Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (34.95 MB)

Task-Based Interaction Among Adult Learners of English and Its Role in Second Language Development

Download (34.95 MB)
posted on 2021-11-10, 03:54 authored by Newton, Jonathan Mark

The role of classroom interaction in second language acquisition (SLA) has been the subject of extensive research in recent years. The purpose of this study was to investigate the claimed superiority of communication tasks involving required information exchange (split information tasks) over tasks involving optional information exchange (shared information tasks) on the basis of how much negotiation of meaning learners produce when performing each type of task. The study also sought to analyze qualitative aspects of negotiation and to assess the theoretical claims made for negotiation in the light of the analysis. Subjects for the study included eight adult students from an English proficiency course who were assigned to two groups each containing four subjects. Over a period of six days the groups performed four communication usks of which two were split information tasks and two were shared information tasks. Full transcriptions of the task performances provided data for the study. Results confirmed that significantly more negotiation and repetition occurred in split information tasks. There was a small movement towards more even distribution of negotiation among interlocutors in split information tasks although the consistency of the differential contributions of specific interlocutors was noticeable across both types of task. The qualitative analysis distinguished six main types of negotiating questions in the data, some of which were shown to be more effective than others in generating comprehensible modifications to input or in extending the language output of the subjects. ln addition, negotiating questions dealt with five broad dimensions of meaning: the form of the message, grammatical and lexical meaning, content, opinions, and procedures. Of these five dimensions, only the first and second sometimes involved new or unfamiliar linguistic features in the input, thus fulfilling a requirement of the interaction hypothesis suggested by Ellis (1991). Significant post-test gains in the subjecrs' knowledge of vocabulary embedded in the tasks suggested that the negotiation of lexical meaning results in measurable learning of new words. Overall however, negotiation dealt more with non-target language features of output than with unfamiliar input and it was this which provided the more promising interactional route to language development. An investigation of other features of interaction revealed no significant difference in the amount of talk produced in split and shared information tasks. Talk was more evenly distributed among interlocutors in the split information tasks although inequalities persisted, with panicular interlocutors dominating interaction across all tasks. In the shared information tasks, turns and utterances were significantly longer, and conjunctions were used more frequently. Prepositions on the other hand were used more frequently in the split information tasks. These results suggest that the greater need to express links between propositions in the shared tasks results in discourse of grearer synracric complexiry. While the study supported the claim that split information tasks produced more negotiation than shared information tasks, a qualitative analysis of the negotiation, and of other aspects of interaction, suggested that more negotiation does not necessarily provide superior conditions for language development,


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Applied Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Nation, Paul; Kennedy, Graeme