Comprehensibility in Language Assessment - A Broader Perspective - Parvaneh Tavakoli

Comprehensibility in Language Assessment - A Broader Perspective - Parvaneh Tavakoli

Comprehensibility at a Pragmatic Level

Comprehensibility in Language Assessment - A Broader Perspective - Parvaneh Tavakoli

Parvaneh Tavakoli [+-]
University of Reading
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Parvaneh Tavakoli is a Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Reading. Parvaneh's main research interest lies in the interface of second language acquisition, language teaching, and language testing. Parvaneh has led several international research projects investigating the effects of task and task design on performance, acquisition, assessment and policy in different contexts. Her research has been published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals and books.
Sheryl Cooke [+-]
British Council
Sheryl Cooke is an Assessment Researcher with the British Council Assessment Research Group. Sheryl has 20 years’ experience in various areas of language assessment and her qualifications include an MA Language Testing (Lancaster University) and an MA Linguistics (SOAS). She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland), focusing on the assessment of spoken English and the potential implications for English as a Lingua Franca. Her research interests include assessment of speaking, the use of new technologies in language testing and the ethics of language assessment in the global context.


This chapter focuses on the pragmatic aspect of comprehensibility, i.e., when the speaker’s sounds and words are clear, but their intended meaning is not because of their limited pragmatic knowledge. The discussions of this chapter will include the speaker’s perspective and highlights the dynamic nature of comprehensibility. After defining comprehensibility from a communication and intercultural perspective, the chapter will discuss the key aspects of pragmatic knowledge that affect comprehensibility. Summarising research in this area (e.g., Purpura, 2004; Rover, 2011, Taguchi, 2005, 2007, 2012) we will discuss issues such as use of formulaic expressions, implicatures and indirect speech acts as some potential areas in which comprehensibility issues arise. We will also focus on cultural norms and differences in pragmatic aspects of language use, e.g., politeness and backchannelling, that affect comprehensibility. More importantly, we will argue that to have a full understanding of the effects of pragmatic knowledge on comprehensibility, it is necessary to examine the speaker’s participation in extended discourse during both monologic and dialogic types of performance (Tavakoli, 2016; Tavakoli, 2018).

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Tavakoli, Parvaneh; Cooke, Sheryl. Comprehensibility at a Pragmatic Level. Comprehensibility in Language Assessment - A Broader Perspective. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Feb 2024. ISBN 9781800504332. Date accessed: 08 Dec 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.41100. Feb 2024

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