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Spoken ELF in engineering education in Sweden. Code and discourse features Recipient reactions Beyza Björkman [email protected] Outline. Higher education in Sweden: an ELF setting in respect of oral interaction The present project: Research questions and design

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Spoken elf in engineering education in sweden l.jpg

Spoken ELF in engineering education in Sweden

Code and discourse features Recipient reactions

Beyza Björkman

[email protected]

Outline l.jpg

  • Higher education in Sweden: an ELF setting in respect of oral interaction

  • The present project:

    • Research questions and design

    • Material

    • The three dimensions of this project

      • Form: Morphosyntax

      • Communicativeness: Analyses at discourse level

      • Attitudes

  • Results: Back to research questions

  • Frequently asked questions

Material l.jpg

A typical international Scandinavian (technical) university


45 International Master’s Programs in English


1,057 foreign exchange students

1,105 international master’s students

Around 100 nationalities with highly diverse backgrounds (Erasmus)

Two types of speech events:Lectures and student group-work

Digital recordings of authentic high-stakes communication from content courses(naturally occurring speech)


Background l.jpg

Key background literature:

  • Firth (1990, 1996), Firth and Wagner (1997), Meierkord (1998, 2000, 2004)

  • Jenkins (2000; 2007)

  • Seidlhofer (2004), VOICE (Pölzl, 2006; Lichtkoppler, 2005; Breiteneder, 2005; Breiteneder et al. 2006; Pietzl, 2005; Hülmbauer, 2007)

  • Cogo and Dewey (2006)

  • House (2002), Lesnyák (2004), Mauranen (2004, 2006; 2007), ELFA (Ranta, 2006)

  • Erling (2004)

Research questions l.jpg
Research questions

What, if any, are the morphosyntactic commonalities of non-standard usage in monologic and dialogic speech events studied in the ELF setting examined?

Are the commonalities found the same with those described in the literature?

What kind of morphosyntactic non-standard usage results in disturbance in spoken ELF communication?

What are the discourse features in the two speech event types in the ELF setting examined?

Are the discourse features found the samewith those described in the literature?

What kind of morphosyntactic non-standard usage is perceived as irritating by speakers in ELF situations?



Research design l.jpg
Research design

Lectures: 21 (48 hrs)

Student group-work:24 (28 hrs)

20L1s, 61 speakers

  • Extensive and intensive analyses

    • Extensive: a large sample required to allow for making general deductions from this ELF environment (FORM)

      • Criteria: The feature

        • occurs a minimum number of ten times

        • is used by different L1 speakers

        • in both speech event types

  • Intensive: a smaller sample (DISCOURSE LEVEL)

    (Dörnyei, 2001; Guilloteaux, 2007; Charles, Pecorari and Hunsten, 2009)

  • An experiment on attitudes: 100 students

  • Lectures: 4

    Student group-work: 4

    46,662 words

    Slide7 l.jpg

    Form: Commonalities

    • No overt disturbance caused by these forms

    • Overt disturbance caused by: Non-standard question formulation

    • How many pages we have now?

      • What means endothermic?

      • What other equation I would use?

      • Why we place it there?

      • So from which point you started?

      • Why the flutter’s velocity is lower than the divergence velocity?


    Slide8 l.jpg








    (Adapted from Robinson, 2001)

    Communicativeness 2 discourse l.jpg
    Communicativeness 2: Discourse

    Clarification techniques (Penz, 2008)

    Clarification of

    terms and concepts

    details and content of task

    Metadiscursive comment on


    discourse structure (gist, reformulation etc.)

    discourse context

    common ground

    Backchanneling and repetition (Dewey, 2006)

    Topic abandonment

    What is ’steam reforming’? It is a commercial way to produce hydrogen.

    I don’t know if we’re supposed to know the code during the lab.

    That’s not what I wanted to say.

    That was my question.

    First I’ll go through the time frame.

    We have to check the distillation process.


    Slide11 l.jpg

    Topic abandoment (1)

    <S4> why you always miss the lecture , sorry just curious </S4>

    <S3> (curious) er sometimes i have some other lectures </S3>

    <S4> other lectures the there's some conflict in the timetable </S4>

    <S3> yeah </S3>

    <S4> mhm </S4>

    <S4> and sometimes [(xx)] </S>

    <S4> [but it's] impossible impossible all time you there’s

    there's a conflict for the all lecture @@ maybe you don't want to have lecture

    you don't want to attend this </S4>

    <S3> yes sometimes @@ </S3>

    <S1> it's not interesting to you </S1>

    <S4> @@ </S4>

    <S3> it is but </S3>

    <S1> but you're busy @@ </S1>

    <S4> what's the time now oh it's from china time </S4>

    <S1> i haven’t changed the time </S1>


    Slide12 l.jpg

    Topic abandoment (2)

    <S4> (xx) we just talk about there's some island in </S4>

    <S3> in greece </S3>

    <S4> greece you're from greece </S4>

    <S3> yeah </S3>

    <S4> mhm </S4>

    <S1> we should prepare a chair for the teacher </S1>

    <S3> @@ </S3>

    <S4> this one this one this one is for teacher i i will stand behind you </S4>

    <S1> i think (we should have) other chair </S1>

    <S4> mhm this . i think greece is a country (full of) charming and that’s why</S4>

