PRAGMATIC STRATEGIES OF APOLOGIES BY ENGLISH AS SECOND LANGUAGE STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF KABIANGA, KENYA
LANG‟AT, ANNE C.
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Pragmatic features of language vary across different circumstances, languages and cultures. This variability may result to incompetence in language users‟ choice and production of pragmatic strategies leading to pragmatic failure or communication breakdown. This study aimed at examining apology strategies by English as Second Language (ESL) students of the University of Kabianga. Successful communication is possible when ESL learners have pragmatic competence that enables them to use language forms suitable to different situations and contexts. The objectives of the study were to determine the preferred categories of apologies by the selected ESL speakers, to investigate how they respond apologetically in different situations, to find out whether the choice and production of apology strategies are influenced by social factors of social status and gender, and the contextual variable of severity of offence, and finally the appropriateness of the strategies used. The study used Brown and Levinson‟s face and politeness theory and a combination of apology schema based on Holmes (1990) and Demeter (2006). The target population was 602 respondents. Purposive sampling was used to obtain respondents who were undergraduate ESL students working towards a Bachelor of Education degree (English/Literature); both male and female; aged 19-25, from first year to the fourth year of study (8-4-4). The sample size was 242. The student sample was 240; 2 of them were purposively sampled as raters of apology strategies. In addition, 2 lecturer raters were purposively sampled from a population of 4. The language users were homogeneous in aspects such as educational background among others hence it can be assumed that they were a representation of the entire population. Three methods were used for data collection: interview questions, observation and a Discourse Completion Task (DCT) in form of a questionnaire. The DCT contained eighteen situations which were modified from those of Demeter (2006) and Thijittang (2010). They were prepared, typed and given to students who were asked to respond to them apologetically. The instruments were piloted for reliability. Two types of analysis were used on the data collected; quantitative and qualitative analysis. The researcher upheld ethical considerations in form of authorization and permission from National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), Kabarak University, Ministry of Education, Kericho County Commissioner, University of Kabianga and the undergraduate ESL students of the University of Kabianga to carry out this research. The findings of this study reveal that ESL students use varied apologetic strategies, the highest of these being the use of multiple strategy. They were however found to lack pragmatic competence in the realization of apologies. The selected variables; social status, gender and severity of offence influenced the realization of apologies in varied degrees. The findings from the raters suggest that use of multiple apologies and intensifiers for a majority of scenarios were the most appropriate. As a recommendation, instruction in Pragmatics in English language teaching needs to be introduced in Kenyan classrooms with a view of enhancing learners‟ pragmatic competence. Suggested areas of further research include research of how other variables other than the ones used in this study on apology studies, use of non academic language users, among others. This study is anticipated to enrich literature in pragmatics and in particular socio-pragmatics. Moreover, the findings will benefit an academic researcher who may be interested in pragmatic studies among Kenyan English language users.