The answer seems to be obvious from the perspective of, say, ELF research. Yet things are less clear-cut in expanding circle regions where nativelikeness is increasingly a hallmark of language proficiency, success and status. This article hinges precisely on the assumption that specific speech functions such as hedging (used to express vagueness or non-assertiveness) are important assets in the construction of language proficiency in ELF classrooms. Thus, a case for hedging strings (HSs)-a set of formulaic sequences with pragmalinguistic relevance to the teaching of spontaneous speech functions in EFL- is presented.
Formulaic sequences such as sort of/kind of, usually disregarded as downtoners, are revisited, further classified into three main categories (utterance softeners, vagueness prompters, and conversational fillers) and analysed using samples from free-access corpora. Hedging strings are thus deemed to have a role in three different conversational models, namely NS/NS (L1-L1), NS/NNS (L1/L2), and NNS/NNS (L2-L2). In addition, this paper explores the concept of conversational grammar (CG) as a competence-driven construct and not simply as a performance, corpus-driven translation of digitised data brought into the classroom (corpus-driven learning, also referred to as data-driven learning [DDL]).
The connection with classroom is completed by the introduction of a constructionist framework to language acquisition (Goldberg, 1995; Goldberg, 2006) by means of concepts such as form-function pairings. Construction grammars depart form the assumption that general cognitive mechanisms, and not innate language endowment (as mainstream generative theory argue) are at play in language acquisition. This multidisciplinary theoretical framework is spiced up by a review of activities drawing on construction-noticing instructional strategies via enhanced types of input. These activities are aimed to consolidate the notion that conversational proficiency is at a large extent determined by learners’ ability to identify pragmalinguistic patterns of communication leading to the development of interactional competences.