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Stories in casual conversation in English and Japanese: genres, evaluative expressions and pedagogical implications
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 01:39 authored by Takashi Suzuki
This project aims to explore the differences and similarities between stories produced in casual conversation in English and Japanese, and to consider how the findings from such investigation may be applied to English language teaching/learning. Conversational stories (CSs, hereafter) have been claimed to perform crucial social functions such as the construction and maintenance of identity and relationships. Yet cross-linguistic studies on CSs in English and Japanese have been scarce, and so are EFL teaching materials that deal with CSs. This project aims to contribute to bridging this gap by exploring mainly 1) what genres of stories occur, and 2) how the speaker’s attitude is expressed in such stories, in casual conversation in the two languages. The data for this project consists of the following: English dyads by English native speakers (ENSs), Japanese dyads by Japanese native speakers (JNSs), and English dyads between an ENS and a JNS learner of English. The analysis was conducted using genre theory and appraisal theory developed in Systemic Functional Linguistics. It was found that the CSs told by ENSs in English were shorter but occurred more frequently than those told by JNSs. In the ENS-JNS English conversations, almost no stories occurred, suggesting the difficulties involved in the production of CSs in L2. In both languages, stories with an element of conflict or crisis (termed ‘narratives’ and ‘anecdotes’ in genre theory) were rare. In the ENS-ENS data, the most common genre was ‘exemplums’ whose function is to prove a point, while in the JNS-JNS data it was ‘recount’-type stories whose function is to retell events and share appraisal. These differences may lead speakers of both languages to misunderstand the function of each other’s CSs. Regarding the speaker’s attitude, it was found that in both languages, emotional reactions (termed ‘affect’ in appraisal theory) and evaluation of things and entities (‘appreciation’) were more often expressed directly (‘inscribed’) than indirectly (‘invoked’). However, the speaker’s judgments about others (‘judgment’) tended to be expressed indirectly when they were negative. EFL learners will benefit from knowing such tendencies in order to be able to produce and utilize CSs in English effectively for social and interpersonal purposes.