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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Helping Language Learners Align with Readers Through Narrative: Insights into the Breadth, Targets, and Explicitness of Evaluation from Appraisal Studies of Second Language German Writers
by Quam, Justin Erle, Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2020, 327; 28091138
Abstract (Summary)

Language users never communicate in a vacuum. Successful meaning-making through language depends on an awareness of one’s presumed audience and the choice of linguistic tokens appropriate to that interaction. In their engagement with that presumed audience, literate language users are characterized by their ability to express individuality, offer explicit and implicit opinions, assert affiliation with their readers, persuade their readers, and reinforce or challenge socially valued concepts.

In Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), these uses of language fall under the interpersonal metafunction, which encompasses the goal of the action performed by the language user and their relationship with an intended audience (Eggins, 2004; Halliday, 1984). One key component of interpersonal meaning making is evaluative language, described within the context of SFL by the APPRAISAL system (Martin & White, 2005), which operates at the level of discourse semantics and facilitates analysis of evaluation patterns beyond the word or sentence level (Coffin, 2002).

Current L2 writing research on interpersonal meaning making is characterized by a lack of studies examining (a) genres outside of academic writing and (b) languages other than English. To expand instructors’ awareness of (a) students’ command of interpersonal resources at various curricular levels and (b) instructional activities that can foster students’ continued development, this project explores the use of evaluative language in narrative texts written by L2 learners of German at three proficiency levels.

This project consisted of two rounds of data collection. In the first study, fairy tales written by a small group of students of varying proficiency levels were analyzed in detail; potential patterns in APPRAISAL were flagged for further analysis. In the second study, a larger set of texts were analyzed to assess whether patterns emerging from the first study achieved statistical significance. Results revealed trends in the use of APPRAISAL types across the various levels, with lower proficiency writers relying more heavily on APPRECIATION and narrator-centered evaluations, whereas higher proficiency writers drew more often on AFFECT as a vehicle for implicit evaluation and broadened the scope of their evaluations to include valued behaviors and traits. The thesis concludes with potential instructional activities and remarks on the applicability of the current APPRAISAL scheme to narrative analysis.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ryshina–Pankova, Marianna V.
Commitee: Cunningham, Joseph, Ortega, Lourdes
School: Georgetown University
Department: German
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, English as a Second Language, Sociolinguistics
Keywords: APPRAISAL, German language, L2 writing, Narrative, Student writing, systemic functional linguistics
Publication Number: 28091138
ISBN: 9798664791914
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