Oral proficiency and pragmatic marker use in L2 spoken Spanish: The case of pues and bueno

Julieta Fernández, Anna Gates Tapia, Xiaofei Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This paper presents a corpus-based examination of pragmatic marker use in Spanish as a foreign language. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, it examines the frequency and seven functional differences in the use of pues and bueno in the oral examination of 46 participants using the Computer Assisted Screening Tool (CAST) online test. The participants were adult (average age 22) non-native speaking examinees at two levels of language proficiency. The study investigated whether examinees' proficiency level would influence the pragmatic markers' rate of occurrence and variety of functions.Frequency measures of pragmatic markers were obtained from examinees rated at two levels of proficiency: 'full' or 'fail'.11'Full' and 'fail' are the terms used in the CAST test as descriptors of the test takers who were rated as highly proficient ('full'), or as not meeting the criteria for highly proficient ('fail'). In no way are they intended to disparage the efforts of any test takers. A discourse analytic approach was then employed to examine the discursive functions of pragmatic markers. The quantitative results showed that proficiency level was significantly related to the overall frequency of use of the focal markers, with the 'full' group tending to use them more frequently than the 'fail' group. Qualitatively, the study found that higher proficiency speakers used both pragmatic markers for a wider range of functions than their lower proficiency counterparts.The discussion considers the implications for raising learner awareness of pragmatic marker contributions to perceived oral fluency and pragmatic capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-164
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Oral proficiency
  • Pragmatic markers
  • Spanish as a foreign language
  • Spoken Spanish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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