Interactional competence in L2 task-based text-chat interactions
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Makoto Abe
Decades of research on L2 interactional competence has explored how L2 learners understand prior turns or signal their understanding to others through the deployment of the interactional resources available to them as they work towards the achievement of interactional goals (Hall & Pekarek Doehler, 2011). Several studies have investigated the relationship between proficiency and interactional practices or the development of such practices (Abe, 2019; Al-Gahtani & Roever, 2012, 2018; Galaczi, 2014; Hellermann, 2007; Pekarek Doehler & Berger, 2016; Pekarek Doehler & Pochon-Berger, 2011; Taguchi, 2015). However, notwithstanding a few exceptions (e.g., Gonzales, 2013; Gonzalez-Lloret, 2008, 2011), text-based computer-mediated communication (CMC), such as text chat, has been relatively under-explored. It is important for L2 pragmatics researchers to focus on the ability to conduct online L2 interactions and manage the medium-specific features of these interactions in a global digital age. This study examined interactional competence in L2 task-based text-chat interactions. More specifically, this study investigated how Japanese learners of L2 English with different proficiency levels deployed interactional practices from the openings to the closings of the task talk they produced in response to three discussion tasks. To explore task openings, I focused on the sequential placement of text-chat posts which proffered a first idea potentially leading to task accomplishment, that is, first-idea proffers (FIPs); as well as exchanges of posts prior to FIPs, namely, preliminaries. The data analysis showed that higher-level learners’ first-idea proffers tended to occur as a response to a previous soliciting move, whereas lower-level learners’ idea-proffers were less responsive. As proficiency increased, linguistic repertoires for FIPs also showed more variation, while lower-level learners predominantly relied on a narrower range of lexico-syntactic forms. An analysis of task closings was conducted by examining two types of two-turn sequences: summons-answer sequences between one of the dyadic participants and the researcher used to confirm that the task talk was complete; and terminal exchanges between dyadic participants, namely, the last exchanges prior to a summons. The results indicate that more proficient leaners were capable of managing disrupted adjacency between two turns, and only high-level learners could observably problematize and reformulate crossed posts during closing rituals to maintain intersubjectivity among all participants in the interaction, including the researcher. With regard to topical talk, the analysis found that as proficiency levels increased, learners were more dependent on explicit solicitation for second ideas. When extending topics in talk, learners of different proficiency levels deployed different interactional practices in terms of their engagement with other-initiated ideas, tendency to offer disagreement, and construction of roles and identities. The analysis also focused on non-topical talk such as informing the interlocutor of the remaining time, uploading a photo, fixing a spelling error, and dealing with miscommunication. Overall, this study, in which interactions were carried out in a text-only condition, confirmed the findings of previous studies on IC in spoken interaction, namely that the more proficient learners are, the more diverse their methods are. Analysis of across-task variations in pragmatic performance allowed for a more fine-grained picture of this tendency to emerge. This research provided several insights relevant to future IC research regarding how best to apply CA to the analysis of text-based CMC by adapting certain aspects of its analytic mentality to this medium, how best to explore task- and medium-specific resources unexplored by previous studies, how best to explore the potential of overall structural organizations such as openings and closings for the purpose of measuring L2 learners’ pragmatic competence and IC, and how best to discuss CA-findings from the perspective of L2 pragmatics instruction.
KeywordsInterlanguage Pragmatics, Conversation Analysis, Computer-mediated Communication, and Computer-Assisted Language Learning
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