Current and recently graduated PhD students in Linguistics

Current PhD students in Linguistics

Recently Graduated PhD Students in Linguistics

Hichem Aouina

Hichem AouinaI am a final year PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Kate Beeching. The working title of my thesis is "Globalisation and Language Policy in Tunisia: Shifts in Domains of Language Use and Linguistic Attitudes". My thesis is based around the impact of globalisation on language policy in Tunisia and the shifts in language uses and attitudes it has caused.

The word "globalisation" has a multitude of meanings, but in the thesis it has often been used with reference to the recent boom in media and internet that contributed to more interconnectedness and interaction between people of different linguistic backgrounds. English was revealed to be more appealing to the younger generation than to the older one; young people are generally more strongly attracted to using modern technology, particularly online communication.

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Teresa Asiain

Theresa Asiain

Translating Captain Underpants into Spanish
Teresa completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Navarra (Spain) in 2003 and began my PhD research as a part-time student in 2009. She is currently writing up her research under the supervision of Dr. Catherine Butler (English) and Dr. Kate Beeching (Linguistics). Teresa’s thesis explores the translation of the Captain Underpants series into Spanish from a literary perspective. The main aim of the thesis is to think about the ways in which ranges of meaning are narrowed, expanded or refracted in the process of translation; the question of power and how this is distributed between author, translator, publisher, reader, and what we might call culture-at-large; the role of such literary considerations as genre and genre conventions; and particularly to model all this as a dynamic rather than a static system. Her thesis examines the ways in which the translator negotiates the various pressures and constraints which are imposed upon him via ideology, commissioning editors and the publishing industry, especially the linguistic challenges posed by humour, the culturally charged depictions of food and the American graphics which accompany the text.

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Abdelfattah Dimissi

Abdelfattah DimissiI am reaching the end of my PhD studies on "EFL listening comprehension strategies, vocabulary knowledge, and working memory". Throughout my years as an EFL teacher, I have noticed that many EFL students face challenges in listening comprehension tasks.

A major challenge is the application of listening strategies. I have also noticed that listening textbooks have always included listening activities that require the application of one type of strategy only – cognitive strategies, such as inferring  and predicting. There has been no explicit teaching of meta-cognitive strategies, such as planning, monitoring, and evaluating. Research on listening comprehension (i.e., Field, 2008; Flowerdew and Miller, 2005; Goh, 2008; Vandergrift et. al, 2006), however, has shown that the application of meta-cognitive strategies to listening comprehension allows EFL learners to improve  their listening comprehension and has suggested that it is high time practitioners, textbook designers, and teachers started implementing meta-cognitive awareness raising strategies, in parallel to cognitive strategies, in the teaching of listening comprehension. I have noticed that many EFL listeners complain that their vocabulary knowledge – both size and depth – does not  allow them to understand spoken passages, that EFL listeners have problems with aural word recognition and also with working memory, in that they cannot recall enough idea units.

The study aims to test the hypothesis that appropriate training in the application of cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies allows L2 listeners to improve their listening comprehension. This hypothesis has been tested in relation to three independent co-variables, vocabulary knowledge – size and depth –, aural word recognition, and working memory span. The study compares the scores of an experimental group trained in the application of meta-cognitive strategies and a control group trained in the application of cognitive strategies. The participants in both groups are Emirati female students on the Intensive English Programme (IEP) at the University of Sharjah, Khorfakkan Campus, UAE.

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Clare Ferguson

Clare FergusonAuthenticity is a salient issue within endangered language contexts, particularly where revitalisation efforts are in place. There is currently much activity worldwide to document and describe endangered languages, but whose language should go into the reference grammars? It is a common perception in endangered languages that the oldest speakers speak the most authentic language, but is this necessarily the case?

This study focuses on interspeaker and intragenerational variation and the issue of gauging authenticity in the severely endangered language, Guernsey French.

