Learner Perception of Formal and Informal Pronouns in Russian

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Abstract

This project investigates whether learners of Russian perceive the sociocultural weight of the two personal pronouns for ‘you,’ty (informal/intimate) and vy (formal/polite) when they listen to native speech. Research on address pronoun use shows it to be an important sociocultural variable and, while there is some general consistency in use, there is also a great deal of manipulation of the pronouns to create effect or demonstrate a change in relational dynamic. Students at Northeast College and Midwest University participated in a listening task involving video clips from Russian and Soviet films. Results indicate that perception of the pronouns in a listening task is not significantly different across proficiency levels. That is, beginning and advanced learners demonstrate similar ability with the understanding of the feature. Furthermore, female learners outperformed male learners on the listening task to a statistically significant degree within each program. These results add to the body of knowledge in second language acquisition and, more specifically, to our knowledge of how pragmatic features of a language are understood by learners.

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