CAMB RID GE LANGUAGE TEA C HI N G LIBR ARYA series covering cenrral issues in language teaching and learning, by a urhors whohave expert knowledge in their field.In this series:Affect in Language Learning edited by j ane ArnoldApproaches and Methods in Language Teaching second edition by Jack C.Richards and Theodore S. RodgersBeyond Training by jack C. RichardsClassroom Decisio n-Making edited by Michael Breen and Attdrew Little;ohnCollaborative Action Research for English Language Teachers by Am1e BurnsCollaborative Language Learning and Teaching edited by David NunanCommunicative Language Teaching by William LittlewoodDeveloping Reading Skills by Fram;oise GrelletDevelopments in English for Specific Purposes by Tony Dudley-Evans and Maggiejo StjohnDiscourse Analysis for Language Teachers by Michael McCarthyDiscourse and Language Education by Evelyn HatchThe Dynamics of the Language Classroom by Ian TudorEnglish for Academic Purposes by R. R. JordanEnglish for Specific Purposes by Tom Hutchinson cmd Alan WatersEstablishing Self-Access by David Gardner and Lindsay MillerForeign and Second Language Learning by William LittlewoodGroup D ynamics in the Language Classroom by Zolttin Dornyei and TimMurpheyLanguage Learning in Distance Education by Cynthia WhiteLanguage Learning in Intercultural Perspective edited by Michael Byram andMichael FlemingThe Language Teaching Matrix by Jack C. RichardsLanguage Test Construction and Evaluation by ]. Charles Alderson, CarolineClapham and Dianne WallLearner-Centredness as Language Education by Ian TudorLearners' Stories: Difference and Diversity in Language Teaching edited by PhilBenson and David N unanManaging Curricular Innovation by Numa MarkeeMaterials Development in Language Teaching edited by Bria11 TomlinsonMorivational Srcategies in the Language Classroom by Zoltan DomyeiPsychology for Language Teachers by Marion Williams and Robert L. BurdenResearch Methods in Language Learning by David NunanRules, Patterns and Words: Grammar and Lexis in English Language Teaching byDave WillisSecond Language Teacher Education edited by jack C. Richards and David NtmanSociety and the Language Classroom edited by Hywel ColemanTask-Based Language Teaching by David N tmanTeaching Languages to Young Learners by Lynne CameronTeacher Learning in Language Teaching edited by Donald Freeman and jack C.RichardsTesting fo r Language Teachers second edition by A1'thur HughesUnderstanding Research in Second Language Learning by james Dean BrownUsing Surveys i.n Language Programs by james Dean BrownVocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy edited by Norbert Schmitt andMichael McCarthyVocabulary, Semantics and Language Education by Evelyn Hatch and CherylBrownVoices from the Language Classroom edited by Kathleen M. Bailey and DavidNunanConversation: FrotnDescription to PedagogyScott Thornbury andDiana Slade CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
Contents MBR I D GE UNIVERS ITY PR ESSCambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, Sao Pau loCambridge University PressThe Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UKwww.cambridge.orgInformation on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521891165Thanks and acknowledgements Cambridge University Press 2006This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exceptionand ro the provisions of releva nt collective licensing agreements,no reproduction of any part may rake place without the writtenpermission o f Cambridge University Press.First published 2006Printed in the United Kingdom at the Universit}' Press, Ca mbridgeA catalogue record for this publication is available from the B1·itish LibraryLibrary of Congress Cataloging-in-Publicatio11 DataTho rnbury, Scott, 1950Conversarion : from description to pedagogy I Scott Thornbury andDiana Slade.p. em.- (Cambridge language reaching library)Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 0-52 1-89116-7 (pbk.: alk. paper) - ISBN 0-521-81426-X(hardback: alk. pa per)1. Conversation ana lysis. 2. Discourse analysis. 3. Language andlanguages-Study and teaching. 4. Communicative competence. I. Title.II. Series.P95.45.T49 2006371.102 1-81426-3 hardback0-521-81426-X hardback978-0-52 1-891 16-5 paperback0-521 -89 116-7 paperbackThe publisher has used its besr endeavours ro ensure tha t the URLs for externalwebsites referred to in rhis book are correct and active at th e rime of go ing topress. However, the publisher ha s no responsibility for the websites and can makeno guarantee that a site will remain live or that the content is or will rema ina ppropriare.Introduction1Characterizing conversationIntroductionT he nature of conversationApproaches to the analysis of conversationSummary55527372The vocabulary of conversationIntrod uction2.1 Lexical size2.2 Lexical density and lexical va riety2.3 Lexical frequency2.4 Lex ical repe ti tion2.5 Vague language2.6 Fillers2.7 Discourse markers and other inserts2.8 Routines and lexical phrases2.9 Appraisal and involvement2.10 Implications404042434549545657626569The grammar of conversationIntroduction3.1 Complexity3.2 Heads and tails3.3 Gra mmatical incompletion3.4 Ellipsis3.5 Dei xis3.6 Questions3.7 Tense and aspect3.8 Modality3.9 Reporting3.10 What do lea rners need to know?737375808383858690949810032006023282Vl) lv
