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Directive Use in University Classroom Discourse: Variation across Disciplines, Academic Levels, and Interactivity

Kia, Elnaz (2018) Directive Use in University Classroom Discourse: Variation across Disciplines, Academic Levels, and Interactivity. Doctoral thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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Directives— “attempts by the speaker to get the hearer to do something” (Searle, 1976, p. 11)—are one of the recurrent speech acts in university classrooms (Barbieri, 2008; Garcia, 2004). Directives are used by the instructors to perform important functions, such as assigning homework and guiding class work. Previous research has revealed that ineffective use of directives can result in misunderstanding and difficulty in learning (Waring & Hruska, 2012); thus, it is important to explore the variety of use of directives and analyze how they are perceived by the students to examine their effectiveness. Despite the abundance of research analyzing directives in academic contexts (Garcia, 2004; Hwang, 2013; McAllister, 2014; Reinhardt, 2010), no studies, to this date, have investigated the use of directives and their pragmatic functions from the listeners’ perspective. The present study explores the use of directives in academic lectures by triangulating structural and situational variation (i.e., discipline, levels of instruction, and level of interactivity) in directive use as predictors of perceived pragmatic force of directives (i.e., strength of obligation and imposition) in a large corpus of university lectures. The data in this study comes from a 1.2 million-word corpus of lectures sampled from the TOEFL 2000 Spoken and Written Academic Language corpus (T2K-SWAL, see Biber et al., 2002). Possible linguistic patterns of directives were identified by manually analyzing sample lectures from various situational contexts. Subsequently, five major structural types of directives (i.e., imperatives, obligation, intention, permission verbs, and directive vocabulary) were selected for the automatic analysis, according to their frequency and lexico-grammatical explicitness. Python scripts were used to automatically identify directive utterances with the five structural types and the 27 structural sub-types included. Structural variation of directives was analyzed in relation to three situational variables: (1) discipline (business, engineering, education, humanities, natural sciences, social sciences), (2) level of instruction (freshman/sophomore, junior/senior, graduate), and (3) level of interactiveness (low, medium, high). For the qualitative analysis, directives manually extracted from a 83,725 word sample of lectures from engineering and humanities in T2K-SWAL were coded for strength of obligation and level of imposition from university students’ perspectives. Structural variation of directives and situational features of the lectures were examined as predictors of the perceived strength of obligation and level of imposition of directives. The results show that structural features of directives are better predictors of perceived strength of obligation and imposition, compared to the situational factors. The relationship between various structural types and the pragmatic force of directives is also explained by thorough qualitative investigations of discourse patterns in individual texts. In summary, this dissertation helps to improve our understanding of the use of directives in lectures and their effectiveness with respect to directives’ structural variance. Findings from this study can be used to train international teaching assistants to effectively use directives, with respect to disciplines, levels of instruction, and levels of interactivity of university lectures.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: Directives; Disciplines; Pragmatics; Spoken Discourse; University Lecture
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: College of Arts and Letters > English
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2021 19:30
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2022 16:20
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5284

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