    <S3> mhm </S3>

    <S4> full of charming </S4>

    <S3> mhm </S3>

    <S4> and that's why the greece (xx) refer to that kind of very how to say</S4>

    <S1> greece </S1>

    <S4> greece yes , beautiful and </S4>

    <S1> yeah (incredible) </S1>

    <S4> yes greece @@ </S4>

    <S1> but er i have never been to greece </S1>

    <S4> <NAME> have been to there he says he recommend to be there (later)</S4>

    <S1> (we should) invite the teacher </S1>

    <S4> (xx) </S4>

    <S1> invite the teacher to our group </S1> (ERCA-090307-03)

    No topic abandonment l.jpg
    No topic abandonment

    <S1> say put that if you divide it by </S1>

    <S2> yeah how much does it cost to produce it’s like how much it’s not the material like how much </S2>

    <S1> no no no it’s it’s a the the investment [divided by] the number of [hours of] using it </S1>

    <S2> [yeah] [yeah] </S2>

    <S1> and the [operation] </S1>

    <S2> [workers] operation </S2>

    <S1> construction </S1>

    <S3> production cost </S3>

    <S1> production </S1>

    <S2> ok </S2>

    <S1> not the material not the material and the power consumption </S1>

    <S2> uh that kind of stuff this is everything else but the material cost </S2>

    <S1> and then you put the material cost </S1>

    <S2> yeah then you have </S2>

    <S3> i don’t think so </S3>

    <S1> [you don’t think so] </S1>

    <S2> [yeah] , ok so </S2>

    <S1> [ok ok we do] anyway we we [check check] </S1>

    <S2> [why do we] [why do we] why do we have done that then why do we done </S2>

    <S3> we did that we thought that this was something else </S3>

    <S2> yeah but this...</S2>


    Implications for lecturing l.jpg


    Speakers employ clarification strategies if communication is at risk

    Task complexity and conditions: room for maneuver


    Up to the lecturer whether to employ clarification strategies

    Task complexity and conditions set by the lecturer only: little or no room for maneuver

    Implications for lecturing

    Faq 1 why are elf code features identical with interlanguage features l.jpg
    FAQ 1: Why are ELF code features identical with Interlanguage features?

    • They have shared features with World Englishes as well (e.g. African English).

    • The diachronicsource of ELF features is individual interlanguage. The feature is kept if it:

      • does not interfere with communication

      • aids communication

      • is functional

  • The term ’Interlanguage’ is not appropriate for ELF situations:

    • Used for an individual’s language development

    • Temporal

  • Slide16 l.jpg

    LEARNERS OF ENGLISH Interlanguage features?

    Classroom situation

    Homogeneous level

    Norm presented overtly

    Negative feedback in case of non-standard production

    Non-standardness not kept= there are direct consequences in the form dimension (testing: grades etc.)

    FAQ 2: Are ELF speakers learners of English?


    • Authentic communication

    • All levels together

    • No overt norm

    • Little (other repair) or no negative feedback in case of non-standard production

    • Non-standardness kept.

    • Little/ no consequence in the form dimension (language generally not assessed). Consequences are in the content dimension.

    Both must be developing their language ability.

    Faq 3 how often should a feature occur to be a commonality l.jpg
    FAQ 3: How often should a feature occur to be a commonality? Interlanguage features?

    A large proportion of instances are actually standard.

    Breiteneder (2005), 20% Ranta (2006), 13%

    Meierkord (2004), 9% 3% “doubtful constructions”

    The present study: Low percentage of non-standard features

    General conclusions answers to rqs l.jpg
    General conclusions/ answers to RQs Interlanguage features?

    Remarkable commonalities across speech event types. (RQ1)

    Some shared with previous findings. (RQ2)

    (No who/which, invariable isn’t it tag etc.)

    Little breakdown in communication (breakdown caused only by nonS question formulation). (RQ3)

    Rich discourse: (RQ4 and 5)

    Clarification techniques (unlike Penz)

    Increased explicitness (similar to Mauranen, Dewey and Cogo)

    Backchanelling, repetition (similar to Dewey and Cogo)

    Topic abandonment only in social talk

    Irritation at varying degrees toward all features. (RQ6)

    They do not represent majority usage.


    Publications on the present material l.jpg
    Publications on the present material Interlanguage features?

    Björkman, B. (Forthcoming, 2009). ’ From code to discourse in spoken ELF’. In Mauranen, A. and Ranta, E. (Eds.). English as a Lingua Franca: Studies and findings. Cambridge Scholars Press.

    Björkman, B. (In press, 2009). ’English as a Lingua Franca at a Swedish Technical University: An Effective Medium?’ Proceedings of the Annual BALEAP Conference: 'EAP in a globalising world: English as an academic lingua franca‘. Peter Lang.

    Björkman, B. (2008). ‘English as the Lingua Franca of Engineering: the morphosyntax of academic speech events’. Nordic Journal of English Studies 7(3): 103-122.

    Björkman, B. (2008). 'So where we are': Spoken lingua franca English at a Swedish technical university. English Today, 24 (2), 11-17.

    Björkman, B. (2008). ‘'We' and 'you': pronouns and genre competence in oral technical descriptions’. In Lainio, J., & Leppänen, A. (Eds.), Linguistic Diversity and Sustainable Development (pp. 89-109). Swedish Science Press.