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Pizziconi, Barbara (2006) 'Learning to Reframe: Japanese Benefactives, Metalinguistic Beliefs and the Identities of L2 Users.' In: Yoshitomi, Asako, Umino, Tae and Negishi, Masashi, (eds.), Readings in Second Language Pedagogy and Second Language Acquisition In a Japanese Context. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 119-153.

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This paper examines how the cognitive transformation necessary to the acquisition of benefactive structures is assessed and portrayed by Japanese language learners. Acquisition is seen here as a process involving not only increased ease of manipulation of linguistic structures (due to extended exposure), but also acculturation to Japanese native metaphors and conceptual framing (due to participation in social activities). Learners’ metalinguistic comments about the workings of the benefactive verbs and the learning process which they are experiencing are critiqued from the viewpoint of the relation between what they portray to be their patterns of use or avoidance, and their actual performance (measured in quantitative terms as actual frequency of use in recorded conversations). The gap emerging between perceived and actual performance is explained in terms of the linguistic ideologies based on which learners construe their learning persona. Learners are shown to be very sensitive to the literal meaning of these verbs; crucially, the literal meaning of ‘favor transfer’ is almost invariably felt to be alien to the learners’ own conceptual frame, and its meaning is often linked to the wider conceptual categories of honorification and politeness – a semantic fallacy which may be induced or at least allowed by teaching conventions. Frequency of use seems to increase with general proficiency and to be associated to an enhanced awareness of the less literal meanings of the verbs; in other words, fluent use is associated with a reconceptualization of such verbs as grammatical devices which imply, but do not necessarily foreground, a benefactive interpretation. Moreover, productive or creative use presupposes a speaker’s emancipation from the use of benefactives with a strictly literal meaning of ‘favor transfer’. The role of intersubjective practices – and by implication, of residence in the target culture - is held to be vital to the development of grammatical as well as pragmatic competence: novel formulations of conceptual categories such as that of ‘social indebtedness’ and ‘positive/negative affect’, which speakers of Japanese must consistently attend to, are seen as framing conventions to which learners are gradually led through extended exposure and participation in socially meaningful interaction, and in spite of apparently resisting cultural beliefs. The pervasiveness of benefactive structures as grammatical devices allows the metaphor of indebtedness as rhetorical device to ‘infiltrate’ native framing conventions and become gradually more salient, to the point of being exploited with even higher frequency than in native speakers data.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea
ISBN: 9789027233165
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2012 10:43

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