Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Ke, Chuanren

First Committee Member

Liskin-Gasparro, Judith

Second Committee Member

Shen, Helen

Third Committee Member

Otto, Sue

Fourth Committee Member

Severino, Carol

Fifth Committee Member

Feeley, Jennifer


This study investigates the effects of instruction delivered via a learner-centered, self-access website on the learning of expressions of gratitude by L2 Chinese learners across proficiency levels. Three research questions are addressed: (1) whether the web-based instruction facilitates students' learning of Chinese expressions of gratitude, (2) whether the effects of instruction vary across proficiency levels, and (3) how L2 learners regard the use of the website as a learning tool.

Based on the noticing hypothesis and the pragmatic consciousness-raising approach, a pragmatics website was developed that provided explicit instruction on how to appropriately express gratitude in Chinese and offered awareness-raising exercises and activities for practice. It was structured in eight instructional units and two review sessions.

To address the three research questions, this study adopted a pretest-posttest design to include two groups of learners who differed in their proficiency in the Chinese language. The two groups of learners received pragmatics instruction delivered via the self-access website over five weeks. Two weeks prior to the instruction, all learners were asked to complete (1) the language contact profile (LCP) for eliciting their demographic information and their contact with Chinese outside the classroom, (2) a local standardized Chinese proficiency test (CPT) for assessing their proficiency in Chinese, (3) discourse completion tasks/tests (DCT) for soliciting their production of Chinese expressions of gratitude, (4) metapragmatic assessment tasks (MAT) for eliciting their metapragmatic assessment of thanking responses provided, and (5) retrospective interviews for soliciting learners' explanations of their assessments in the MAT. On a weekly basis during the treatment period, learners wrote reflective e-journals in response to prompt questions provided by the researcher, which helped track learners' self-access study progress and their on-going perceptions of the website. One week after the online instruction, all learners were also asked to complete the same types of questionnaires (i.e., the DCT and the MAT) and retrospective interviews for assessing their pragmatic development.

Results showed that after receiving the web-based instruction, all learners produced more appropriate expressions of gratitude and used more varied thanking strategies in their responses, regardless of their proficiency. Learners' assessments of Chinese expressions of gratitude became more target-like and their metapragmatic awareness was also promoted. However, higher-level learners seemed to have benefited more from the instruction in their production of Chinese expressions of gratitude than lower-level participants, and the higher-level group demonstrated an overall higher level of pragmatic awareness than the lower-level group after the online instruction. But no significant difference was found between the two groups in terms of learners' metapragmatic assessments. In addition, participants responded positively to the website and put forward constructive suggestions to improve it.

Finally, this study interpreted the findings based on cognitive processing theories, proposed both theoretical and pedagogical implications, and discussed the limitations of this study and directions for future research.


vii, 169 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 135-145).


Copyright 2013 Li Yang