Pragmatic competence and social power awareness: The case of written and spoken discourse in non-native English environments


  • Carmen Pérez-Sabater Universitat Politècnica de València
  • Begoña Montero-Fleta Universitat Politècnica de València
Keywords: Pragmatic competence, powerful vs. powerless style, discourse markers, Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), workplace interactions


Following one of the new challenges suggested by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, a treatment was developed to enhance pragmatic competence, since this competence is not easy to acquire by non-native speakers. Within this context, we focused on pragmatic awareness in the workplace, an area of expertise in growing demand today. Specifically, we centred on the power variable and the distinction between powerful and powerless speech styles through negotiation, co-planning and goal-oriented interactions. Powerful speech has been envisaged as the language of success; however, the positive implications of powerless speech in the workplace have been recently posited. After an instruction phase, the results confirmed that powerless markers were prone to be used adequately in writing, while in oral interactions non-native speakers were not able to employ them fluently or, at least, naturally. The treatment encouraged the critical engagement of students in the process of learning new ways of communicating at work.


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Author Biographies

Carmen Pérez-Sabater, Universitat Politècnica de València

Carmen Pérez-Sabater, Ph.D., associate professor, has been lecturing in English for Computer Science at the Universitad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain), Department of Applied Linguistics, since 1990. She is currently working in the field of Comparative Discourse Analysis, English for Specific/Academic Purposes, Computer-Mediated Communication and Gender Studies. Her research has been published in prestigious journals such as Ibérica, Journal of Pragmatics, RESLA, RSEL, and Written Communication, among others.


Begoña Montero-Fleta, Universitat Politècnica de València

Begoña Montero-Fleta, Phd, is an associate professor of English at the Universitat Politècnica de València. Her areas of interest are the application of new technologies in language learning, discourse analysis and terminology. As well as textbook and material design for language learning, her publications and international conference presentations have addressed classroom innovations, comparative discourse analysis and scientific terminology.
How to Cite
Pérez-Sabater, C., & Montero-Fleta, B. (2014). Pragmatic competence and social power awareness: The case of written and spoken discourse in non-native English environments. International Journal of English Studies, 14(2), 21–38.