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The Role of Pragmatics in Reflexive Interpretation by Korean Learners of English
Kum-Young Lee
97-112 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This study investigates how pragmatic factors affect Korean learners in the selection of an antecedent for English reflexives. Despite the fact that various pragmatic analyses of anaphora have been proposed in the literature, very few studies, such as Thomas (1989) and Demirci (2000), have considered the role of pragmatic factors in the acquisition of L2 reflexives. This study attempts to expand this line of research and to find out whether pragmatic factors, such as context, influence the selection of antecedents for reflexives by employing two interpretation tasks which are contrasted in terms of the presence or absence of context. Since English and Korean differ in that English reflexives allow only local binding, while Korean reflexives allow both local and non-local binding, it is assumed that native speakers of Korean rely more than native speakers of English on pragmatic factors that help in the choice of an antecedent. Therefore, pragmatic factors might affect Korean L2 learners in their interpretation of English reflexives. The results of this study show that the majority of L2 learners as well as the English control group were successful in the selection of grammatically legitimate antecedents for reflexives in Task 1 which included no context, while they tended to select antecedents for reflexives which were pragmatically favored from contexts regardless of grammaticality in Task 2, suggesting that pragmatic factors such as contextual information play an important role in the interpretation of reflexives, to the extent that they can even override participants' syntactic knowledge on reflexive binding. However, the results of this study also show that the L2 learners were more affected by the given contexts than the English control group was. This might suggest that the effect of pragmatic factors can vary depending on the dependency of a language on pragmatic factors in the interpretation of reflexives.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 2007 Second Language Research Forum
edited by Melissa Bowles, Rebecca Foote, Silvia Perpiñán, and Rakesh Bhatt
Table of contents
Printed edition: $270.00