Monash University
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Analysing and assessing the interlanguage conversation of Japanese EFL learners

posted on 2016-12-09, 00:52 authored by Ryan, Anthony Gerard
This thesis provides a detailed examination of the discourse structures of Japanese students' English conversations. Moreover, as an applied linguistics project, it formulates a pilot suite of pedagogically-motivated assessment procedures, that with further refinement and simplification, are expected to be of use to EFL teachers when assessing the conversational English of their learners.The first part of the study identified discourse structures within interlanguage conversation from five perspectives: macrostructure, text-internal sub-genres, interactant structures and roles, utterance structure, and pragmalinguistic proficiency. The second part of the study then applied the identified systems, networks, and structures to the data from one dyad and assessed each subject with respect to their inter-individual and intra-individual interlanguage performance from the same five perspectives. The research site for the study was a national university in central Japan, and involved ten dyads of Japanese EFL learners who completed learner-learner conversations in English of approximately ten minutes duration. These conversations approximated casual EFL conversation between friends. The data collection design was specifically tailored to extract data that was sourced from as ‘normal’ an environment as possible: one that reflected the fact that for the vast majority of EFL learners, the classroom remains the basis of interaction in English. Moreover, unlike previous research in EFL discourse, the data collection focused on extracting complete and entire spoken conversation texts from the participants. Entire conversations from greeting salutations to departure comments were collected via audio- and video-tape. The data analysis approach for the investigation of structures within the interlanguage conversations was primarily qualitative. When the methodology and the search for structures and their occurrence in interlanguage conversation were applied to the data from Dyad 1 for the assessment part of the thesis, both qualitative and quantitative analyses were undertaken. The findings from the analyses revealed an eight-level rank scale of discourse structures for interlanguage conversation. Both below-discourse and discourse-level structures were identified including: ideational, textual, cognitive, and interactive intra-act components that form utterances; a set of 42 basic interacts (i.e. speech acts); a set of 12 exchange-level moves, and two transaction-level moves; 4 basic types of exchanges including linear, re-negotiated, quasi, and loop exchanges, and their sub-types; 9 types of internal sub-genres, including recount, configural recount, habitual recount, anecdote, narrative, argument, dilemma, gossip, and foretell; two types of complex formed by the interweaving of exchanges and internal sub-genres; transaction structures organised around macro-themes; and five specific elements - greeting, approach, re-negotiating tenor, leave-taking, and goodbye - that together form the 'genre of interlanguage conversation'. The linguistic findings were then applied to the data from one dyad. The subsequent assessment of the speakers from the five perspectives of the study, identified more comprehensive and accurate discourse-based assessment methodologies than are currently utilised by EFL teachers when assessing the fluency, complexity, and accuracy of L2 learners’ oral performance.


Principal supervisor

Helen Tebble

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Arts

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