ContentsConte1'zts(j)4 .126.96.36.199yIntroductionCohesion in conversationInreraction in conversationTopic management: Topic development, topicchange and topic choiceDiscourse strategiesSummary5.15.25 .35.45 .188.8.131.52.96Acquiring L1 conversational .13IntroductionConversational competenceTurn takingChild-directed speechFormulaic languageRepetitionScaffold ingSyntax: Vertical constructionsCohesionCoherenceFunctions, genres and speech actsPragmaticsEducated discourse: Talk at schoolSociocu ltural theory and 'instructional conversation'7Acquiring L2 conversational competence184.108.40.206IntroductionFluencyFormulaic languageCommunication 7180. 180182Genres in conservation: Storytelling and gossipingIntroductionChat a nd Chunks in conversationGenre theoryStorytelling genresLexica-gra mmatical fea tures of storytelling genresStorytelling genres: SummaryGossipLexica-grammatical features of gossipGossip genreClassroom implicationsSummary.107107108The discourse features of 032042067.47.57.67.7,l /'220.127.116.11.18.104.22.16822.214.171.124.4Pragmatic competenceTransferAcquisition vs learningClassroom talk223224230238Teaching conversation: A history24724 7247249IntroductionPre-reform and reformDirect method: Learning-through-conversationAudiolingualism: Drills, dia logues and the conversationclassSituational English: Conversation in contextOral English: Conversation as speaking practiceCLT: Conversation as communicationTask-based learning: Conversation as a taskTeaching conversation: Approach, design, procedureand onclusionTask keyReferencesAuthor indexSubject 361214214214218219Vll
IntroductionCasual conversation is a fundamental human activity, and one in whichmost of us engage many times a day. It may take the form of small talkabout the weather at the supermarket check-out, or gossip about colleagues around the office coffee machine, or an extended phone conversation with a close friend about the meaning of life. Before getting downto the business at hand, sales reps chat with their clients, doctors chatwith their patients, waiters with diners, and teachers with their students.Strangers at a bus stop will start up a conversation to vent their frustration about the service. Taxi drivers famously air their opinions, seldomsolicited. Your dentist will chat away even when your responses arereduced to grunts. Fellow passengers on a long-haul flight will exchangepleasantries before settling in to watch the movie. Listeners will phone aradio talk show to sound off about local crime, and teenagers will talkfor hours on their cell phones about matters of apparently enormousconsequence. Even very young children chat away with their parents,and by the age of three are able to have fairly sustained conversationswith their playmates.Conversational talk crosses age gro ups, gendet class, culture and ethnicity. Levelt (1989) calls it ' the canonical setting for speech in all humansocieties'. Indeed, the stylistic features of conversation have extendedbeyond spoken talk itself and 'crossed over' into other modes and media,such as the popular press and advertising, a process called conversationalization by Fairclough ( 1992). And the advent and rapid expansionof the use of email, text messaging and online chat have further blurredthe distinction between spoken and written language, while underscoring the ubiquitous role of conversation in human affairs.The centrality of conversation to human discourse owes t o the factthat it is the primary location for the enactment of social values and relationships. Through talk we establish, maintain and modify our socialidentities. The role that conversation plays in our formation as socialbeings starts at an early age. Stubbs (1983: IX} asserts that ' infants learn,as it were, to engage in conversation before they learn language', andHatch (1978: 404) claims that 'language learning evolves out of learninghow to carry on conversations, out of learning how to communicate'.Even as far back as the 1930s, H arold Palmer argued that all language1
