Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

World Languages

Major Professor

Camilla Vásquez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James Perren, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Adam Schwartz, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wei Zhu, Ph.D.


directives, Italian, pragmatics, relational work, service-learning, study abroad


Interaction with local speakers of a second language (L2) in a naturalistic setting during study abroad is beneficial to language learning in many respects; particularly in the development of pragmatic competence, or the awareness and ability to use the appropriate language for a specific social context (Kinginger, 2011; Magnan & Back, 2007; Schauer, 2009; Shively, 2011). Service-learning - volunteering in the local community combined with an academic pursuit - during study abroad provides the opportunity for meaningful interaction between language learners and local speakers of the L2 in authentic and collaborative settings (Overfield, 2007). This study examines the interactions of Italian L2 users and local speakers of Italian while engaged in service-learning in Italy. A sociopragmatic framework revealed emergent trends and linguistic norms in this context. Using a discourse analytic approach, this study offers a detailed description of directive use of the L2 learners and the local Italian speakers (Blum-Kulka, et al, 1989; Ervin-Tripp, 1976; Nuzzo, 2007). The study also examines (mis)understandings and relational work (Locher & Watts, 2008) that occur in the interactions. Primary data consists of audio recordings of the naturally-occurring interactions at three service-learning sites during a short-term summer study abroad program in Italy. Secondary data consists of interviews with the L2 users and their interlocutors. The data reveal that the majority of directives came from the local Italian speakers, not the L2 users, likely due to the clear power dynamic and the nature of the activities at each site. The directives were most commonly in the imperative with little or no mitigation for purposes of clarity or urgency of the tasks. Misunderstandings expressed by the L2 users were primarily linguistic, although there were also instances of pragmatic misunderstanding. Relational work emerged in the interactions, yet clear, explicit direction took precedent over face-work and rapport building among interactants. Findings from this study can be used to inform foreign language pedagogical practice in myriad ways; from developing practical applications for situated language use, to using actual transcripts from the data in pre-departure language and cultural activities in U.S. Italian language classrooms. Findings also provide community partners with data regarding the challenges, linguistic and otherwise, that L2 user/volunteers face during service-learning in Italy, and suggest areas for further research.