Apr 152015

‘Suggest’ is a performative verbs, so one of those verbs like ‘declare’, ‘order’ and ‘quit’ where we perform an action by saying it.

It can be tricky for English learners in a couple of ways. One issue is structure. There are a number of forms that can follow ‘suggest’, but also some that can’t. So, for example, we can suggest something to someone but we can’t suggest someone something.

The other issue is appropriacy. ‘I suggest…’ is marked in native speaker (NS) speech. It’s generally used in contexts where there’s a need to be clear and explicit. NSs are more likely to use forms like ‘How about…?’ or ‘Why don’t we…?’ to make run of the mill suggestions. But I don’t think that’s the case for English learners. I hear ‘I suggest…’ used with higher frequency in class conversations and here’s my theory on that…

English is used increasingly as a lingua franca because it happens to be the language most people share. In contexts where English is a second or third language for many users, there is a greater need to be explicit and clear. (There’s a lot of ELF research to back that up.) Performative verbs have a special role to play in clarity because they are explicit. Add to this the fact that languages change as they come into contact and I think we can expect to see the frequency of verbs like ‘suggest’ (and other performatives) rising. It’s natural that English will be adapted to meet the needs of its new users so ‘suggest’ is going to be an interesting verb to track for language change.

But I digress. Let me get back to our video. It addresses the issue of sentence structure, and we’ve also tried to demonstrate how NSs might use ‘suggest’. Essentially we’re trying to teach the pragmatics of ‘suggest’ here – the hidden meanings that go along with the word.

We were very lucky to have an all star cast helping us make this video. You can check out some of their other work here:
Rachel’s English: https://www.youtube.com/user/rachelsenglish
Jennifer ESL: https://www.youtube.com/user/JenniferESL
Jason R Levine (aka Fluency MC): https://www.youtube.com/user/collolearn
Kathy Fagan’s blog: http://www.freerangekef.blogspot.com

Hope you like it!

 Posted by at 2:30 pm

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