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Discourse and the Non-Native English Speaker By Michael Cribb

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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Discourse and the Non-Native English Speaker

Chapter 1

Introduction

At the heart of human communication is a linguistic system that acts as a mediator between members of our species. The single most important and useful function of this system is its ability to convey meaning in a form that is unique in the animal world: a propositionally encoded form of meaning. How it does this is not the concern of most of those who utilise it, since it appears to work reasonably well on a day-to-day basis. When it does break down, the disturbance is usually resolved fairly effortlessly through negotiation, and the conversation continues unabated. For those of us who cannot resist lifting the ‘bonnet’ on this system and ‘tinkering around with the engine’, however, these disturbances provide valuable information on how the system is structured and how it operates, and investigating the system through these disturbances can contribute significantly, I would suggest, to a theory of language.

Conveying propositional meaning through utterances does not seem to be much of a problem for mother-tongue speakers most of the time. For non-native speakers, however, expressing such meaning is much more problematic. One difficulty for them is the construction of utterances