The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Marya Teutsch-Dwyer

Second Advisor

John Madden

Keywords and Subject Headings

Pragmatics, Linguistics, International Students, University, TESL


Cross-cultural communication skills have become increasingly important as more people choose to come to the U.S. as international students. Pragmatics awareness is an invaluable skill for effective cross-cultural communication. Pragmatics is an area of language which deals with the social aspects of language and language use which is dependent on context. Rather than encouraging assimilation into U.S. culture it is hoped that studies of pragmatics will increase mutual understanding of cross-cultural interactions.

This study looked specifically at how international university students and multigenerational Minnesotans from the St. Cloud area respond to questions on a questionnaire. The international students were divided into two groups, those who had been in the U.S. for more than 2 years and those who had been in the U.S. for less than one semester. In order to compare the groups the results had to be evaluated according to within group agreement on certain responses to the prompts and then compared across groups to expose pragmatic patterns.

The questions from the questionnaire were designed with the goal of eliciting speech acts and responses to speech acts that have been covered in second language pragmatics research. Social contexts were provided to which the participants responded either in the form of a speech act or in reaction to a speech act. The speech acts covered in this study are requests, apologies, refusals, complaints, and expressions of gratitude.

The results showed both similarities within each group and between groups. The Minnesotan group had the most with group agreement on specific responses to the questions. This indicates pragmatic agreement among the Minnesotan group. The group that had been in the U.S. for more than 2 years had a higher percentage of answers that were similar to the Minnesotan group answers than the group that had been in the U.S. for less than a full semester. The study concluded that there was more pragmatic awareness among the international students who had been in the U.S. longer. The responses that were provided by the participants in this study could be used as a starting point for pragmatic language learning or further pragmatics research.

It is hoped that studies of pragmatics in second language acquisition will encourage teachers and language learners to consider pragmatics as essential for effective communication in a second language.



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