Greetings in Letters by EFL Primary School Children. A Longitudinal Study
AbstractIn this study we look at the use of salutations and valedictions in letters by primary school learners of English as a foreign language (EFL). Second language discourse studies have paid relatively little attention to the structural and pragmatic aspects of letter writing by university EFL learners. However, obligatory greetings in letters have been superficially addressed in research, hidden among other aspects. Likewise, there is a dearth of longitudinal studies to help understand how, over time, EFL learners (and in our case primary school students) develop discourse and pragmatic competence in letter writing, particularly with regard to its most distinguishable features: salutations and valedictions. In the present study we traced individual learners’ performance over three school years in order to identify patterns of use and developmental tendencies. The findings suggest the existence of stages of development in the use of greetings. In the process of acquisition, salutations come first and in many cases they are overextended to fulfil the functions of complimentary closings. Finally, the analysis of greetings uncovers children’s personal/individual voices and identities and reveals how children perceive their addressees. Keywords: greetings; letters; discourse development; pragmatic development; primary school EFL learners
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