The subjunctive mood is the variable selected to showcase this issue of authenticity. Working within the variationist paradigm, the linguistic data for this apparent-time study are recorded natural speech, collected in semi-structured and unstructured interviews, both one-to-one and group, from forty-three participants on the island of Guernsey. Sociolinguistic data were collected using an oral questionnaire. The results show that mood choice is associated with one social factor, frequency of use of the language 'now', and four linguistic factors, subjunctive trigger, trigger tense, embedded verb and, to a lesser extent, the presence or absence of a relative pronoun. A quantitative and qualitative approach is taken to examining interspeaker and intragenerational variation. The findings undermine any notion that the oldest generation can be unconditionally assumed to use the traditional variants.

The findings are discussed in relation to variationist theory and to the focal theory, authenticity. The research contributes to the field by being the first to examine interspeaker variation in a grammatical variable in Guernsey French. The study adds to the small body of empirical research on idiolectal variation within the fields of variationist sociolinguistics and endangered languages, and highlights issues associated with applying variationist methodology in endangered language contexts. Finally, it exposes the difficulties of seeking out and gauging authenticity in an endangered language.

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Septhia Irnanda

Acehnese-Indonesian Bilinguals/Trilingual Learners of English as a Foreign Language
Septhia completed her undergraduate degree majoring in English Teaching in Syiah Kuala University (Indonesia), and her MA TESOL in Deakin University (Australia) in 2011. Under the supervision of Dr. Jeanette Sakel and Dr. Anna Piasecki, she is currently doing a PhD on multilingualism in Aceh, Indonesia. Her study focuses on the metalinguistic awareness and English language learning success of bilingual and trilingual groups in Aceh. She is comparing bilinguals and trilinguals, taking into account their various levels of multilingual competencies as well as various levels and numbers of literacy skills.  The study investigates; (1) how the absence of a literacy system in one language impacts on the speaker’s metalinguistic awareness and success in learning an additional language; (2) how the imbalance of language proficiencies in bilinguals and trilinguals affects their metalinguistic awareness and their  foreign language learning; and (3) the relationship between numbers of spoken language skills and success in learning an additional language.  The subjects are Junior High School students in Aceh speaking two languages (Acehnese and Indonesian) and three languages (Acehnese, Jamee and Indonesian). They will be grouped based on their sociolinguistic profiles and then asked to take Bialystok (2001)’s Metalinguistic Awareness Task and English language writing and speaking tests. 

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Abdelbasset Jeddi

Abdelbasset JeddiThe Effects of Task-Based Activities on the Retention of Formulaic Sequences

Abdelbasset Jeddi started his PhD studies in 2014. He is an international part-time student interested in teaching/learning second language vocabulary. Abdelbasset has just finished his project registration under the supervision of Dr JeanetteSakel and Dr Anna Piasecki. Using Nation’s (2001) principles of noticing, retrieval and creative use, and drawing on Ellis’s (2003) framework for designing task-based activities, my study will try to control for the input learners receive and their exposure to target formulaic sequences. I will test the possible benefits of a task-based approach to the short- and long-term retention of formulaic sequences. My project will hopefully contribute to the identification of effective instructional approaches that will help learners achieve both breadth and depth in their knowledge of formulaic sequences and retain them in their long-term memory.

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Slim Khemakem

Slim KhemakemAn investigation into the predictive validity of IELTS for a Teacher Education Program in UAE
Slim started his PhD in 2009 as an international part-time student and is currently writing up. He is co-supervised by Dr. Kate Beeching and Dr. Guoxing Yu at the University of Bristol. His research aims at evaluating the appropriateness of choosing the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) as a requirement for the graduation of the Bachelor of Education Program student teachers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The B. Ed regulations take the test as a valid predictor of the student teachers' linguistic performance at the work place. However, this assumption did not appear to take into consideration the linguistic requirements of teaching English in schools in an EFL context like the UAE. The scope of the study was first narrowed down to focus on the speaking ability of the students on both the test and class performance. Then, it was restricted to the lexical richness as a strong indicator of proficiency. A correlation between the lexical richness of the student teachers’ speaking on IELTS and their speaking performance in a teaching situation is used to gauge the predictive validity of the speaking component of IELTS.

