Interlanguage Discourse
Lecture 9
Xinzhang Yang
Interlanguage Discourse
• In many of the proposals to specify the
components of communicative competence, it is
emphasized that this notion does not only
comprise a language user’s knowledge about
linguistic rules and elements (linguistic
competence e.g. Canale and Swain 1980,
grammatical competence e.g. Leech 1983) and
about the nature and function of communicative
acts (sociolinguitic cimpetence, e.g. Canale and
Swain 1980, pragmatic competence e.g. Leech
Interlanguage Discourse
• It also includes the ability to use these underlying
types of knowledge appropriately in reception and
production in order to achieve communicative
goals. Breen and Candlin (1980) refer to this
aspect of communicative competence as the
communicative abilities of interpretation,
expression and negotiation. Following a
terminology common in cognitive psychology and
activated as procedural knowledge being termed
declarative knowledge.
Interlanguage Discourse
• Within language users’ procedural knowledge,
several subtypes can be specified, e.g. procedures
in speech reception and production that operate at
the mental level, thus manifesting themselves only
indirectly in performance (cf. interpretation” and
expression” in Breen and Candlin’s model). From
those, a subset of procedures can be distinguished
which serve to establish, maintain, regulate and
terminate discourse, thus manifesting themselves
overtly in performance.
Interlanguage Discourse
• As these procedures relate to the
communicative interplay between discourse
participants rather than to the speaker’s and
listener’s psycholinguistic activity, I shall
refer to them as interactive procedures (cf.
“Negotiation” in Breen and Candlin’s
Interlanguage Discourse
The operations they include serve to
- open and close discourse
- distribute turns at talk
- ensure discourse coherence and cohesion
- repair trouble sources
- realize speech acts in socially appropriate
Interlanguage Discourse
• Some of these procedures can operate on
discourse structure alone, without requiring
specific linguistic means for their implementation.
Turn-taking, for instance, can be effected at any
possible completion point without specific
linguistic devices indicating the current speaker’s
wish to give up and the current hearer’s intention
to take the turn. Furthermore, repair can be
initiated by the hearer simply withholding signals
of understanding or agreement, and completed by
the speaker replacing the original utterance, or an
element thereof.
Interlanguage Discourse
• However, even though these interactive
procedures can be implemented by exploitation of
discourse structure alone, they very often are
performed by means of discourse regulating
gambits, explicit repair requests and repair
indicating devices. For the majority of interactive
procedures, though, the choice of more or less
pre-determined and conventionalized linguistic
devices is obligatory.
Interlanguage Discourse
• The structural and functional slots in opening and
closing exchanges are realized with specific
linguistic routines; discourse cohesion is effected,
among other things, by the appropriate selection of
conjunction, sentence adverbs and pro-forms;
performing speech acts presupposes a repertoire of
linguistic means by which illocutionary acts are
conventionally carried out in a given speech
community, and which can transport the
interpersonal values a speaker wishes to convey in
a particular context.
Interlanguage Discourse
• Applying interactive procedures
appropriately therefore implies both
knowing and using efficiently the properties
of discourse structure, and selecting and
combing declarative linguistic and other
knowledge in al goal-related and context
adequate way.
Interlanguage Discourse
• For foreign language learners, this entails that they
can partly rely on the interactive procedures they
already posses as part of their native (L1)
communicative knowledge, partly have to develop
new declarative knowledge, specific for the
foreign language and culture, as a prerequisite for
the procedural knowledge to operate. Clearly,
foreign language learners’ task is facilitated by the
communicative knowledge and abilities they have
previously attained through experience with their
native language and possibly other foreign
Interlanguage Discourse
• However, it appears from investigations of learners’
communicative behavior in interaction with native
speakers or with other learners that they do not always
make efficient use of their previously acquired interactive
procedures. Such non-transfer of procedural knowledge
may be due to a variety of factors, for instance lack of
relevant declarative foreign language or world knowledge,
the assessment of that transfer of L1 interactive procedures
may not be culturally permissible, cognitive constraints
posed by the reduced accessibility of required linguistic
and other knowledge, or affective variables such as
heightened anxiety in an unfamiliar situation.
Educational and noneducational contexts
• It is common in second language
acquisition research to distinguish two
basically different learning contexts: “actual”
contexts where learning takes place as a byproduct of communication, and the second
or foreign language classroom as a context
which is specifically designed for language
learning. These two contexts are “noneducational’ and “educational’, respectively.