Introductionuse is based on, and is an extension of, conversation, adding that conversation must therefore be the start of any study of language. InPalmer's day, this meant prioritizing the teaching of pronunciation. Thenature of spoken language itself was barely understood and for a longtime spoken language was taught as if it were simply a less formal versionof written language. This is a view that has been rectified only recently,with the advent of corpus linguistics and the consequent amassing ofcorpora of spoken data. Findings from such data now heavily inform thecontent of learner dictionaries, such as the Cambridge AdvancedLearner's Dictionary (second edition 2005), and descriptive grammars,such as the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (Biber etal., 1999).Finally, sociocultural theories of learning, such as those that derive fromVygotsky's research into children's cognitive development, foreground therole of conversation as the medium for all learning, arid have contributedto the notion that effective teaching is, essentially, a ' long conversation'(Mercer, 1995). Recent research into second-language acquisition alsosupports the view that the learning of second languages may be successfully mediated through conversational interaction (van Lier, 1996). Sucha view not only reinforces the arguments for an approach to languageteaching that systematically deals with spoken English, but would seem rovindicate the intuitions of those legions of learners who consistentlydemand inclusion of more 'conversation' in their language courses,For all these reasons, an account of how conversation works is' therefore essential in the development of a p edagogy for second-languagelearning. This book aims to meet this need by providing the reader withfirst an overview of the features that characterize conversation and distinguish it from other spoken and written genres (Chapter 1 ), followedby a systematic description of conversational English, including itsvocabulary (Chapter 2), its grammar (Chapter 3), its discourse structure(Chapter 4), and its characteristic generic patterning (Chapter 5), andthen an informed account of irs development in both first- and secondlanguage acquisition (Chapters 6 and 7). On this basis, and after a reviewof teaching approaches to date (Chapter 8), an integrated approach tothe teaching of conversation will be outlined, along with practical classroom applications (Chapter 9).In short, the book aims: to introduce practising teachers to the na ture and structure of conversation in English, drawing from a range of theoretical models; to equip readers w ith analytical techniques necessary to analyseauthentic conversation at the level of vocabulary, grammar, discourseand genre;·2Introduction ro outline how first-language conversa tional competence develops,and to relate this research to the development of second-language conversational competence; to identify and analyse the kinds of difficulties that learners of Englishencounter when participating in conversation; to outline a range of methodological approaches, procedures andtechniques for teaching English conversation and to illustrate theseapproaches by reference to current materials; and, finally, to argue for a n interactive, 'integrated' model of instruction, informed by the descriptio n of conversation and the learningtheories outlined in the preceding chapters.A note on transcription conventionsWherever possible the data used as examples in this book come fromauthentic sources, i.e. from spontaneous and naturally occurring conversations recorded in a variety of contexts. (The few instances of inventeddata a re identified as s uch.) In transcribing these conversations we havetried to capture their spontaneity and informality, but n ot at the expenseof their readability. This has sometimes meant ignoring the finer detailsof transcription, such as length of pauses, pitch direction and other paralinguistic phenomena, unless these features have been expressly singledour for discussio n. In cases where w e cite data tha t employ different transcription conventions from our own, we have modified these transcriptions so as to bring them into line. Where this has not been possible, anexplanation of any variant conventions wiU be found alongside the data.The transcription devices that we use are the fo llowing: full stops: these indicate completion, usually realized by falling into nation commas: these are used to separate phrases or clauses in order to makeutterances more readable question marks: these are used to indicate utterances that, in- theircontext, function as questions, irrespective of their grammatical formor their intonation exclamation marks: these are used conservatively to indicate theexpression of s urprise or shock capital letters: words in capital letters are used conservatively to indicate emphasis quotation marks: double quotation marks are used to signal that thespeaker is directly quoting speech; s[ngle quotation marks are used tosignal that the speaker is saying what they or someone else thought3
