The role of learner status in the acquisition of pragmatic markers during study abroad: The use of ‘like’ in L2 English

Annarita Magliacane, Martin Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While study abroad (SA) research has predominantly focused on university students, a key question to be explored in the literature concerns the role of learner status while abroad. Learner status concerns the learner's raison d’être during a sojourn abroad, whereby educational studies, employment or leisure have potential implications for the scope, type and characteristics of interactional opportunities during SA. This study investigates the role of learner status in sociopragmatic development by comparing two SA experiences, namely university studies and au-pair employment. The learners' sociopragmatic development was tracked longitudinally over a six-month period abroad with reference to the frequency and functions of the pragmatic marker (PM) ‘like’. More specifically, we analyse how differences in learner status affect the longitudinal development of this PM, in terms of frequency of use and pragmatic functions. The participants were 30 Italian learners of English (15 university students and 15 au-pairs) during a sojourn in Ireland. Spoken data were elicited in the form of sociolinguistic interviews (Labov, 1984) and were subject to quantitative analysis. Findings were also compared with a native speaker (NS) corpus to investigate whether learners approached NS frequency and pragmatic functions. Results of the study point to both differences and similarities in the development evidenced by the two learner cohorts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-86
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Early online date15 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • L2 acquisition
  • Learner status
  • Pragmatic markers
  • Sociopragmatic development
  • Study abroad
  • ‘Like’


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