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«Item type text; Electronic Dissertation Authors Goertler, Senta Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held by the author. ...»

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Several factors have been identified in influencing negotiation of meaning, such as pairing, proficiency level, age, gender, status, ethnicity, personality, and task. In respect to pairing, differences between NNS-NNS, NS-NNS, and NS-NS dyads have been explored. Negotiation of meaning is the most frequent in dyads between NNSs and the least frequent in dyads between NSs (Gass & Varonis, 1985; Oliver, 2002; Pica & Doughty, 1985; Varonis & Gass, 1985; Yule & MacDonald, 1990). If the interlocutors are on different levels of acquisition, negotiation occurs more often (Doughty & Pica, 1986; Gass & Varonis, 1985). In a like manner, the lower the perceived proficiency of an interlocutor the more negotiation will take place (Gass & Varonis, 1985; Oliver, 2002;

Yule & MacDonald, 1990).

In addition to these speaker factors, issues concerning task, type, and design of the research can also play a role in the negotiation of meaning. Tasks that are focused on language learning or even a specific structure will allow the learner to pay attention to the language and the feedback received (see for example Long, 1983, 1996; Sato, 1998), and thus be most beneficial for language learning (Gass & Varonis, 1994). Nakahama, Tyler and van Lier (2001), however, found conversational activities to be more beneficial than information gap activities in their research with NS-NNS dyads. In their study, the conversational activity offered the NNS a larger variety of language use opportunities, such as more complex utterances and opportunities for the application of pragmatic knowledge. Furthermore, the learners reported that the conversational activity was more challenging, and that as a result they paid closer attention than during the information gap activity. If attention is necessary for SLA, it may be argued that less structured tasks would better allow for the negotiation of meaning to facilitate acquisition. This is in contrast to the earlier mentioned study by Chun et al. (1982), which found that negotiation is avoided in natural conversation in comparison with game-like tasks.

Hence, arguments for the effectiveness of tasks are still mixed.

Long (1985) saw an indirect effect of negotiation of meaning on SLA. He argued that linguistic and conversational adjustments enhance the comprehensibility of input, which in turn promote acquisition. Assuming this to be true, it can be argued that interactional adjustments benefit SLA. The attention paid and feedback received during negotiation of meaning have also been claimed to benefit SLA in general (Oliver, 2000), and the negotiation of meaning has been linked to improved language comprehension (Doughty & Pica, 1986; Ellis, Tanaka, & Yamazaki, 1994; Gass & Varonis, 1994; Long, 1985; Pica, 1991; Pica & Doughty, 1985; Pica, Young, & Doughty, 1987). Gass and Varonis (1994) found that both negotiated and modified input had a positive effect on comprehension, i.e., the ability of the learners to complete the task. However, in terms of later language production, only the negotiated input showed such a positive influence.

Polio and Gass (1998) confirmed this finding. In general, Long (1996), Gass (1997), Mackey (1999) and Pica (1994) agree that negotiation of meaning is a facilitating factor in SLA.

Sato (1988), however, in a longitudinal study on natural SLA, did not find evidence of the effectiveness of interaction for the encoding of past-time in ESL.

Additionally Loschky (1994) could not find an effect of interaction on grammatical development (specifically the acquisition of locatives in Japanese-as-a-second-language).

Although he did confirm a positive effect on comprehension, the same was not true for retention of vocabulary. Complexity of structure and perhaps a delayed effect on learning have been suggested as reasons for the varied findings. “…The results of interaction are not necessarily immediate. That is, they may not affect the conversation in which the interaction takes place, as much as they do subsequent conversations” (Gass & Varonis, 1994, p. 298). Mackey and Philp (1998) further divided modified interaction into negotiated interaction with and without intensive recasting. For the advanced learners they found recasting to be beneficial, as measured in greater language production with more morphosyntactic forms. This research suggests that it is the kind of feedback in the interaction that makes the difference in facilitation of SLA. It could be that different forms of negotiation of meaning with different levels of corrective feedback are the explanation for contradictory findings.