Introduction empty parentheses: non-transcribable segments of talk are indicatedby () filled parentheses: words within parentheses indicate the transcriber'sbest guess as to a doubtful utterance square brackets: information about relevant non-verbal behaviour isgiven within square brackets [ ) dots: three dots indicate a hesitation within an utterance: . . dash: a dash represents a false start:Speaker: Did you ever get that- I mean in French what is it? equals sign: a double equals sign is used to represent overlap p henomena, such aso simult aneous utterances, i.e. where two speakers are speaking atthe same time:Speaker 1: Is it still going, Studebakers?Speaker 2: I don't knowSpeaker 3: No it's got a new nameo overlapping u tteran ces: the point where the second speaker beginstalking is shown by preceding the point in the first speaker'sturn:Speaker 1: Can you dance now Rod, can you?Speaker 2: I can do rock'n' roll and Cha Cha and Rumbasand Sambas and waltzeso contiguous utterances: i.e. when there is no interval between adja1cent utterances produced by different speakers:Speaker 1: they had to move out of the flat because the whole Speaker 2: roof collapsed.1Characterizing conversationIntroductionConversation accounts for the major proportion of most people's dailylanguage use but despite this (or perhaps because of it) it is not that easilydefined. Compare, for example, these three dictionary definitions: If you have a conversation with someone, you talk w ith them, usuallyin an iniQ.r l situation (Collins' CO 8 Ul LD English Dictionary). Informal talk in which people exchange news, feelings, and thoughtsCLo;:;g;zan Dictionary of Contemporary English). An inf rmal talk involving a sma ll group of e ?ple or only two;the acnvity of talking in this way (Oxford A(i.vanced Leamer'sDictionary).While all three definitions highlight the informal and the spoken natureof conversatio n, only o ne singles out group size as a defining feature,while another focuses on topic. The distinction between a conversation(i.e. conversation as a countable noun) and conversation (uncountable)is either ignored or blurred in the first two definitions. Finer distinctionsbetween conversation and, say, chat, small talk, discussion and gossip,are not dealt with. And, as we shall see in Chapter 8, the term conversation with special reference to language-teaching methodology hasbeen enlisted for a wide variety of uses - ranging from speaking andcommunication to dialogue and role play. In this chapter we shallattempt to characterize conversation, first by contrasting it with otherkinds of language, and then by listing its distinguishing features. By wayof conclusion, we w ill offer a working definition of conversation thatwill serve as the starting point for a more detailed description in subsequent chapters.1.1The nature of conversationIn April 1999 a freak storm devastated parts of the city of Sydney. H ereis how the storm was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald thefollowing day:45
The nature of conversationCharacterizing conversation(6) SS:Text 1.1The time mar we realised tha t it was heading for thecity .Hail shatters c ity(Radio 2BL, Philip Clark Breakfast P resenter, 15 Apri11999)A freak hai l sto rm swept across Sydney last night, ca using damageworth hundreds o f millions of dollars and rriggering a massiverescue and repair effort by emerge ncy services.A couple of days later four friends were talking about how they wereaffected by the storm. Here is the transcript of part of that conversation:Thousands of homes were damaged as roofs caved in and windowsand skylights were smashed. Thousands more cars were wrec ked orbadly damaged in the storm, w hich struck with no official warning.Text 1.3: HailstormThe ambulance service said dozens of people were treated for cutsand lacerations after being hit by fa lling glass or hail scones, w hichwitnesses described va rio usly as being as big as golf balls, lemons,cricket balls and rock melons. At Paddington, Ms Jan Maurice said all houses on one sideof Prospect Street had windows smashed. M r Luc io Gallero, ofLucio's Restaurant at Paddingron, said: 'I had five windows in therestaurant smashed. Water flooded in and patro ns' cars have beensmash ed.'(The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 1999)On the day after the storm a radio talk show host interviewed aspokesman from the Weather Bureau:Text 1.2(1 ) PC :(2) SS:(3) PC:(4) SS:(5) PC:6. here on 2BL. Well what wenr wrong? Why didn'tthe Weather Burea u tell us w hat was happening? Youhave heard earlier this morning reporrs that the Bureautho ught er saw the storm but tho ught it would go backout to sea. It didn 't. Steve Simons, a senior forecasterwith t he Bureau, joi ns me o n the line this morning.Good morning Steve.Good morning Philip.So what went wrong?What went wrong was that the storm developed downnear Wollongong and we had it on the radar and we weretracking ir and the track at that stage was showing itgoing out to sea and rhen very suddenly it developed intowhat we call a 'supercell' which is the beginning of asevere thunderstorm and these supercells ha ve a habit ofdoing some rather crazy things. It changed direction verysudde nly - this was down nea r Orford Bundeena way Yes
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