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Spoken discourse in the E.L.T. classroom : a system of analysis and a description

Willis, Jane (1981)
Other thesis, University of Birmingham.

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General outline The thesis, supervised by Professor John M. Sinclair, proposes a system of analysis for the structure of spoken discourse in the E.F.L. classroom, and offers a description of the discourse structure of an informal E.F.L. lesson. Certain changes needed to be made to the model put forward by Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) whose pioneering research on classroom discourse was not concerned with the language classroom, and therefore did not allow for the two ‘layers’ of discourse involved there. These layers consist basically of the ‘Outer’ layer, where language is used interactively for genuine communication, e.g. organisation, and the ‘Inner’ layer, made up of the target language forms which constitute the subject matter of the lesson and which are often quoted and repeated as citation forms in a non-interactive way, and which are dependent upon the ‘Outer’ layer for structural cohesion. Complications, however, arise from ‘quasi’ interactive use of target forms, as in pair-work, but where the turn-taking, content and form of the student discourse is prescribed by the teacher. Author’s Note: the proposed system would need adapting and possibly expanding to handle the interaction of a non-teacher-led ‘task’ phase of a task-based lesson. Chapter One gives a general socio-linguistic survey of the ELT classroom and shows how the norms of the classroom can affect the structure of discourse. Chapter Two briefly reviews the literature available (NB up to 1980) on studies of classroom interaction and on methods used to analyse classroom behaviour, comparing content classrooms with FL classrooms. Methods used for discourse analysis are then outlined, and various applications of certain models to the F.L. classroom are examined, including the relevance of the work of the ethnomethodologists. Chapter Three outlines the procedures used for the data collection and gives a general background to the lesson used for the main analysis. Chapter Four explains the proposed system of analysis, discussing and justifying the adaptations made to the Sinclair & Coulthard system in the light of the current, less formal data and of the views of other analysts in the same field. Chapter Five presents some of the more interesting findings, and examines in particular the relationship between the two layers of discourse (Inner and Outer) from both the Teacher’s and students’ points of view. Chapter Six summarises briefly the main body of the thesis, suggesting implications for E.F.L. teaching and teacher-training, and identifying areas where further research is needed.

Type of Work:M.A. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Sinclair, John McHardy
School/Faculty:Faculties (to 1997) > Faculty of Arts
Department:Dept of English Language and Literature
Additional Information:

The main parts of this thesis have been summarised and published under the title of ‘Inner and Outer: spoken discourse in the language classroom’ in Coulthard, M. (ed) (1992) Advances in Spoken Discourse Analysis Routledge pp162-182 7

Subjects:LB Theory and practice of education
PE English
Institution:University of Birmingham
Library Catalogue:Check for printed version of this thesis
ID Code:458
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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