Educational and noneducational contexts
• Non-educational contexts comprise a great variety
of settings which which are more or less
institutionalised, formal, and familiar to the
participants, characterised by the presence or
absence of visual contact and immediate feedback,
etc. Second or foreign language classrooms, too,
can be of very different kinds, a first important
distinction being whether L2 is both teaching
object or medium, or whether it is subservient to
the teaching of subject matter.
Educational and noneducational contexts
• A further distinction is to be made according to the
organization of classroom activities, particularly
whether the teacher and learners participate more
symmetrically in theses procedures. As has been
emphasized by Long (1980), it is mandatory for
L2 classroom research to make such distinctions
explicit, both with respect to the descriptive
adequacy of the analytical systems used and, more
importantly, in view of the pedagogical
consequences that hopefully may be drawn from
such research.
Educational and noneducational contexts
• The types of non-educational land educational
context can be specified as their classical
prototypes: Dynamic face-to-face conversation as
exemplifying non-educational discourse, and
‘traditional’ foreign language (FL) instruction with
the teacher mediating and controlling all official
interaction, as illustrating educational discourse.
• The way interactive procedures are activated in the
FL classroom has an impact on learners’ use of
such procedures in non-educational discourse.
opening and closing discourse
• Discourse opening and closing have been
described as transition rituals between states
of reduced and increased availability for
talk, and vice versa. Their function is thus
primarily phatic. Due to their ritual
character, predetermined structure and
frequency of occurrence, they are typically
realised by routine formulae. These have
been defined by Coulmas as:
opening and closing
• “expressions whose occurrence is closely
bound to specific situations which are, on
the basis of an evaluation of such situations,
highly predictable in a communicative
course of events. Their meaning is
pragmatically conditioned, and their usage
is motivated by the relevant characteristics
of such social situations” (1979:240).
openings in noneducational discourse
• Based on the work of Goffman (1972),
Schegloff (1972), Berens (1976), Ventola
(1979), Edmondson and House (1981),
Kasper (1981) and House (1982), the
functions and sequence of moves in opening
exchanges can be specified as follows:
openings in noneducational discourse
• Greetings: reciprocal exchange of an opening
signal chosen from a closed class of routine
formulae. Ventola (1979) distinguishes, among
others, short greetings” (hello, hi) and timebound
greetings” (good morning, good afternoon).
Factors determining the choice of an appropriate
opening routine are the familiarity between the
participants, formality of context, and time of day.
openings in noneducational discourse
• Indicating territory invasion: in case where the
availability for talk cannot be taken for granted,
the initiator of the interaction indicates her/his
intrusion on the other person’s territory (excuse
• Identification: indication of identity in case of lack
of visual contact and/or previous acquaintance.
The latter condition triggers identification only
when knowledge of participants’ identity is
deemed necessary for the interaction (my name’s
NN, its NN).
openings in noneducational discourse
• Phatic inquiry: ritualized inquiry after the
interlocutor’s wellbeing, realized by routine
formula (how are you, how are things). Discourse
proposition: Eliciting.
• Phatic reply: ritualized response to phatic inquiry,
realized by a routine formula (fine, thanks) and
obey reciprocating the inquiry ( how are you).
Discourse position: Responding.
openings in noneducational discourse
• Phatic remark: mentioning inconsequential states
of affairs in order to maintain the interaction.
Edmonson and House (1981) point out that the
personal remarks (I haven’t seen you for ages!
You look marvelous) are common among familiar
participants, whereas more neutral remarks (e.g.
about the weather) are typical for non-familiars.
• Topic introduction: marks transition from opening
to talk (I want to see you about something).
openings in noneducational discourse
• The actual selection of these opening functions
and of the linguistic means by which they can be
realised depends, of course, on the pragmatic
constraints of the prevalent context.
• The analysis of opening procedures in the Bochum
data revealed that the learners attempted to
perform the same types of opening moves as did
the English native speakers in the control group,
i.e. they did not seem to functionally reduce their
communicative goals in this phase. However, the
procedures by which the individual moves were
realized proved to be inadequate in many cases.
openings in noneducational discourse
• Violation of functional, sequential, co-occurrence
and selectional restrictions occurred in a number
of opening moves. Some instances are the
following. Sequential rules are violated in the
performance of the greeting by L in (1):
• (1) (patient entering doctor’s consultation office)
• N: oh come in erm Miss er Hammerschmidt yes
• L1: hello
• N: well what can I do for you
• L2: hello Dr Josephson well erm you treated me
for tonsillitis....
openings in noneducational discourse
• Deletion of responding greetings is obligatory if
the first speaker has already progressed to a later
stage in the opening phase. Here, N has already
initiated the core phase by producing an eliciting
topic introducer in her second turn; this utterance
constitutes the first pair part that is conditionally
relevant for L’s response. The learner seems
unable to revise her original speech plan, viz. to
perform a greeting, in view of the input she
receives from her interlocutor.
