘really’, ‘in fact’) when they modify color words in everyday conversations. 42 advanced Swedish L2 speakers and 42 L1 speakers were tested in a novel Visual World Paradigm eye-tracking experiment (Tanenhaus et al., 1995). Participants listened to conversations while selecting which object the conversation was about, and each target item contained a white or black object, and a gray competitor. The linguistic manipulation consisted of three words: a) egentligen, b) faktiskt, and c) väldigt (an unambiguous adverb meaning ‘very’, functioning as a control). Upon hearing “it’s [egentligen/faktiskt] black”, the particle egentligen could indicate that the object used to be black but it is not anymore (e.g., a gray shirt), whereas the particle faktiskt should only confirm the blackness of the object (e.g., a black shirt). Three measures that correlate with higher cognitive load were collected – pupil size (Tromp et al., 2016), accumulated gaze patterns and reaction times (van Bergen & Bosker, 2018). Behavioral response accuracy was also measured, and background variables that impact L2 performance; Age of Acquisition, daily use, proficiency and L1. Results show that both groups react similarly to faktiskt, but differ qualitatively when processing and interpreting egentligen. A majority of the L1 speakers hesitate upon hearing egentligen. Their eyes wander between the gray and black object, and they are equally likely to choose either object. Meanwhile, a majority of the L2 speakers choose the black object, and they do not look at both objects, suggesting that they do not process the adversative meaning of egentligen, and therefore only see it as confirmatory. During my presentation I will present the eye-tracking design and materials, and discuss the results in light of theoretical claims within the field of L2 pragmatics and previous research on pragmatic processing.

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3 april 2024 13:15 till 15:00

SOL: H339


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