The Learning of Complex Speech Act Behaviour


  • Elite Olshtain
  • Andrew Cohen



The study reported in this article concerns itself with the learning and teaching of the more subtle and complex features of the speech act of apology in English. Based on the knowledge that we have to date on apology speech act behaviour, we addressed ourselves to questions relating to the efficacy of teaching such elements as: choice of semantic formula; appropriate length of realization patterns; use of intensifiers; judgment of appropriacy and students' preferences for certain teaching techniques. In order to attempt and answer these questions we carried out a training study with I8 adult learners of English, speakers of Hebrew. The study consisted of : a) a pre-teaching questionnaire aimed at assessing the subjects' use of apologies; b) a teaching materials packet covering three classroom sessions and c) a postteaching questionnaire. The findings suggest that although we cannot present clear cut quantitative improvement of the learners' speech act behaviour after the given training programme, we find that there is an obvious qualitative approximation of native like speech act behaviour with respect to types of intensification and downgrading, choice of strategy and awareness of situational factors. We feel, therefore, that the teaching of speech act behaviour is a worthwhile project even if the aim is only to raise the learners' awareness of appropriate speech act behaviour.




How to Cite

Olshtain, E. . . . . . . . . . ., & Cohen, A. . . . . . . . . . . (1990). The Learning of Complex Speech Act Behaviour. TESL Canada Journal, 7(2), 45–65.