LINGUIST List 24.2199

Mon May 27 2013

Review: Applied Ling; Discourse Analysis; Language Acquisition: Alcón Soler & Safont-Jordà (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

Date: 15-Mar-2013
From: Erhan Aslan <>
Subject: Discourse and language learning across L2 instructional settings
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Eva Alcón SolerEDITOR: Maria Safont-JordàTITLE: Discourse and language learning across L2 instructional settingsSERIES TITLE: Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication 24PUBLISHER: RodopiYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Erhan Aslan, University of South Florida


The aim of the present volume is to establish a connection between discourseand language learning, integrating various factors affecting discoursestructure in the foreign language classroom. As expressed in the introductionof the volume (p. 1), Eva Alcón Soler and Maria-Pilar Safont-Jordà emphasizethe need to conduct more research that brings together discourse and languagelearning from different perspectives, such as information processing,conversation analysis, and socio-cognitive and ethnographic approaches. Thestudies included in the volume explore discourse patterns in differentinstructional settings ranging from computer-mediated, classroom,multilingual, primary, secondary, and university contexts. The volume iscomprised of four parts consisting of thirteen chapters. The book is organizedin a fashion that displays the interface between discourse and differentinstructional settings including a variety of target foreign languages.

Part 1 (Discourse in L2 Learning Contexts) presents studies which focus on theanalysis of the discourse strategies and tools used by teachers in primary,secondary, and university level instructional settings. In the first chapter,“Primary school teachers’ language practices: A four year longitudinal studyof three FL classes,” Elsa Tragant and Carmen Muñoz report the findings of astudy conducted over a period of four years in a foreign language immersioncontext. They examined the classroom discourse features in a primary schoolcontext in Spain, particularly how the change of teacher throughout fourgrades reflected on students’ attitudes, perceptions, and linguistic progress.Case study findings from three different schools suggest that differentteaching practices lead to different classroom discourse patterns such aselicitation or elaboration moves, student output, and teaching style. Thestudy strengthens our understanding of how discourse patterns are dynamicallyco-constructed by both teachers and students in different primary schoolsettings and subject to change and reorganization.

In Chapter 2 of Part 1, “Lexical scaffolding in immersion classroomdiscourse,” Nathalie Blanc, Rita Carol, Peter Griggs, and Roy Lyster present astudy that investigates the instructional discourse patterns displayed by aFrench teacher and an English teacher in a French immersion primary schoolcontext in Montreal. The study focuses on the impact of different lexicalscaffolding strategies executed by the two teachers through bilingualread-aloud sessions on lexical processing of French dominant, Englishdominant, and bilingual eight-year old pupils. The pedagogical significance ofthe study lies in its potential contribution to raise teachers’ awareness ofthe interplay between language and content through metalinguistic,cross-linguistic, and experiential connections established during theinstructional interactions between teachers and students in the classroom.

Rita Tognini and Rhonda Oliver, in Chapter 3, entitled “L1 use in primary andsecondary foreign language classrooms and its contribution to learning,”investigate the context, nature, and purpose of the use of L1 in foreignlanguage instruction in primary and secondary classrooms in Australia. Theauthors report findings from audio and video recorded lessons in both primaryand secondary schools. The findings suggest that L1 use is dominant in allinstructional contexts, and L2 use seemed to be restricted to simple andpredictable exchanges. In addition, most learning was found to take place inteacher-learner interaction rather than in peer interaction. In line with thepurpose of Part 1, this chapter informs the reader of the various discoursestrategies employed by teachers in L1 and L2 exchanges, and how and to whatextent these exchanges contribute to learning, thus offering potentialresearch venues in bilingual education, classroom discourse analysis andclassroom interaction.

In the last chapter of Part 1, “Repair in Japanese request sequences duringstudent-teacher interactions,” Yumiko Tateyama focuses on the types of repairsequences encountered during student-teacher role play activities and the dualrole played by the teacher both as interlocutor and teacher. The conversationanalysis of three request role plays from two audio and video recordedsessions of a low-intermediate Japanese as a foreign language (JFL) class atan American university revealed that the teacher organizes the interactionalrepair trajectories in the classroom by initiating repair and providingfeedback when students encounter trouble. The author states that the shiftsbetween the two roles enable the teacher to assess student forms, makecorrections as needed, and adjust interaction during class activities. Alongwith the first three chapters in this part, this study also offers insightsinto classroom discourse with particular emphasis on teacher-studentinteraction from a conversation analytic perspective in a JFL higher educationcontext.