Strong supporters for the effect of negotiation of meaning in SLA have even gone so far as to argue that the negotiation of meaning may be of benefit even if only observed and not directly experienced. Ellis, Tanaka, & Yamazaki (1994) confirmed such a view in regard to vocabulary acquisition. Mackey (1999), however, found a greater benefit for learners actively participating in the interaction as measured in improvement of developmental stages in question acquisition. Learners in the control group and in the group receiving premodified input increased little in comparison. The difference was especially pronounced over time, and the learners who only observed interaction did not show improvement on delayed tests.

The influence of negotiation of meaning on SLA is extremely complex with many influencing factors. More research needs to be done and further attempts need to be made to measure the facilitating effect of negotiation on SLA, especially longitudinally.

Furthermore, practical applications of the theory and empirical findings of subsequent studies must be identified for language teaching.

The greatest challenges in research on the negotiation of meaning, as well as research within an interactionist framework, are measurability and interpretation of terminology. As a result, the greatest challenge in interactionist SLA research is arguably an effective research design. The processes underlying SLA are complex, creating a nearly impossible separation of variables. Furthermore, only few elements of SLA have been researched in their developmental stages. As a result, measuring improvements in interlanguage becomes difficult, and neither the advancement in the interlanguage nor the isolation of variables and their affects can be measured directly; research can only find indirect relationships.

2.2.5 Limitations of the Interactionist Framework One of the limitations of the interactionist framework is the difficulty in proving that the theorized internal processes actually occur. The only way that research can attempt to prove such hypotheses is to provide repeated indirect evidence.

Since Long’s Interactionist Hypothesis was formulated with NS-NNS interaction in mind, empirical research within an interactionist framework in a foreign language classroom environment may be considered outside these boundaries. However, since Gass and Varonis (1985) argued that most interaction occurs in NNS dyads, it is important to test the applicability of the hypothesis to such a context. During interactions between NNSs, both learners are likely non-target-like, being that the input they receive and the output they produce is also likely to be non-target-like. As a consequence, their negotiation may result in the adaptation to or uptake of a non-target-like structure.

However, since most of our foreign language (FL) students will only have few opportunities to interact with a NS in the target language (TL) other than the teacher, it is important to understand how this interactional framework can be applied to FL learning in the classroom setting.

2.3 Corrective Feedback As already shown, opinions regarding the necessity of corrective feedback vary in the field of SLA. Furthermore, there appears to be little agreement as to what corrective feedback, if any, will lead to more accurate and/or faster second language learning. Most current teaching approaches, however, seem to suggest using only conversational styles of corrective feedback, such as clarification and comprehension requests. In the following section I will discuss current positions on corrective feedback, provide definitions for corrective feedback moves, and summarize the research findings on corrective feedback in SLA.

2.3.1 Positions Researchers of SLA take varied and opposing positions reagrding the role of corrective feedback. Some argue that corrective feedback is not necessary in SLA since first and second language acquisition processes are similar (e.g., Krashen, 1985).

However, even first language learners receive corrective feedback. Others believe that corrective feedback is helpful particularly for adult SL learners, especially in regards to speed of language acquisition and accuracy (e.g., Long & Robinson, 1998; Nicholas, Lightbown & Spada, 2001; Panova & Lyster, 2002). Yet others argue that adults simply cannot learn a second language in the classroom without corrective feedback (e.g., Higgs & Clifford, 1982).

Research is also divided as to what kinds of corrective feedback, if any, may be beneficial for SLA. Individual differences in language learners such as age (see review in Nicholas, Lightbown & Spada, 2001), aptitude, motivation, and learning style may play a role in the effectiveness of one corrective style (or lack thereof) versus another (Schachter, 1991). Researchers may also need to consider the instructional setting (Nicholas, Lightbown, & Spada, 2001; Schachter, 1991), the proficiency or developmental stage of the learner (see for example Lyster & Ranta, 1997; Mackey & Philp, 1998), and the perceptions of teachers and learners on corrective feedback as explored by Schulz (1996, 2001).