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Samia Kort

Metaphor in Media Discourse:  News Media Representations of "Arabs" and "Americans"

Samia is conducting a cognitive linguistic study on American and Arab new media under the supervision of Professor Professor Jonathan Charteris-Black and Dr. Kate Beeching. The study is, briefly, a cross-cultural analysis that looks into news media representations of "Arabs" and “Americans”. It is a contribution to the critical analysis of metaphors within discourse as it draws on emerging trends trying to combine cognitive accounts of metaphor with Critical Discourse Analysis. The research comparatively evaluates the portrayals of "Arabs" and "Americans" and verifies "Us" versus "Other" cultural stereotyping and otherising in news discourse. 

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Giao Chi Le Thi

My PhD thesis has the working title "Grammatical metaphor in English and Vietnamese official documentation – a corpus approach to the translation of nominalisation". Written English, especially that of an official genre, is often characterized by a high degree of text density and nominalization. Nominalised constructions which are commonly found in official documentation belong to the category of grammatical metaphor, a term coined by Systemic Functionalist Michael Halliday (1985). In the domain of Functional Grammar, grammatical metaphor is a feature of language whereby a shift or movement of elements within the domain of lexico-syntactical grammar permits the change of linguistic functions, or the reconfigurations of ideational expressions.

As an alternative way of encoding verbal meanings, and a prominent feature of written discourse, nominalisations perform important ideological functions such as deleting agency, turning processes into entities, or condensing long strings of shorter sentences into fewer longer sentences (Billig 2008); they can make a text more succinct, more abstract, and thus, increase sophistication in communication. In the domain of translation studies, this ‘sophisticated strategy' (Baker 1992) is then a recognised ‘translation shift’ with a verb construction in the source text being rendered using a nominal construction in the target text.  This transference of structural elements for equivalence is deemed necessary to achieve communicative effects in translation.

Building on previous studies on nominalization as grammatical metaphor and shifts in translation, this investigation attempts to use cross-disciplinary insights in functional linguistic use to analyse nominalisations and the translation of common nominalisers (-ATION, and –MENT) into Vietnamese. A combined quantitative and qualitative approach is adopted drawing on a bi-directional corpus of texts taken from official sources – the World Bank and The Asian Development Bank – where translated versions in Vietnamese are available. Attempts will be made to explore how nominalisations as grammatical metaphor are represented in the lexico-grammar in the two languages, how they are translated, and what linguistic changes have occurred in translations from English to Vietnamese, and vice versa.

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Bushra Musleh

Bushra MuslehTowards a Critical Framework for the Understanding and Implementation of Qur’anic Translation

Bushra is a first year PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Richard Coates, Dr. Kate Beeching, and Dr. Mohammad Odeh. Her research study aims to construct a framework for translating the meanings of the words of the Holy Qur’an based on a thorough going linguistic analysis of the Source Text (verses from the Qur’an), informed by the Arabic interpretation of the meaning of the words of the Quran (Tafsir in Arabic), and a comparative linguistic analysis of the ST and three selected translations – Target Texts, informed by translation theory. The research will discuss the reasons for deficiencies in the current translations of the meaning of the words in the Holy Qur’an. One of the Chapters (Surahs) of the Qur’an will be adopted as a case study of the research, namely: Surah Yousef (Joseph). The following key research questions articulate the main purpose of the study: -Which lexical items pose particular problems for the translator of the Holy Qur’an, and why? -To what extent have the selected translations of the Holy Qur’an taken into consideration the semantic analysis of the meanings of the Holy Qur’an verses along with variations or alternatives to meanings based on particular views of understanding some verses as they were revealed? In this regard, what approaches did each translator appear to have taken, for example word-for-word, literal, formal, dynamic, semantic or communicative approaches? and -To what extent does each of the selected translators’ cultural, linguistic background and their general cultural background in Islam appear to have directed their translation approach? Answering the above research questions form the core of the research’s main novel contribution to knowledge, leading to the development of an enriched framework for translating the Holy Qur’an that is based on both linguistic analysis and translation theory. This will guide translators who work in the field of Qur’anic translation , indicating points they need to take into consideration while translating verses of the Qur’an.

