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Book: Comprehensibility in Language Assessment

Chapter: Comprehensibility at a Pragmatic Level

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.41100


This chapter focuses on the pragmatic aspect of comprehensibility, i.e., when the speaker’s sounds and words are clear, but their intended meaning is not because of their limited pragmatic knowledge. The discussions of this chapter will include the speaker’s perspective and highlights the dynamic nature of comprehensibility. After defining comprehensibility from a communication and intercultural perspective, the chapter will discuss the key aspects of pragmatic knowledge that affect comprehensibility. Summarising research in this area (e.g., Purpura, 2004; Rover, 2011, Taguchi, 2005, 2007, 2012) we will discuss issues such as use of formulaic expressions, implicatures and indirect speech acts as some potential areas in which comprehensibility issues arise. We will also focus on cultural norms and differences in pragmatic aspects of language use, e.g., politeness and backchannelling, that affect comprehensibility. More importantly, we will argue that to have a full understanding of the effects of pragmatic knowledge on comprehensibility, it is necessary to examine the speaker’s participation in extended discourse during both monologic and dialogic types of performance (Tavakoli, 2016; Tavakoli, 2018).

Chapter Contributors

  • Parvaneh Tavakoli ( - parvaneh) 'University of Reading'
  • Sheryl Cooke ( - scooke) 'British Council'