The second part of the volume (Discourse in Content and Language IntegratedContexts), which focuses on the interaction and language use in content andlanguage integrated learning (CLIL) contexts, starts with Chapter 5 on “Socialperspectives on interaction and language learning in CLIL classrooms.” AnaLlinares and Tom Morton present an overview of two social perspectives, namelythe socio-interactionist approach based on conversation analysis and situatedlearning theory, and systemic functional linguistics. According to theauthors, this approach helps identify the lexico-grammatical features thatCLIL students exhibit. Furthermore, the chapter stresses the importance ofcombining the two social approaches and elaborates on how such a combinationcontributes to the understanding of the interrelationship between contentpedagogy, language learning, interaction, and the discursive structure of theCLIL classroom communities. Finally, the authors suggest implications derivedfrom the fusion of social perspectives for CLIL research from both theoreticaland methodological aspects.

Tarja Nikula, in Chapter 6, reports the results of the study entitled, “On therole of peer discussions in the learning of subject-specific language use inCLIL.” In line with the theme of the volume, this chapter approaches languagelearners’ discourse in CLIL environments from a discourse-pragmatic andsocial-interpersonal dimension. Specifically, the author focuses on the impactof students’ peer discussions in group-work situations on theirsubject-specific language use. The data derived from the recordings of 7thgrade history lessons in secondary schools in Finland revealed that jointmeaning construction through peer discussions in group-work situations enabledlearners to be aware of the historical terms and concepts and use discoursepatterns related to the content. This study brings forth a new perspective toCLIL research, stressing the socio-constructivist underpinnings of CLIL.

The effects of CLIL on higher education contexts are explained in the lastchapter of Part 2. Ute Smit, in the study entitled “English as a Lingua Franca(ELF) and its role in integrating content and language in higher education: Alongitudinal study of question-initiated exchanges,” investigates the impactof ELF on the discourse-pragmatic structure of question-initiated exchangeswith particular emphasis on the teacher-student interaction in an Austrianpost-secondary program in international hotel management. The datasetcollected during a period of four semesters, comprised of 50 semi-structuredinterviews, informal conversations with students, teachers, andadministrators, and 33 audio-recorded and transcribed lessons was bothquantitatively and qualitatively analyzed. The findings revealed that as thecourse progressed, initially teacher-centered question exchanges weregradually replaced by whole class and more student-generated exchanges thatinvolved referential questions which focused on reason and explanation ratherthan facts (‘why’ vs. ‘what’ questions). Clearly, the study highlights theimportance of how CLIL promotes student involvement in the classroom andinforms teacher education programs of the discourse structure of ELF highereducation contexts.

Part 3 (Discourse in New Language Learning Contexts), which focuses on theanalysis of discourse in new language learning settings, begins with Chapter8, “Identity and face in institutional English as Lingua Franca discourse.” Init, Juilane House presents a study conducted in a German university. The studylooks at the institutional pedagogical interactions in ELF during academicadvising sessions between advisors and their students coming from different L1backgrounds, particularly the discourse structure pertaining to identity andface related issues. The author reports how code-switching and the I-plus-Verbconstructions ‘I think’ and ‘I mean’ are primarily used as identityconstruction strategies. Academic advisors’ automatic switch to their L1during their interactions with students is purported to be a connection withtheir L1 identity. Also, I-plus-Verb constructions are identified as anexpression of a speaker’s opinion rather than mere discourse markers usuallycharacterized as semantically empty fillers in native English speaker speech.The study concludes that the mode of interaction, either L1 or ELF, factors inthe hierarchical perceptions and interaction in a language other than themother tongue and might pose challenges for the institutionally sanctionedposition of the academic advisor.

In Chapter 9, “The voices of immigrant students in the classroom: discoursepractices and language learning in a Catalan-Spanish bilingual environment”,Josep Maria Cots and Laura Espelt present the findings of a case study thatfocuses on the social environment and language learning process of a femaleteenage immigrant student. Following a linguistic ethnographic approach, thestudy looks at the discursive means afforded to the student faced with threelanguages (Catalan, Spanish, and English) different from her L1 in theCatalonian educational institution, and the process in which her experiencesfeed into her identity construction and self-expression. Mainly comprised ofobservational data, the study also includes semi-structured and informalinterviews with other students and teachers. The findings suggest that thestudent made use of the interactional negotiation of meanings to constructknowledge and displayed agency that resists the structure or adapts it torelevant goals. Unlike other studies included in the volume, this oneemphasizes the macro analysis of the discourse structure of the learningenvironment, and offers insights to the understanding of the contextualfactors of learning from a socio-cultural standpoint.