Ifigenia Mahili

Ifigenia MahiliI'm currently in the final year of my PhD on the characteristics of workplace writing. As an ESP instructor for a number of years now, I take a personal interest in the nature of professional writing and the problems and needs of workplace writers. Driven by the need to bridge the well-documented gap between the academic and the workplace setting, I set about a multi-method study into the writing practices of multinational corporations based in Greece. The provisional title of my PhD is "A multi-method study into the writing practices, the role of email and the enactment of formality in multinational corporations in Greece".

The first part aims to give an overview of workplace writing by examining the writing practices in seven corporations according to the perceptions of the participants in the quantitative analysis of a questionnaire and the qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews. It first investigates differences in the frequency of emails and other documents according to company size and level of post and differences in the perceived difficulty and importance ascribed to the written documents according to years of experience and level of post. It also looks at the difficulties newcomers encounter when composing the written samples and the ways these difficulties are overcome through the thematic analysis of the participants’ interviews. It then concentrates on the role of email as a genre by looking at the functions it serves in a corpus of real life email samples collected from three companies of variable size and type.

Adopting a case study method on the discourse of emails, the second part focuses on the micro linguistic enactment of formality in a number of email chains. It examines the interrelation between situation and code by looking at the interaction between the situational factors of officiality, accountability and exigencies, the interpersonal factors of social distance, power and socialization, and a number of linguistic features, as these emerged from the analysis and the self reported data of the participants. 

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Fawzi Makni

Fawzi MakniThe purpose of my PhD thesis, now completed, was to compare the pedagogic efficiency of two methods for teaching polysemous vocabulary – the image-schema-based vocabulary instruction method (ISBM) and the translation-based vocabulary instruction method (TBM). Additionally, my study aimed to evaluate the way in which three learner characteristics - learning styles, vocabulary learning strategies, language proficiency - contribute to individual differences in acquiring polysemous words.  

The subjects of this study, 40 female students studying at an intensive English program at the University of Sharjah, UAE, were placed in two groups and were taught a range of metaphorical meanings of polysemous words, in accordance with the cognitive linguistics ISBM and the mainstream TBM. In order to assess the pedagogical value of both methods, a polysemous word knowledge test (PWKT) was used as a pre and post-test. Also, a strategy assessment test (SAT) was employed to gauge the effectiveness of the strategic teaching method in accordance with which the polysemous words were instructed. Furthermore, in an attempt to explore the nature of the relationships between some of the learner characteristics and the acquisition of polysemous vocabulary, a vocabulary learning questionnaire and a style of processing scale were given to the learners.

The results of the immediate post PWKT suggest that the ISBM is more effective in teaching and learning polysemous vocabulary in this setting than the TBM. In the long term, however, both of the techniques adopted in teaching polysemous words proved beneficial in long-term recall once the mechanism underlying the meanings extension of polysemous words had been understood. Also, teaching polysemous vocabulary strategically paid off in that learners were more readily able to understand metaphorical senses of new polysemous words they encountered in the SAT. Altogether, three variables seem to come into play when dealing with the acquisition of polysemous words in the framework of cognitive linguistics - learning styles, vocabulary learning strategies and language proficiency.

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Anwar Mourssi

Anwar MourssiBuilding on previous studies of L2 and the effects of writing instruction on L2 learners' performance, my PhD study investigated the role of Revising and Redrafting in improving second/foreign language learners' written accuracy. 74 Arab learners of English at pre-intermediate to intermediate level were divided into two groups: an Experimental and a Control Group. For four months, the Experimental Group followed an Innovated Writing Process (IWP) and the Control Group followed classes which took a Traditional Product Writing (TPW) approach. Statistical analyses showed no significant differences between the Experimental Group and the Control Group in pre-tests, suggesting that the two groups had a similar level of writing proficiency. However, significant differences were found between the two groups in post-tests and in the Final National Exam, indicating that the IWP, which draws on the noticing hypothesis, error analysis, explicit feedback, interaction, and negotiation, had contributed to a significant improvement in the learners' written accuracy.

