The proposed paper will discuss currently employed means for assessing directness levels in request speech acts and present an alternative means for assessing those levels. Previous research in cross–cultural pragmatics, which aims to ascertain to what extent speech acts are universal in nature or culturally and language specific, as well as research in interlanguage pragmatics, which investigates the process by which pragmatic competence is acquired in a second language, provide the theoretical framework for a recently completed dissertation. The data for this paper consist of 60 native speaker (NS) performances, and 84 non–native speaker (NNS) performances on OPI role–play situations containing request scenarios, with NNS participants varying by proficiency levels and study abroad experience.
The degree of directness of the request strategies (the linguistic means chosen by speakers to voice requests) generated in the role–plays were analyzed using two different taxonomies: The Cross–Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP) taxonomy, and a new taxonomy developed by the presenter in the course of dissertation research. The new taxonomy assesses request speech acts based on the number of inferences required to correctly interpret an utterance as a request. A comparison of the results achieved by analyzing the data using the two taxonomies shows that the inference–based taxonomy reveals differences in directness levels among NS and NNS groups that the CCSARP taxonomy obscures. By revealing differences in NS and NNS linguistic performances, as well as differences among non–native speakers of varying proficiency levels and experience in the target culture, the inference–based taxonomy provides researchers a new means for examining the development of interlanguage pragmatics in request situations.