Sociopragmatic Features of Learner-to-Learner Computer-Mediated Communication
Keywords:Computer-mediated Communication (CMC), Sociopragmatic Competence, Topic Assignment, Topic Development, Interactional Competence
The present study offers a holistic and rich description (as recommended by Ellis, 1999b) of the sociopragmatic features of exchanges among first-year learners of German. Specifically, it examines the use of opening and closing sequences, patterns of topic assignment, and maintenance by participants in computer-mediated interactions in order to gain insights into learners' sociopragmatic abilities in the foreign language. This is an important first step towards exploring the potential of computer-mediated communication (CMC) for fostering foreign language (L2) sociopragmatic competence, which--Kasper (1998) posited--may be developed only through practice and awareness raising. The results of the present study suggest that computer-mediated learner-to-learner interac-tion offers L2 learners unique opportunities for active control of topic selection and management and provides rich opportunities for learners to recognize and adapt to diverse interactional patterns through collaboration among the interactants. Thus, the study furthers the argument that through meaningful participation in different speech communities--here, CMC communities--L2 learners may develop the procedural knowledge (Wildner-Bassett, 1994) necessary for recognizing the interac-tional patterns of a microlevel speech community (e.g., an online discussion group) and for adapting their discourse effectively to function in these speech communities.
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