openings in noneducational discourse
• Co-occurrence restrictions are not observed
in the learner’s performing a greeting in (2):
• (2) (L enters shop as a customer, facing an
unfamiliar person)
• L: well hello erm
• N: hello
openings in noneducational discourse
• L opens the interaction with a starter, a gambit
used of for indicating turn-taking. The cooccurrence of starters with greetings seems to be
heavily restricted in English. In fact, in -noneducational contexts, it seems only permissible if
one of the following conditions holds: (a) Contact
between the interlocutors has already been
established; here, well can signal casual,
unmarked reestablishing of contact, e.g. as in
(employee to employer): well afternoon Jim here’s
the last basket. (b) The speaker wishes to convey
surprise over meeting the interlocutor, as in
openings in noneducational discourse
• (knock on S1’s door)
S1: (from inside) hello hang on
S2: hurry up
S1: (opens door) well hello
openings in noneducational discourse
• Inadequate selection of an opening function
is documented in the learner’s indicating
territory invasion and using a formal topic
introduction in (3).
(3) (at a wine-and-cheese party)
L: excuse me please may I ask
whether you are alone here
N: er yes (laughing)
openings in noneducational discourse
• As it is the function of social events such as the
one in question that unfamiliar get to know each
other, addressing an unfamiliar person is an
unmarked and perfectly permissible action, which
therefore renders the territory invasion signal
inappropriate. By the same token, the topic
introduction is uncalled for, as the phatic talk
continues, rather than some referentially oriented
discourse being initiated.
openings in noneducational discourse
• The instances of inadequately performed
procedures in discourse openings discussed so far
exemplify the learner’s failure to select and
combine relevant opening functions from their
declarative discourse knowledge. The following
examples illustrate inappropriate selections from
the learner’s repertoire of linguistic means in
opening sequences. As was mentioned in the
introduction, openings and closings are typically
realized by means of routine formulae.
openings in noneducational discourse
• A prerequisite for selecting appropriate linguistic
routines is obviously that such items are part of
the learners’ declarative knowledge. Less trivially,
it requires identifying those slots in a discourse
which are conventionally realized by (a) routine
formula(e), and to choose a/the routine formula by
which this slot is conventionally filled. The
learners in the Bochum corpus fail to observe both
these requirements in their performance of
opening moves.
openings in noneducational discourse
• Total failure to select routinized linguistic means
is prevalent in the learners’ realizations of phatic
inquiries and replies, of which (4) is an example:
(4) (two friends meeting in a pub)
N: hello there Steve
L1: hey hello Joe
N: I thought I’ll see you in here
L2: oh how are you
N: uh fine how are things with you then
L3: uuh very bad you know
openings in noneducational discourse
• The trouble with the learner’s phatic reply in L3 is
not so much that he replies in the negative. after
all, participants do not have to renounce principles
of sincere interaction with their friends in order to
be sufficiently phatic. Rather, the modality by
which the propositional content is conveyed does
not seem adequate, even in interactions among
familiars. A more downtoned routine, instead of a
blunt statement, would be more suitable (e.g. oh er
not too fantastic I’m afraid).
openings in noneducational discourse
• Inadequate choice of routine formulae occur in a
greeting, as in:
(5) (student entering his teacher’s study)
N: yes come in
L: good day sir
N: oh hello Achim have a seat
• The learner does not observe the diachronic and
discoursal restrictions imposed on the routine
good day, as oppose to hello or good afternoon.
openings in noneducational discourse
• Likewise, territory invasion is often marked by the
learners by a routine formula which, at least in
British English, is conventionally used in a
different function:
(6) (student has to cancel appointment to
• N: hello
• L: hello Mrs Norton erm I beg your pardon I
wanted to have a short er small talk with you
• N: well come in
openings in noneducational discourse
• ( I beg your) pardon is normally used to
other-initiate repair, while territory invasion
is performed by means of excuse me. The
learner in (6) chose correctly from the
apologizing routines but fails to select the
particular one designed to mark territory
openings in noneducational discourse
• As to topic introductions, a further realization
deficiency is noticeable, which is also pervasive in
these learners’ performance of non-routinized
speech acts, namely, to carry them out in such a
way that not only the desired discourse goal is
reached but also the intended relational
(interpersonal) goal. This aspect is formally
conveyed by the modality of a discourse function
( or speech act). In the literature on politeness in
verbal interaction, the conditions and realization
procedures for cooperative communication at the
relational level are detailed.
openings in noneducational discourse
• The central concept in this respect is that of face,
viz. participants’ social needs for respect and
recognition, by others as well as by themselves. In
the present context, it will suffice to mention three
principles according to which cooperative
participants mark the relational function:
• (a) if the act to be performed is neutral with
respect to S’s and H’s face wants, the relational
function is unmarked. Typical example:
representative speech acts.
openings in noneducational discourse
• (b) if the act to be performed is facesupporting, its force is often aggravated.
