Learning a new script: An exploration of sociolinguistic competence

Susan Ranney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The current interest in the development of communicative competence has ledattention to the social uses of language in second language teaching and research. While many studies have examined the acquisition of speech acts, there has been less research on the knowledge of how speech acts fit together in extended discourse. The present study proposes an alternative approach to research on the acquisition of sociocultural competence, focusing on a speech event rather than a speech act, and drawing on the concept of scripts as developed by cognitive psychologists. The speech event examined here is the medical consultation, and the non-native speakers are Hmong learners of English, a group of refugees from Southeast Asia whose traditional view of illness and medicine is very different from the western model they encounter in the United States. This study is exploratory in nature, proposing a combination of methods to investigate norms for a speech event. Script elicitation uncovered cultural knowledge of the choice and sequencing of language functions in the medical consultation. Information from interviews and a discourse completion task for relevant speech acts was combined with the script data to provide a multidimensional picture of sociolinguistic knowledge for one speech event.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-50
Number of pages26
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 1992

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