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Developing ‘methods’ for interaction: a cross-sectional study of disagreement sequences in French L2

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2011
Author Pekarek Doehler Simona, Pochon-Berger Evelyne,
Project Tracking interactional competence in a second language: a longitudinal study of actional microcosms (TRIC - L2)
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Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)

Book L2 Interactional Competence and Development
Editor , Hall Hellermann Doehler
Publisher Multilingual Matters, Clevedon
Page(s) 206 - 243
ISBN 978-1-84769-406-5
Title of proceedings L2 Interactional Competence and Development


Participants in talk-in-interaction use language and other semiotic resources to accomplish social actions and to mutually coordinate these. This requires participants not only to format their utterances linguistically in a way that they can be understood by others, but also to use language (along with gesture, gaze, posture and the manipulation of objects) in order to deal with the contingencies of talk. They use language for establishing participation, for initiating or closing interactional encounters, for agreeing or disagreeing with others, etc. Seen in this light, language is a resource for action (Ochs, Schegloff, & Thompson, 1996). Learning a second language (henceforward: L2) can therefore be understood as part of learning to act jointly with others within the social world. Such a view implies a focus on language and learning as inextricably embedded and configured within social practice. The recognition of social interaction as the core site where language (as well as cognition) is shaped has triggered a major shift in the SLA scientific landscape within the last decade or two (see the discussions in Firth & Wagner, 1997; 2007; Pekarek Doehler, 2010; see also Block, 2003). Conversation analytic work on SLA (henceforward CA-SLA), in particular, views L2 learning as anchored in language use, i.e. as embedded in the moment-to-moment unfolding of talk-in-interaction. Such an understanding critically challenges what can be taken as evidence for learning: documenting language learning, in this view, involves analyzing how speakers use language within social practices to accomplish (joint) actions. On this background, we argue that the development of L2 interactional competence can be usefully understood in terms of the development of ‘methods’ – in the ethonomethodological sense of the term (i.e. members’ systematic procedures; see section 2.2 below) – for dealing with the contingencies of talk-in-interaction (see Hellermann, 2008; Mondada & Pekarek, 2004; Pekarek Doehler, 2010). Such a notion, however, raises a critical question: How can learning be empirically documented in terms of the development, across time, of such socially situated methods of accomplishing social actions? In this paper, we propose one empirical solution to this question by focusing on a specific practice, namely doing disagreement. In the first part of the paper, we briefly outline our view of L2 interactional competence (section 2; for a more detailed discussion see the introductory paper to this volume, Hall & Pekarek Doehler) and we discuss previous research on disagreements (section 3). In the second part of the paper, we present an empirical study of disagreement sequences in French L2 classroom interaction, based on a cross-sectional research design that allows us to compare lower intermediate and advanced learners (sections 4 to 7). In the last sections, we reflect on the implications of our findings for SLA research as well as on the methodological challenges that arise when it comes to documenting the development of interactional competence across time (sections 8 and 9).