Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 12

Accepted Abstracts

The Negotiation of Shared and Personal Meaning Making in Spoken Interaction Tasks

Janine Knight, Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (Spain)


The ubiquity of technology in everyday life as well as the many digital environments inhabited for work, play or socialisation, provides an ever expanding ‘semiotic budget’ thus providing increased opportunities for languaging about the world and about language as we engage in diverse activities (Blin and Jalkanen, 2014). If new learning is characterised in this way, then typical tasks for spoken interaction are potentially problematised. Tasks such as Information gap assume fixed and constant spaces for learning and a synchronous time mode (such as a face-to-face classroom) and the ‘input’ for tasks, with which meaning is negotiated around, is typically controlled by one source i.e. teacher, book or worksheet. Digital environments therefore offer learners increased opportunities to mix learning spaces and time modes as well as to access and control the ‘inputs’ or semiotic resources and tools which host them.

This study explores students' choice and control in relation to three different tasks: opinion sharing, information gap and role-play, and the semiotic resources ‘attached’ to each task. Audio-transcripts and screenshots from peer-peer synchronous, Computer Mediated Communication (SCMC) spoken interaction tasks were analysed using a combination of content analysis for studying learner purposes and conversation analysis for studying the semiotic resources learners were mediating with.

Results suggest that the foci for meaning negotiation through speech across the tasks spanned four areas, namely 1) task management 2) completion of task 3) relating self to task topic and 4) co-ordinating technological aspects of the task. Online tasks require a greater need for dyads to negotiate organisational moves as well as the need to attend to technological aspects, including technical difficulties. Different task types channelled different task completion strategies and regulated the ability to personalise the topic. The ‘expanded semiotic budget’ in relation to the technological aspects which learners acted upon, also shaped how and what was negotiated.

The study highlights that an expanded semiotic budget means that learners have potential to be meaning processors, makers and shapers and that learners’ increased control over tasks means that task outcomes may be increasingly difficult to design for.


Keywords: Language learning, negotiation of meaning, tasks, spoken interaction, languaging


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