January 2014 - Volume 8 Number 2 - Pages 1-147
Multilingual transfer: L1 morphosyntax in L3 English
This study investigates the acquisition of two properties of the null subject parameter in L3 English: subject-verb inversion in declarative sentences and null expletive subjects. The participants are L1 Arabic-advanced L2 French adults learning L3 English in a formal foreign language context. The study considers the nature of the grammar in the L3 initial stages and which of the L1 or the L2 constitutes the source of morphosyntactic transfer. The predictions of two L3 transfer scenarios are tested, the Typological Primacy Model and the L1 transfer scenario. The results of an acceptability judgement task and a preference task seem show that L1 Arabic is the source of morphosyntactic transfer in the L3 initial stages, overriding the effect of language proximity, typology and psychotypology that would have instigated L2 French transfer.
Instant messaging in office hours: Use of ellipsis dots at work and Hong Kong culture
This study investigates how ellipsis dots can have a subtle contribution to instant messaging talk in a Hong Kong workplace, and how the use of them can reconstruct the prevailing ideological values in Hong Kong culture. Based on Wenger’s (1998) framework of communities of practice and Gee’s (2011) model of discourse analysis, the result demonstrates that ellipsis dots play an invisible but vital role in instant messaging interactions of humor, gossip, code-switching, mentoring and core-business issues. As a text-free turn or combined with other symbolic strategies, ellipsis dots (1) indicate speechlessness to respond to humor or intensify surprise, (2) visualize thinking in progress to moderate code-switching or mitigate instructive comments, (3) help to hold the conversational floor for better alignment and cooperativeness, and (4) imitate on-and-off speech for hedging and bad news. Lying behind these phenomena is the replay of Hong Kong cultural preferences of staying harmonious, cooperative and friendly, maintaining the balance between individualism and social relationships, and keeping the equilibrium between face pace and safe communication. It is concluded that ellipsis dots can be a conscious paralinguistic strategy in accomplishing work- and/or socially-oriented goals in workplace instant messaging, and that the use of ellipsis dots is both culturally-constructed and culturally-constructive.
Keywords: Workplace Discourse Analysis; Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis; Instant Messaging; Punctuation; Ellipsis Dots; Culture; Hong Kong
Royal sport and social distance: Television interviews with Prince Andrew and Princess Anne
The British royal family has responded to changes in society in recent generations, becoming more accessible to the public through the mass media. The identities of royal family members have become less authoritarian, and their behaviour and speech patterns less formal; they are also more emotionally demonstrative. This is a study of television interviews involving the sporting royals, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne, using a methodology that combines Conversation Analysis with recent approaches to the linguistic construction of identity. The identities of both royals support the hypothesis that changing patterns in society as a whole have indeed led the British royals to develop an identity characterised by social closeness. However, traces of more elitist social attitudes are found in both interviews. It concludes that royal identities oscillate between the preservation of an increasingly threatened private space, and collaboration with media representatives to create an acceptable public image. The collaborative role of media representatives in these processes is also highlighted.
Keywords: Identity Construction; Interaction; British Royal Family; Social Distance; Social Closeness; Media
Code-mixing and its impact on language competence
Along with China’s economic growth, code-mixing is becoming a common phenomenon, especially in big cities. Meanwhile, it is a topic of research in China’s language education as there are different views on the influence of code-mixing in terms of the development of L2 competence or maintenance of L1. One of the views is that code-mixing is a sign of an inability to express oneself, and it reduces the opportunity of using L2 completely. For this reason, code-mixing is regarded as a factor leading to the decline of language proficiency. To discover the impact of code-mixing on its users’ language competence, the current paper reports an empirical study that investigates code-mixing in three coastal cities of China. 230 Chinese-English bilinguals participated in the study, and the study employed questionnaires and tests to collect data. The data were quantitatively classified and statistically analyzed and described. Findings revealed that most users did not feel code-mixing to be detrimental; the test results are in line with the participants' feelings. The conclusion of the paper can prompt people concerned to re-examine the role of code-mixing on L2 development and L1 maintanence from a wider perspective.
Keywords: Code-Mixing; Code-Switching; L2 Development; Language Competence; Language Communication
Engagement as perception-in-action in process drama for teaching and learning Italian as a second language
This article takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining some core elements of drama education with sociocultural theory. It draws on the findings of a doctoral study exploring the nature of learner engagement when process drama is used to teach Italian as a second language. In particular, the article focuses on the construct of engagement as perception-in-action in improvised social interactions, in role, with adult learners at an intermediate-advanced level. The article opens with an overview of recent research on process drama for second language learning. It then provides the theoretical framework for the study, discussing process drama pedagogy and the construct of engagement. Next, the context of the study is discussed, in terms of methodology, methods, and participants. The discussion continues with an analysis of engagement as perception-in-action, first by zooming into a segment of classroom interaction, and then zooming out to three case studies. Finally, findings on engagement are discussed, in terms of agency as self-regulation in managing improvisation with language and with the elements of drama, including dramatic irony. The article concludes by pointing to dialogic interaction in process drama mediating, and being mediated by, dramatic tension, and the implications for second language learners and teachers.
Keywords: Process Drama; Engagement; Dramatic Tension; Perception-in-Action; Irony
Assessment of critical thinking skills through reading comprehension
The present study investigated the assumptions prevalent among educators in the Arab world that the teacher-centered model of classroom interaction that has dominated the Arab school educational scene for a long time has produced graduates with limited critical thinking and reasoning skills which are essential for functioning effectively in the modern world. To this end, the study has examined and analyzed the scores of 425 applicants to an English-medium university on the passage comprehension section of a standardized English language test. The study examined the results of the item analysis of the responses in order to assess the difference in scores on items testing basic comprehension skills and scores on items testing higher order skills. Results of the study showed that test-takers have done fairly well on the factual and relational comprehension items (those relating to recall, reference, and vocabulary in context) but had considerable difficulty with analytic and critical comprehension items (those relating to inference, tone, attitude, prediction, and evaluation). The study explains the findings within the context of the curricula and methods of teaching used in Lebanese schools and makes recommendations regarding the development of analytic, problem solving, and critical thinking skills.
Keywords: Critical Thinking; Reading Comprehension Skills; Standardized English Tests; Classroom Teaching
Book Review: Doerr, N. M., & Kiri Lee, K. (2013). Constructing the heritage language learner: Knowledge, power and new subjectivities. Berlin: Walter De Gruyter. [xiii + 188 pp; ISBN: 978-1-61451-283-7]