A detailed analysis was made of the simple past forms produced at the beginning, middle and end of the course. Quantitative analysis indicated the Interlanguage stages that Arab learners of English may go through in the acquisition of the simple past. While qualitative and descriptive analyses proved little evidence to support the U-shaped learning model in the acquisition of the simple past in L2, they indicated the relevance of the ACT-R model (Taatgen and Anderson, 2002), for which adjustments have been proposed to reflect the influence of L1 factors. To conclude, findings from this study may contribute to knowledge in two ways: by developing a methodology which integrates Focus-on-Form in a communicative approach in order to improve students’ written accuracy, and secondly by testing hypotheses emerging from a number of models relating to the acquisition of the simple past, in order to enhance our understanding of SLA.

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Harry Parkin

Harry Parkin After developing an interest in onomastics as an undergraduate at the University of Nottingham, I was lucky enough to be awarded a studentship at the University of the West of England, attached to the Family Names of the United Kingdom (FaNUK) research project, funded by the AHRC. I am now in my third year of study.

My thesis is provisionally titled "Change and Continuity in the Surnames of the Cotswolds", and is a diachronic study focussed primarily on the influence regional identity has had over surname development. Such a project is necessarily multidisciplinary, looking into the economic, social, linguistic and topographical histories of the Cotswolds, and how they have contributed to the formation, distribution and linguistic development of its names. Through the project, I aim to show the benefits of studying surnames by distinct topographical region, instead of the county based investigation of much previous research. In doing this, I will present a detailed account of the surname history of the Cotswolds, a region which has not been studied in this way before.

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Luke Rudge

Luke RudgeFormality in Motion: Analysing contextual and linguistic formality in British Sign Language through the lens of Systemic Functional Linguistics

In October 2014, Luke started research into the linguistics of British Sign Language (BSL). The project aims to identify lexicogrammatical patterns employed by BSL users in situations of differing formality.

Two investigations will take place with participants from the British Deaf community. The first will identify the various contextual factors that influence linguistic formality from the perspective of BSL users. Following the Systemic Functional notion of “context of situation,” the variables of Field, Mode and Tenor will be measured and evaluated both qualitatively and quantitatively. The resulting configurations will inform the second investigation: the analysis of natural language interactions between BSL users in formal, neutral, and informal situations. The data obtained will be encoded and examined using ELAN, following current transcription conventions used in sign language corpora around the world.

Academically, this study will add to current discussions across domains such as discourse analysis, sociolinguistics and sign linguistics. More specifically, the project aims to build on various debates in the field, for instance, structures of sign language discourse, linguistic variation according to communicative environment, approaches to effective transcription of visual data, and how Systemic Functional frameworks can be adapted to a visual-spatial language. In considering the wider impact of this and future studies, there exists the potential to influence the methods by which sign languages are taught, analysed and used in professional contexts.

For further details about the project watch Luke's video on YouTube.

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Guiming Wang

Guiming WangMy thesis, "A study of Ezra Pound’s translation - an interpretation of Cathay" was submitted in 2012. Ezra Weston Loomis Pound is one of the best-known, yet least well-understood, modern literary translators. The thesis argues the case for four innovative approaches to Pound's translation. First, it aims to establish Pound as a translator and translation theorist by completing a systematic study of his theory and practice from two perspectives:

  1. Taking a macro view of the entire course of Pound’s translation activity to shed light on the particularly close relationship which exists between that activity and his poetic or political writings;
  2. Taking a micro view of Pound’s translation theoretical concepts and techniques, in order to clarify the essential elements of his translation.

Second, it aims to establish the influence of Pound’s translation theory by viewing it in relation to contemporary theories. Third, through a detailed line-by-line comparison of relevant texts such as the Chinese originals, Fenollosa’s cribs, Pound’s versions and other translators’ versions, it aims to interpret the Cathay poems from a number of perspectives: translational, poetic, linguistic and cultural, and to further elucidate Pound’s translation concepts and techniques, as well as his individual ideology as a poet-translator and critic-translator. Fourth, it explores the potential of the cognitive approach as a lens through which Poundian translation may be viewed. The thesis aims to contribute to Poundian translation study and to the appreciation of Cathay as a masterpiece of English translation. In addition, it argues for a new cognitive approach to literary translation criticism.