Typical example: expressive speech acts
such as thanking, congratulating,
• (c) if the act to be performed is facethreatening, its force is normally mitigated.
Typical example: directive speech acts.
openings in noneducational discourse
• Topic introductions fall under either the first or the
last of these principles, depending on the content
of the ensuing interaction. They are typically of
the last kind, i.e. foreshowing a potential conflict
between the interlocutors. Mitigation is therefore
called for. The learners, however, prefer
realization as in (7) and (8).
• (7) (L is going to ask N to lend her some records)
• L: well Colin erm I’ve a question
• N: yah
openings in noneducational discourse
(8) (same)
L: erm Colin we’ve got a problem erm
N: oh
Theses realizations are reminiscent of the way
German pupils perform bids in their English
lessons, where they may be perfectly appropriate,
given the interactional norms of educational
discourse. In (7) and (8), however, the lack of
mitigation is unfortunate, as L is about to perform
a face-threatening act towards N.
openings in noneducational discourse
• It is improbable that learners at high-intermediate
level should not have at least some lexical,
syntactic and phrasal mitigating devices as part of
their declarative knowledge in fact they do. It is
equally unlikely that their relevant L1-based
pragmatic knowledge differs to any significant
extent from that of English native speakers’
comparisons of data on discourse openings in the
English and German native control group have not
shown any differences in modality.
openings in noneducational discourse
• Rather, the learners’ failure to appropriately apply
interactive procedures at the relational level,
resulting in discourse moves such as (7) and (8)
instead of downgraded versions such as there’s
something I wanted to ask or I’ve got a bit of a
problem actually seems to be traceable to certain
properties of FL classroom discourse.
• Finally, second pair parts in identification
exchanges proved to be troublesome in that they
evidence a lack of cohesion. Compare (9) as one
openings in noneducational discourse
(9) (L opening his door to unfamiliar visitor)
L1: yeah come in
N: hello are you Mr Bechstein
L2: yeah may name is Dirk Bechstein
A cohesive response would have been a
short confirmation of N’s tentative other
identification, e.g. yes and/or that’s right.
openings in noneducational discourse
• As documented by Kasper (1981) and
Stemmer (1981), incohesive responses are
found in learners’ second pair parts outside
opening phases as well. Again, there seems
to be a connection to the learners’ classroom
experience: answering in whole sentences”
is a classroom specific discourse norm
observed by many teachers in FL teaching.
openings in noneducational discourse
• From the above, we note that opening
procedures are activated inefficiently in that
learners (1) violate functional sequencing,
co-occurrence and selectional restrictions;
(2) fail to choose, or select an inappropriate,
routine formula; (3) fail to mark opening
functions for modality; and (4) perform
incohesive second pair parts.
closing in non-educational
• Closing phases serve primarily three functions: “(1)
to warn of future inaccessibility, (2) to reinforce
relationships and to support future encounters, and
(3) to summarize the substantive portions of the
interaction”. In order to terminate encounters,
adjacency pairs are performed by means of which
transition relevance, which otherwise ensures that
the discourse can be continued, is suspended. The
following closing functions can be distinguished:
closing in non-educational
• pre-close initiation: marks end of the preceding
topic and an offer to terminate the discourse,
performed by the current speaker (fine, okay).
Initiating preclosers are possible rather than
definite closing procedures as they leave the
possibility for the interlocutor to reject the closing
initiation by entering into a new topic.
• Pre-close acceptance: second pair part to a preclose initiator, signaling acceptance of the first
speaker’s offer to terminate the discourse (right,
closing in non-educational
• Legitimizing: (possible) pre-closer justifying the
termination of the discourse by reference to, e.g.
the speaker’s commitments ( I must be off, shops
are closing in ten minutes) or concern for the
hearer (you’re looking tired).
• Conclusion: (possible) pre-closer summarizing the
results from the preceding interaction and ensuring
common agreement. Often performed in adjacency
pairs (S1: Let’s do it that way then okay. S2:
closing in non-educational
• Welfare concern: expresses good wishes for the
hearer, either unspecifically (all the best) or related
to a specific event (drive carefully now).