2.3.2 Definitions Learners are presumed to receive positive and negative evidence through input.

While positive evidence shows a learner what is possible in the target language, negative evidence provides information on what is impossible (Long, 1996; White, 1991). Long and Robinson (1998) further divide positive evidence into authentic and modified evidence. Authentic positive evidence is input that has not been modified for a less proficient speaker. Modified positive evidence may either be simplified or elaborated information to better accommodate comprehension difficulties in the learner. Negative evidence, which indicates to learners that their utterance was not correct, can also be divided further into preemptive and reactive negative evidence (Long & Robinson, 1998).

As these names suggest, preemptive negative evidence is given to the learner before language production in the form of a rule explanation, and reactive negative evidence is an error correction in response to a non-target language utterance by the learner (Long & Robinson, 1998; Morris, 2002). Just as grammar can be taught explicitly or implicitly, so may reactive negative feedback be explicit or implicit. Explicit negative feedback includes overt rule explanation or error correction, in which the correction is clearly identifiable and a correct form is supplied. Explicit, or overt, error correction “provides explicit signals to the students that there is an error in the previous utterance” (Panova & Lyster, 2002, p. 584). Implicit negative feedback includes simple and complex recasts, as well as negotiation moves such as confirmation checks, clarification requests, and repetitions following communication breakdown (Long & Robinson, 1998).

Long and Robinson’s (1998) classification of positive and negative evidence has often been cited in related literature. However, Lyster and Ranta (1997) present a similar yet different categorization of error types which has also often been cited in research on corrective feedback. They analyzed teacher-student interactions in an immersion classroom and identified six types of corrective feedback moves: explicit correction, recasts, clarification requests, metalinguistic feedback, elicitation, and repetition of errors. Recently, Panova and Lyster (2002) added translation to this list, although Lyster and Ranta (1997) had previously considered translations to be a subcategory of recasts.

Long and Robinson (1998) had considered recasts, repetitions and clarification requests as implicit feedback, but the corrective feedback definitions they proposed did not include elicitation or translations. Lyster and Ranta (1997) consider metalinguistic feedback a form of corrective feedback which is “either comments, information, or questions related to the well-formedness of the student utterance, without explicitly providing the correct answer” (Lyster & Ranta, 1997, p. 46). In Long and Robinson’s model this may have fallen into the category of explicit correction except that it lacks the provision of the correct form.

Within an interactionist framework, feedback is embedded in interaction. A modification of the learners’ target language grammar can occur due to several factors, such as: receiving input, especially in modified form; noticing of difference between hypotheses formed and actual NS production; testing hypotheses during output; or receiving implicit and explicit feedback in response to language production. Researchers working within such a framework consider positive evidence (models of correct input) alone insufficient for language learning. Within this framework, the negative evidence provided during interaction is crucial (see for example Long, 1983). Long (1996) argues “negative feedback obtained in negotiation work or elsewhere may be facilitative of SL development at least for vocabulary, morphology, and language-specific syntax, and essential for learning certain specifiable L1-L2 contrasts” (p. 414).

Corrective negotiation moves following communication breakdown have been argued to be beneficial. Confirmation checks are “a device used in conversation to determine whether one has been understood correctly” (Gass & Selinker, 2001, p. 452).

Clarification requests are “a device used in conversation to ask for more information when something has not been understood” (Gass & Selinker, 2001, p. 451). According to Panova and Lyster (2002), “…the purpose of a clarification request is to elicit reformulation or repetition from the student with respect to the form of the student’s illformed utterance” (p. 583). Repetition may be defined as the repetition of a learner’s utterance without change other than intonation, whereas recasts are repetitions that correct parts of the ill-formed utterance.

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