Patterns – Laboratory – Role-play

Billmyer (1990) conducted a study comparing the production of compliments and compliment responses by two different groups of ESL learners in interactions with native speakers of English. One group received formal tuition of how compliments work in American English while the other did not. In this case the research question actually pertained to language acquisition. Billmyer wanted to find out whether formal tuition improved the learners’ production of compliments and compliment responses. The participants were female speakers of Japanese who were learning English. In monthly meetings the learners were asked to perform compliment-inducing tasks. These tasks included showing photos of their homes and family members or teaching a proverb in their native language, or showing a piece of clothing they had bought recently (Billmyer 1990: 35). Thus the participants were not asked to perform compliments as such. They were asked to perform other tasks, in which the researcher had good reasons to believe that compliments would occur. Several aspects of the compliments were then compared across the two groups of learners, including the sentence pattern, the adjectives that were used and so on.