Simon Spero (sesuncedu) wrote in light_cite,
Simon Spero


 The Effects of Second Language Status on the Comprehension and Perception of Direct and Indirect Speech in Written Teacher Feedback


Rachel Elizabeth Hansen 

Department of Linguistics and English Language 

Master of Linguistics 


This study explores how native and nonnative English speakers understand and perceive 

directness types in written teacher feedback (WTF). Currently research suggests that 

indirect speech in WTF will encourage students to think and maintain politeness between 

teacher and student (Benkendorf, 2001; Riley, 2003; Thonus, 1999; Vassileva, 2000). 

However, research also indicates that indirect speech may be more difficult to interpret 

than direct speech (Champagne, 2001; Holtgraves, 1999), which suggests that indirect 

speech used in WTF may be difficult for students to interpret and use to improve their 

compositions (Ferris, 2007; Hyland & Hyland, 2001). This difficulty may be even more 

acute for second language (NNS) learners (Ferris, 2002; Mackiewicz & Riley, 2002, 

2003). This thesis will test and propose refinements to this study. In this study, native 

(NS) and nonnative (NNS) English speaking university students, were given two essays 

directness of the WTF. These participants had three main tasks: 1. to identify whether or 

not WTF requests a correction, 2. to make the correction if requested, 3. to identify 

perceptions of the teacher and paper based on the WTF. For the first two tasks, accuracy 

and response times were calculated.  Results showed that directness type affects the speed 

and accuracy of both NS and NNS learners. Direct speech in WTF was more quickly 

identified than indirect speech (indirect speech acts and hedging).  Indirect speech was 

the slowest and least accurate for both NS and NNS learners in relation to positive WTF. 

Surprisingly, both NS and NNS were slowest for making corrections on direct WTF.  In 

addition, directness type also affected the perception on the teacher and paper. For 

example, NS were likely to perceive indirect speech as being from a female teacher. NNS 

were more likely to give papers with hedged WTF an A and those with indirect WTF a C 

grade. This study suggests that the directness type of WTF affects how quickly and how 

well it is understood by both NS and NNS learners. It also suggests that the pragmatic 

theory may explain why direct speech is processed more quickly than indirect speech 

(indirect speech acts and hedging).  

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