Understanding English Language Learners’ Pragmatic Resistance

  • Noriko IshiharaEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


Learners often choose to socialize into local or imagined community practices by aligning with the pragmatic norms of the target language. However, they are known to sometimes elect to depart from what they perceive as typical target community behavior. This phenomenon of pragmatic resistance underscores the centrality of subjectivity in pragmatic language use and development. Deliberate pragmatic choices divergent from perceived target community norms occur not when the norms of the learners and those of the target language are simply different but when the latter conflict with learners’ bi- or multicultural identities, values, personal principles, attitudes, and investments. While pragmatic resistance is documented as an incidental finding in many studies, several have investigated it as a central theme in relation to learners’ subjectivity. These studies show that through pragmatic resistance, learners exercise agency and negotiate their translingual subjectivity and multicompetence in the uniquely crafted third space. Learners may not position themselves as fully fledged community members held accountable for adhering to target norms. Moreover, learners may view perceived native-speaker norms as irrelevant or even undesirable for themselves, as in communicating in English as a Lingua Franca. Theoretically, the language socialization framework can explicate the connection between this individual behavioral choice and its collective societal impact. Given the complex nature of pragmatic resistance and its complex linkage to subjectivity, it would be unfair to invariably penalize learners for pragmatically divergent language use. As regards culturally sensitive pedagogy and assessment, instructional strategies and resources will be discussed along with suggestions for future research.


Resistance Subjectivity Socialization Pragmatic norms Community practice Identity Agency Divergence 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Markets and Management, Faculty of Business AdministrationHosei UniversityTokyoJapan

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