ELF on a tropical island
: the use of pragmatic strategies in touristic ELFin Thailand

  • Tiraporn Jaroensak

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In the globalised world, English is prominently used as a lingua franca, especially when people travel across borders. A great proportion of border-crossing travel takes place in international tourism, and this means that much of the use of English as an international lingua franca (ELF) takes place between tourists and the locals in the countries they are visiting. This is what in this thesis I call “touristic ELF”. Two of the most prominent features of touristic ELF are that (a) interactions tend to be brief (generally not more than a few minutes and often less than one minute), and (b) the main purpose of most touristic interactions is practical, involving the exchange of information, even though interactional elements can also occur.
Within this context, the aim of this study was to investigate how touristic ELF works, especially given that most research in ELF communication revolves around academic or business contexts. The main emphasis of the study was on the ways in which Thai locals and foreign tourists used pragmatic strategies in order to deal with (potential) problems in understanding, and also particularly when non-understanding did arise, until understanding appeared to be achieved. The study also sought to identify the extent to which the use of pragmatic strategies varied according to the nature of communication, transactional or interactional.
Naturally occurring spoken interactions between Thai locals and foreign tourists were collected on Koh Lanta, a southwestern island of Thailand. 86% of 328 recorded touristic encounters in ELF formed a data set whereas 9% were unable to be transcribed because of ambient noise, and 5% were interviews. These touristic encounters were analysed under theoretical perspective of pragmatic strategies in ELF communication. The tools and techniques of Conversation Analysis were chosen and adapted as the analytic approach to look at the ways in which Thai locals and foreign tourists used pragmatic strategies of meaning negotiation in touristic ELF.
The findings of this study indicated that the Thai locals and the foreign tourists used a variety of pragmatic strategies to negotiate meaning and understanding. The five most common self-initiated strategies, namely 1) simple repetition, 2) key-word repetition, 3) combined repetition, 4) rephrasing and 5) paraphrasing were used to serve various functions. Simple repetition, key-word repetition and rephrasing were frequently used to facilitate the listener a clear hearing. The practices of key-word repetition, combined repetition and rephrasing were employed to enhance explicitness and give prominence of meaning. Additionally, paraphrasing and rephrasing were used to amplify and simplify meanings of utterances.
The Thai locals and the foreign tourists used other-initiated strategies: 1) otherrepetition, 2) the practice of using an alternative word/phrase with rising intonation, 3) wh-clarification question, and 4) question repeat and 5) questioning tag to negotiate understanding mutually. Other-repetition was used to show the listener’s acknowlegdement. The practice of using an alternative word/phrase with rising intonation, wh-clarification question, and question repeat were employed as clarification requests. In addition, question repeat and questioning tag were used as confirmation checks.
In touristic ELF, these aforementioned pragmatic strategies of meaning negotiation were used across transactional and international conversations, as so to prevent problems of understanding beforehand and to cope with non-understanding when it happened. As ELF communication is context-bounded, the pragmatic strategies used in touristic ELF differ from those used in academic and business ELF in type and frequency. The Thai locals and the foreign tourists opted for the strategies in which they took less time and less effort to negotiate meaning in brief and quick encounters. Due to their different levels of English proficiency, some pragmatic strategies requiring linguistic knowledge were employed to a lesser extent in touristic ELF than in academic and business ELF. To this end, ELF speakers in the context of tourism have shaped the use of pragmatic strategies and the communicative practices in touristic ELF.
Date of AwardSept 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMario Saraceni (Supervisor)

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