Different Internet technologies foster the acquisition of different language skills. In the case of synchronous interaction tools, such as Webchat, the concern is to evaluate whether and how this communication context affects the process of acquiring a second langauge. A collection of Webchat interaction data among English non-native speakers (NNS) and native speakers (NS) is the basis for a microanalytic investigation conducted form a Conversation Analysis (CA) perspective. The main purpose is to discover patterns and conversational strategies used by participatns in this on-line context.
A CA research approach was chosen since it investigates the machinery and the structure of social action in language, avoiding preformulated theoretic categories. This is important since CMC represents a new SLA context, forcing both NS and NNS to produce different structures and strategies. The study analyzes, in particular, whether Webchat implies a reduction of the range in interactional practices, actions performance, sense making, and meaning negotiation, thus affecting the SLA process. Finally, the researcher considers the reliability and validity of this type of qualitative research in this new technological area.
Using some research methodologies taken from CA literature, an analysis of the data focuses first on the overall structure of interaction and sequence organization in connection with the on-line communicaiton setting features. It then passes to turn-taking organization, with attention to recurrent structures and patterns as in openings and closings; turn design (or packaging of actions); expression of parlinguistic features in this on-line context; and some (interlanguage) pragmatic variables. The conclusion resolves the findings and underlines NNS versus NS behaviour, offering hypotheses about SLA through Webchat and synchronous CMC in general, encouraging further investigation.
1999. Vol. 3, no 1, 75-87 p.