The focus of Chapter 10 in Part 3, “Email openings and closings:Pragmalinguistic and gender variation in learner-instructor cyberconsultations,” by César Félix-Brasdefer is on the discourse practices inemailing in computer-mediated communication (CMC) environments with particularemphasis on greetings and closings. The author analyzed a natural corpus of320 email messages sent from US undergraduate learners of Spanish to theirinstructors. The findings suggested that while the students displayed moreinformal and conversational features in the openings, they used a formal stylein the closings. In addition, the type and frequency of the opening moves wasinfluenced by the gender of the writer of the email message. For instance, thefrequency of the use of the greeting word only (e.g. ‘Hola’, ‘Hello/Hi’) inthe female L2 Spanish and L1 English data was significantly higher than in themale data. Overall, the study offers significant implications for thedevelopment of learners’ L2 pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic knowledge andcompetence in academic settings. Equally important is that the study informsthe reader of the particular discourse conventions that are exemplified in aCMC environment and encourages further attention to and research on thesefast-growing technology-mediated language learning contexts.

Finally, Part 4, “Issues for further research on discourse and languagelearning” presents three chapters that touch upon the effect of gender,corrective feedback, and codeswitching on language learning. Chapter 11, “Doesgender influence task performance in EFL? Interactive tasks and languagerelated episodes” by Agurtzane Azkarai and María del Pilar Garcia Mayo,focuses on differences that males and females exhibit in their conversationalinteraction and the effect of various tasks learners are engaged in duringproduction. The context chosen for the study was an English as a ForeignLanguage (EFL) context. The authors investigated the interaction betweenmatched and mixed gender pairs of Basque-Spanish bilinguals learning Englishduring their engagement in both information-gap (picture description andpicture placement) and collaborative tasks (dictogloss and picture story). Theresults indicated that the gender pairings did not affect the language relatedepisodes (LRE). However, it was found that the type of task, especially thetasks that required written language, led to the production of a higher numberof LREs. The authors suggest that future research can integrate otherindividual variables such as motivation, attention, working memory, etc., tosee their relative effects on task-based interaction.

Patricia Salazar, in Chapter 12 on “Exploring learners’ reaction to correctivefeedback through stimulated recall interviews,” explores how foreign languagelearners notice explicit and implicit corrective feedback (CF) on theirwritten production through a stimulated recall (SR) interview. In the study,eight Spanish university students majoring in English philology were requiredto write an assignment for one of the subjects of their degree. The studentswho received both explicit and implicit feedback from the teacher during aninterview were then asked to verbalize their thoughts about this interview ina second stimulated recall interview. The findings revealed that studentsnoticed and reported both versions of feedback, and that 80% of the mistakesreported were corrected in the tailor-made posttests. The most prominentimplication of the study is that SR is a useful methodological tool insecond/foreign language learning to reflect the effectiveness of CF forgrammar learning.

The concluding chapter of the volume, “Code switching in classroom discourse:A multilingual approach” focuses on cross-linguistic influence and codeswitching in an English as a foreign language (EFL) context. In their study,Laura Portolés Falomir and Sofia Martín-Laguna investigated the code-switchingpatterns in the English oral production of 25 Catalan-Spanish bilingualchildren in a Spanish primary school. The data consisted of recordings ofdaily English lessons in which the oral tasks were completed by the students.The results suggested that code-switches mainly had a pragmatic function inthe sense that they were intentionally manipulated by the students to conveymeaning in specific contexts. The study sheds light on the interaction amonglanguages in multilingual learning environments and informs classroomdiscourse research of how multilingualism affects the learning process andcontributes to the learning of additional languages.


The topic and purpose of this book emphasize the interface between classroomdiscourse and foreign language learning, describing the particular discoursepatterns, strategies, and tools exploited by both learners and teachers invarious educational contexts. The intended purpose is successfully achieved inthe first three parts of the volume with clear focus on and relevance to thespecific topics such as teacher, learner, and classroom discourse,teacher-learner interaction, and newly arising language learning contexts.

Of the various themes the studies display, the impact of the teacher in thelanguage classroom with regard to the dynamics of interaction is pivotal. Thefirst part of the book is dedicated to how teacher-student interaction affectsthe discourse structure of the classroom at different levels. Teachers,indeed, play an important role in providing feedback ,and students expectinterventions from teachers with regard to their performance in the classroom(Lyster and Ranta,1997). To this end, the teacher constitutes an importantsegment of the classroom discourse and facilitates negotiation of meaning byproviding corrective feedback in the form of elicitation, metalinguisticfeedback, clarification requests, teacher repetition of error, etc. Therefore,as elaborately described in the studies in this part of the volume, theteacher-student interaction is more influential than student-studentinteraction, facilitates learning more, and appeals to students’ needs andexpectations.

