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Title: Reconsidering the uses of a minimal 'non-lexical' response token through 'embodiment' : a second language teacher's deployment of 'mm hm' as a third-turn receipt
Author: Girgin, Ufuk
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 9949
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2018
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Studies on L2 classroom interaction have placed more weight on the importance of substantial teacher talk (i.e., in the third turns of the IRFs), but what is noticeably lacking until now has been a systematic study of the teachers’ uses of minimal response tokens (e.g., ‘Mm’, ‘Mm hm’, ‘Uh huh’, ‘Okay’, ‘Yeah’). It seems that the uses of these tokens by L2 teachers and what they achieve in pedagogical settings have been ignored or highly undifferentiated. However, in the ethnomethodological tradition, each token has been found to be doing distinctive work (e.g., Beach, 1993; Gardner, 1997; Heritage, 1984; Jefferson, 1984; Schegloff, 1982). Therefore, this study investigates the distinctive work achieved by ‘Mm hm’ in the L2 classroom, where pedagogy (i.e., the goal-oriented nature of interaction) plays an important role in shaping interaction (Seedhouse, 2004). Although the research literature has revealed useful insights regarding the uses of minimal response tokens in talk-in-interaction, it is far from consistent in the way in which they are treated (Gardner, 2001), especially in relation to the uses of ‘non-lexical’ response tokens (e.g., ‘Mm’, ‘Uh huh’, ‘Mm hm’), as it has been claimed that they lack semantic meaning (Gardner, 1997, 2001; Muller, 1996). According to Muller (1996), they acquire specific meanings not only by their sequential placement, but also by their prosodic shape, but what they do in talk-in-interaction still remains to be analysed as a ‘contingent’ achievement. Therefore, the present study investigates if a minimal ‘non-lexical’ response token (i.e., ‘Mm hm’), which is a bilabial nasal consisting of two syllables (i.e., articulated with an aspiration in the second syllable, the ‘h’) (Gardner, 2001), acquires specific meanings as an ‘embodied’ achievement, where its sequential placement including timing (i.e., overlap, pause), prosodic shape, and a L2 teacher’s embodied resources (e.g., gaze, nods, gestures, body posture) that go with it ‘converge’ to attribute these meanings to it (i.e., inform how it is interpreted/understood by students) in L2 classroom interaction. The study also investigates the uses of two tokens, ‘Mm hm’ and ‘Yeah’, by the teacher as consecutive response tokens to understand if and how the teacher is attributing different sequential relevancies to the students’ prior turns through shifting from one token to another. The data of the study, in the form of 15 hours of video-recordings, comes from a specific academic course on ‘Contextual Grammar’ in a department of English Language Teaching at a state university in Turkey. The participants are first-year teacher candidates of English and one female teacher. The data is transcribed using Jeffersonian conventions and analysed using multimodal CA. ii The findings suggest that the sequential positioning of ‘Mm hm’, including its timing and prosodic shape help to disambiguate its use in the L2 classroom. The token is systematically articulated by the teacher as a third-turn-receipt with different prosodic shapes (e.g., a falling, a falling-rising, a rising-falling intonation contour) as distinctive responses to a) acknowledge the students’ second turn responses in turn-initial and turn-medial positions as a strong acknowledgment token and b) pass an opportunity to do a fuller turn, thereby giving the floor to the prior speakers to continue (i.e., as a continuer). In addition, the following four distinct categories have been identified regarding the use of the token as a continuer in the data: a) to acknowledge the students’ intention to continue, b) to display an evaluative stance with the students’ answers within and during the turns, c) to confirm the students’ utterances at within-turn junctures, or d) to prompt the students to expand on their answers (i.e., open-up with their talk). The findings also suggest that it is not only the sequential positioning of the token, including its timing and prosodic shape that help to disambiguate its use, but the embodied resources (e.g., gaze, head nods, gestures, body posture) the teacher draws upon also play an important role in ascribing specific meanings to it (i.e., informing how it is interpreted/understood by the students) in the L2 classroom. The analysis of the data also shows that ‘Mm hm’ and ‘Yeah’ are used by the teacher in the third turns of the IRFs as distinctive responses to the students’ second turn answers, thereby suggesting that the fact that the teacher is orienting to the norms of the pedagogy has been reflected on her choice of the tokens. This study not only has methodological implications, as it considers an even more fine-grained, multimodal analysis of the uses of a minimal ‘non-lexical’ response token (i.e., ‘Mm hm’), but it also has pedagogical implications for L2 teaching research and practice such as teachers’ embodied practices in teacher-fronted sequences, the effect of teachers’ language use and interaction on learner participation and hence on creating space for learning, and L2 classroom interactional competence (Walsh, 2011), as it describes the distinctive uses of the token by a L2 teacher and the roles it plays in shaping L2 classroom interaction.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Council of Higher Education (YÖK) ; Erciyes University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available