• Thanks: expressing gratitude about welfare
concern (responding ) or about some event related
to the preceding interaction (initiating) (thanks (a
lot, again)(for looking after the cat).
• Minimizing: response to initiating thanks,
minimizing cost of act for which gratitude has
been expressed (not at all, pleasure), or realized
closing in non-educational
• Termination: reciprocal exchange of routine
formula indicating end of interaction.
Choices of appropriate routine formulae
depend, for instance, on the degree of
formality (good-bye vs cheerio) and
whether or not the participants expect
resume their interaction soon (see you later
vs bye-bye). Sex role seems to be another
relevant variable.
closing in non-educational
• In the Bochum corpus, the learners’ active
participation in closing exchanges is
conspicuously lower than in opening phases. They
produce neither initiating pre-closers, conclusions,
terminations nor welfare concerns to the extent the
native speakers in the control group do. But leave
the performance of these initiating functions to the
more competent native interlocutor. At least in part,
this lack of initiating closing activity might be due
to the role plays, which left it completely up to the
interlocutors how to manage the closing sequence.
closing in non-educational
• By contrast, it followed from most of the role
descriptions that the learner had to take the
initiative to open the interaction. One consequence
from this lack of active participation is that the
learners do not perform as many inappropriate
closing functions as they did in the opening phase.
Rather, they apply closing procedures inefficiently
by choosing unsuitable linguistic realizations, in
particular inappropriate routine formulae, from
their declarative knowledge.
closing in non-educational
• In the English native control group, speakers show
a clear preference for using “empty”, routinized
legitimations rather than more content-oriented
ones. The learners, by contrast, prefer nonroutinized legitimations, which are sometimes
realized rather unidiomatically, as in (11):
• (11) (the gas fire has exploded in L’s room; the landlady
has made various offers of compensation)
• L: perhaps I think er it’s enough and I’m I’m very tired and
• N: all right I’ll just go and get the electric fire then okay
closing in non-educational
• Unlike the routines discussed in connection to
openings, and those by which most other closing
function are performed, the trouble with
legitimations seems to be that the learners do not
have legitimation routines as part of their
declarative knowledge. They therefore have to
resort to more content-oriented legitimations, the
planning of which can pose considerable problems,
as is indicated by the many hesitation phenomena
produced by the learner in (11).
closing in non-educational
• Thanks in response to the interlocutor’s welfare concern
are sometimes expressed by an uptaking gambit as in (12),
or a combination of such a gambit with an explicit thanks
• (12) (student saying goodbye to his teacher)
• N: bye-bye
• L: bye-bye
• N: and a good journey
• L: oh
• N: bye
• L: bye
closing in non-educational
• (13) (two travellers on a train)
• N: well I’m sorry I’ve got to get out at this next
stop so er all the best with your studies
• L: oh thanks
• As both the initiating welfare concern and the
responding thanks are neither unexpected in the
given context nor in any way costly to N, an
uptaker indicating surprise (oh) seems an in
appropriate realization of a thanks.
closing in non-educational
• As the terminations, there is a tendency for
learners to underdifferentiate the selection
of routine formulae, as is brought out in (14)
• (14) (two friends in a pub)
N: okay I’ll see you there tonight yah
L: yes good bye
N: okay cheers
closing in non-educational
• The learner does not observe the selectional restrictions
imposed on termination routines: short term intermissions
of contact are indicated by different signals, such as
produced by the native speaker.
• Finally, it should be mentioned that the learners often
select closing procedures which are perfectly appropriate,
though learner-specific in the frequency with which they
are effected. They make use of their declarative knowledge
about closings as being typically realized by means of
adjacency pairs, which allow for reciprocal use of closing
closing in non-educational
• As the learners mostly perform the responding
parts in closing exchanges, this implied that they
can realize their second pair parts by simply
repeating the interlocutor’s initiating move, often
in a reduced form. Clearly, this is an efficient
closing procedure, which is sometimes adopted by
both learners and native speakers, as in the
following terminal exchange:
closing in non-educational
• (15) (student and his holiday employer)
• N: so we’ll see you then tomorrow again bright
and early
• L: tomorrow morning same time same place
• N: same time same place (laughing) (...) well byebye now
• L: bye-bye
• N: see you in the morning
• L: in the morning
closing in non-educational
• From this brief overview on closings in
non-educational discourse, it can be
concluded that the learners tend to
functionally reduce their closing activity to
performing responding moves. Closing
procedures sometimes operate inefficiently,
due to either lack of appropriate routines in
the learners’ declarative repertoire or
inadequate selection from it.
Interlanguage Discourse
Thank you!

Interlanguage Discourse