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Academic Paper

Title: Introduction
Author: Alison Mackey
Institution: Georgetown University
Author: Susan M. Gass
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Michigan State University, USA
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition
Abstract: Initially, the exploration of interactions between native speakers (NSs) and nonproficient nonnative speakers (NNSs) of a language was descriptive in nature, and the research largely focused on the ways in which conversations between L2 learners and NSs were structured. In this early descriptive groundwork (e.g., Gass & Varonis, 1985; Long, 1980; Pica, 1987, 1988; Pica, Young, & Doughty, 1987; Varonis & Gass, 1985), the goal was to describe the ways in which conversations with language learners at lower levels of proficiency differed from conversations with fluent speakers. Naturally, such research included a good deal of analysis and investigation into the frequency, functions, and patterns of negotiation routines, including clarification requests, comprehension checks, and confirmation checks, as well as into the possible functions of comprehension as a stepping stone to learning.

In one example of such early research, Wagner-Gough and Hatch (1975) reported on the linguistic behavior of a young Chinese speaker learning English who often incorporated information from a preceding utterance to construct his own discourse. They presented this tendency as support for their now famous argument that conversation was used not only to practice the L2 but also as an actual venue to support learning. From this descriptive research evolved investigations into the value and function of particular discourse patterns. For example, Long (1983a, 1983b) attempted to provide an explanatory framework for the descriptive data that were accruing. He proposed that the discourse structure and the interactional modifications that were part of this discourse helped the learner to comprehend what was being said--an essential part of acquisition. In other words, specific aspects of interaction provided learners with opportunities to gain new linguistic information. Many studies throughout the 1980s and early 1990s examined the links between conversation and comprehension.


This article appears IN Studies in Second Language Acquisition Vol. 28, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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