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Helen Watts

Residential Care Workers’ interactions with residents living with early stage dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term covering a wide range of conditions, the most common being Alzheimer’s Disease. People with dementia experience communication loss through memory impairment, reduced ability to retrieve lexical items, progressive decline in all four skills (Alzheimer’s Society, 2010), while often retaining certain capabilities, such as turn-taking. Helen is interested in both the macro discourse(s) and micro discourses of care and in particular the interactions between the care workers and those they care for. She aims to collect ‘naturally occurring’ and self-selected data, by asking care workers and residents to audio record interactions within personal spaces. Ward (et al., 2008:635) suggest that, ‘episodes of personal care […] could present crucial opportunities for sustained interaction between staff and residents’. Academics have long called for more detailed analysis of this issue from a linguistic perspective (Wray, 2011) and closer attention to communication in the care context (Ward et al., 2008). Helen will take a linguistic ethnographic (Creese, 2010) and pragmatic approach to the data analysis. This approach allows for micro-analysis of what is said and for robust reflection on the context in which spoken interaction occurs.

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Ligao Wu

Ligao WuThe subject of my PhD thesis is "Social Presence in Multimodal Interaction in the Chinese Online Learning Context". The study reports an exploratory empirical investigation of multimodal online interaction in the voice-based chat room and text-based forum and their effects on social presence in the context of Chinese online language education. The purpose is to compare the level of social presence in a text-based forum and a voice-based chat in Bewai Institute of Online Education (BIOE), Beijing Foreign Studies University, China.

A mixed-method approach was adopted in this study and the measurement of social presence was based on both qualitative and quantitative data. The quantitative data came from a survey of twenty two questions designed to reveal student perceptions of social presence in the text-based forum and the voice-based chat. A content analysis with social presence categories and indicators was employed to analyse what students said in the text-based forum and the voice-based chat. A social presence density was calculated in the two technological forms for a comparison.

The results show that social presence is perceived by students to be no different in the text-based forum than in the voice-based chat. But the content analysis demonstrates that there is higher projected social presence in the voice-based chat than in text-based forum. Three possible reasons have been offered for an interpretation. The significance of the study is to understand the affordances and constraints of the voice-based chat and text-based forum in the teaching context of BIOE, which are likely to shed some light in the field of online education.

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Qun Zheng

Qun ZhengMy thesis "A Sociopragmatic Study of Discourse Markers in Spoken British and Chinese English" was accepted in August 2012. The thesis set out to fill gaps in the literature on the use of discourse markers (DMs) in contemporary British and Chinese English. Though previous studies have investigated the functions of DMs in spoken British English, none has provided a comprehensive sociolinguistic overview, exploring distributional frequencies according to the sex, age and social class of standard British English speakers in the BNC.

Similarly, though studies have looked at DM usage in German and Swedish learners and compared them with native usage, few have investigated Chinese learners. Drawing on the data and the demographic categories available through the British National Corpus (BNC) Web Query, a systematic analysis of well, you know and I think was conducted. For the British English (BrE) and Chinese English (CE) comparison, three-minute role-plays were recorded, transcribed and analysed. The main findings are, firstly, that the use of the selected DMs is generally more frequent in older than in younger speakers, and the use of well is more frequent in BrE than in CE speakers, particularly in a range of functions. Secondly you know and I think are used more frequently by females than by males in the casual conversations in the BNC but this difference is not found in the British role-play dyads, possibly as a result of stylistic variation. Thirdly, the CE speakers seemed to use well in mitigatory functions and the other two DMs in textual functions more frequently than their British counterparts.

The thesis contributes to our knowledge by highlighting the sociopragmatic variability of DM usage, giving us empirical evidence of language use in various social settings. More importantly, the study suggests a developmental sequence in DM acquisition by both BrE and CE speakers.

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