Saturday, July 13, 2013

Gabriele Kasper and Johannes Wagner (2011) A Conversation-Analytic Approach to Second Language Acquisition

[This is one of the articles compiled for a class for my graduate students]

Gabriele Kasper and Johannes Wagner (2011) "A Conversation-Analytic Approach to Second Language Acquisition" in Dwight Atkinson (ed) Alternative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition (Routledge) [Paperback, Kindle Edition] (pp. 117-142)

p. 117

Q: The authors say "Sense-making draws on social orderliness, and social order is -- at the level of interaction -- achieved through participants' action and practices. (p. 117)" What is sense-meaning?

p. 118 Q: What is interaction order? Below is a quick introduction.

The authors say that interaction order is found in in the "methods" (procedures/practices) that social members recurrently and systematically use to achieve, maintain, and restore intersubjectivity in their practical activities. (p. 118)

Here is what Goffman said (1983: 2): "My concern over the years has been to promote acceptance of this face-to-face domain as an analytically viable one - a domain which might be titled, for want of any happy name, the interaction order - a domain whose preferred method of study is micro analysis." (Taken from

Q: What is interactional competence? Explain in your own words.

See the definition according to SIL International: "Interactional competence involves knowing and using the mostly-unwritten rules for interaction in various communication situations within a given speech community and culture. It includes, among other things, knowing how to initiate and manage conversations and negotiate meaning with other people. It also includes knowing what sorts of body language, eye contact, and proximity to other people are appropriate, and acting accordingly." (taken from

Q: Sometimes, the fifth area of "interaction" is added to the traditional four areas of "reading, writing, listening, and speaking" in theories of language teaching. How would you justify the addition? Use the concepts of "interaction order" and "interactional competence" in the justification.

The authors say that nteractional competence cannot be reduced to an individual, intrapsychological property; nor can it be separated from "performance" (p. 118). Why not?

p. 119

Q: Some people say that using a language IS learning a language. Try to justify this position by using the authors' argument on interactional competence as "both a fundamental condition for and object of learning." (p. 119)

Q: Explain the interrelation of interaction and grammar: (1) grammar organizes social interaction; (2) social interaction organizes grammar; and (3) grammar is a mode of interaction. (p.119)

p. 120

Q: The authors say that "CA relocates cognition from its traditional habitat in the privacy of people's minds to the arena of social interaction" and that a motivate for participation in interaction is "not a matter of volition but a system constraint of interaction." (p. 120) Explain.

pp. 121-122

Q: How is the concept of identity in CA different from that in poststructuralist theories or that in the cognitivist SLA theories?

p. 122

Q: What is the empirical advantage of CA identity study over poststructuralist identity research?

Q: Explain why CA takes an agnostic position.

p. 123

Q: Read the section of Data Quality and summarize the research methods of CA. (Use terms such as "data-driven," "naturally occurring," and "nonlinguistic behavior."


Q: Explain the following passage: "language learners seem to have a licence to do things others speakers rarely do, for example produce hesitant and delayed turns, code shift, or ask for help and explanations. The behaviours are accountable for L1 speakers and reflexively create the identity of a L2 learner. In other words, identity as a learner can be made relevant -- or not." (pp. 126-127)

p. 137

The authors suggest that CA should develop a relationship with ethnomethodology and discursive psychology.

Here is a quick explanation of discursive psychology from Wikipedia.

Discursive psychology (DP) is a form of discourse analysis that focuses on psychological themes.

Discursive psychology starts with psychological phenomena as things that are constructed, attended to, and understood in interaction. An evaluation, say, may be constructed using particular phrases and idioms, responded to by the recipient (as a compliment perhaps) and treated as the expression of a strong position. In discursive psychology the focus is not on psychological matters somehow leaking out into interaction; rather interaction is the primary site where psychological issues are live.

It is philosophically opposed to more traditional cognitivist approaches to language. It uses studies of naturally occurring conversation to critique the way that topics have been conceptualised and treated in psychology.


Discursive psychology was developed in the 1990s by Jonathan Potter and Derek Edwards at Loughborough University. It draws on the philosophy of mind of Ryle and the later Wittgenstein, the rhetorical approach of Michael Billig, the ethnomethodology of Harold Garfinkel and the conversation analysis of Harvey Sacks.


Discursive psychology conducts studies of both naturally occurring and experimentally engineered human interaction that offer new ways of understanding topics in social and cognitive psychology such as memory and attitudes. Although discursive psychology subscribes to a different view of human mentality than is advanced by mainstream psychology, Edwards and Potter's work was originally motivated by their dissatisfaction with how psychology had treated discourse. In many psychological studies, the things people (subjects) say are treated as windows (with varying degrees of opacity) into their minds. Talk is seen as (and in experimental psychology and protocol analysis used as) descriptions of people's mental content. In contrast, discursive psychology treats talk as social action; that is, we say what we do as a means of, and in the course of, doing things in a socially meaningful world. Thus, the questions that it makes sense to ask also change.

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