Content and language integrated learning (CLIL) forms the basis of the secondpart of the volume and the studies presented in this part offer severalimplications for language learning and teaching. CLIL seems to change theinteraction type in the classroom and offers a more student-centered learningenvironment which is not generally observed in traditional classrooms whereteacher-centered teaching practices are more prevalent. In addition, CLILaffords students enough discourse space to participate, discards the barriersbetween the teacher and the students, and gives them equal opportunities tointeract in the classroom (Nikula, 2010). Thus, CLIL brings forth a newapproach to classroom pedagogy and discourse. Equally important is theacademic language CLIL displays and the discourse functions that aredemonstrated by the contextualized interactions that take place in theclassroom, such as explaining, defining, or hypothesizing (Dalton-Puffer,2011). Finally, the theoretical foundation of CLIL is rooted in socialconstructivist approaches (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006). The immediate learningsituation and context enable students to engage in social encounters and helpthem co-construct knowledge in a collaborative fashion.

The main theme of Part 3 of the volume is the interface between classroomdiscourse and sociolinguistic phenomena such as identity construction, genderdifferences in communication, and the social learning practices of immigrantstudents. The display of a wide range of social and cultural roles andidentities by language teachers and students in various instructional contextshas been noted by Duff & Uchida (1997). These roles and identities play animportant role in changing the dynamics and the structure of the classroom.The identities and beliefs are co-constructed, negotiated, and undergo changethrough the use of language. In addition to voice and identity, this part ofthe volume demonstrates how the gender variable causes pragmalinguisticvariation in the email openings and closings of students in computer-mediatedlearning environments. Identity construction, voice, and gender are the mostcommonly studied variables in computer-mediated communication (CMC) (Pfaffman,2007). Thus, this part of the volume could have included more studies on howthese variables in CMC learning settings affect the discourse practices ofboth teachers and learners. Nevertheless, the manifestation of identity,voice, and gender by means of different discourse elements in the languageclassroom is clearly demonstrated.

The topical unity and coherence in the previous three parts of the volume is,unfortunately, not maintained in the final part. This part includes andhighlights some issues (e.g. gender and EFL task performance, correctivefeedback, and codeswitching) that are either touched upon in previous parts orlack a clear connection to discourse and language learning settings. Forinstance, Salazar’s study in Chapter 12 does not offer any explicitimplications as to how stimulated recall interviews and corrective feedbacktie into discourse features of the learning environment, thus it falls outsideof the scope and purpose of the volume. In addition, some of the chapters inthis part could have been included in one of the previous three partsaccording to their topic of relevance. For example, Chapter 11, which focuseson gender (a sociolinguistic aspect) in EFL task performance, could have beenincluded in Part 3, whose focus is on sociolinguistic phenomena and discourse.As mentioned above, a new part that would include studies on the discoursefeatures of online language learning communities (e.g. Second Life, Wehner,Gump, & Downey, 2011) as newly arising language learning contexts could havebeen integrated into the volume.

Overall, though, this book is a great source for language teachers, teachereducators, language policy makers, and those who want to familiarizethemselves with classroom discourse in language learning. In addition,researchers and scholars interested in the interface between discourseanalysis and language learning across various settings will find severalissues deserving of further research in each chapter of the volume.


Dalton-Puffer, C. (2011). Content-and-language integrated learning: Frompractice to principles? Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 31, 182-204.

Nikula, T. (2010). On effects of CLIL on a teacher’s language use. In C.Dalton-Puffer, T. Nikula, & U. Smit (Eds.) Language use and language learningin CLIL classrooms, pp. 105-124. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Lantolf, J. P., & Thorne, S. L. (2006). Sociocultural theory and the genesisof second language development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lyster, R. & Ranta, L. (1997). Corrective feedback and learner uptake:Negotiation of form in communicative classrooms. Studies in Second LanguageAcquisition, 20, 37-66.

Pfaffman, J. (2008). Computer-mediated communications technologies. In J. M.Spector, M. D. Merill, J. V. Merriënboer, M. P. Driscoll (Eds.) Handbook ofresearch on educational communications and technology (third edition), pp.225-231. New York: Routledge.

Wehner, A. K., Gump, A. W., & Downey, S. (2011). The effects of Second Life onthe motivation of undergraduate students learning a foreign language.Computer Assisted Language Learning, 24(3), 277-289.


Erhan Aslan is a doctoral student in the program of Second LanguageAcquisition and Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida,where he also teaches Academic English in the English Language Program. Hisresearch interests include individual differences in second languageacquisition, the interface between language learning, socio-pragmaticcompetence, discursive accordances of language learning contexts, teacher andlearner beliefs about language learning, and native vs. non-native dichotomyin second language teacher education.

Page Updated: 27-May-2013