Second Language Discourse Markers and Study Abroad: The Case of Pues and Bueno in Peninsular Spanish
This investigation examined the functions of two Spanish discourse markers, pues and bueno, in the interlanguage of intermediate English-speaking learners of Spanish. Pues is translated in English to ‘so’, ‘then’, ‘cos’, and ‘well’, and bueno is translated in English to ‘well’ and ‘alright’. Discourse markers like pues and bueno provide cohesion in spoken interaction, and despite the lack of attention received in second language research and classrooms, they are important linguistic features for second language users. While several studies have addressed discourse markers by non-native speakers, the present investigation contributed to the scarce body of research on interlanguage discourse marker use in Spanish and to general theoretical discussions about second language discourse marker use and acquisition by considering discourse marker frequency in input and describing the use of pues and bueno in the interlanguage of Spanish learners. In this investigation, frequency of use, functional range, and functional distribution were analyzed as three distinct facets of discourse marker proficiency.
Using a native speaker functional framework established by Travis (2005) for reference, the analyses responded to the following general questions: How do Spanish learners compare to native speakers of Peninsular Spanish in their frequency of use, functional range, and functional distribution of pues and bueno? How are these three variables among learners affected by a 6-week, language immersion study abroad program? Finally, how do native speakers of Peninsular Spanish and second language learners of Spanish compare in their characteristic patterns of pues and bueno functional use? Using oral interviews of 58 non-native (L2) Spanish speakers at the beginning and end of a program abroad and 14 native speakers (NS) of Spanish from Madrid, all tokens of pues (N = 506) and bueno (N = 273) were analyzed according to the functional framework (Travis, 2005). Analyses revealed infrequent L2 use of pues and bueno with a limited range of functions and distinct functional distribution compared to NS data. Over the program abroad, learners significantly increased their functional range of pues. No other significant differences in learner use over the program were identified. Detailed analysis of the patterns of use of native speakers and learners led to the identification of unique discourse marker uses in the interlanguage of learners. These findings were discussed in light of issues of interlanguage discourse marker use, discourse marker frequency in input, and second language instruction.