Friday, January 11, 2013

It’s just a game, right? Types of play in foreign language CMC

RRR: Unit 9:It’s just a game, right? Types of play in foreign language CMC
Chantelle N. Warner(2004)
         In this paper, the author aimed to investigate the different types of plays that occurred within the online discussions and the possible implications of the presence of the play in the online discourse. The author states that CMC was proved to increase the amount of communication among people and serve SLA. This type of CMC study examines uses of language beyond the limitations of communication.
        This study was guided by three important questions:
1.what types of play do students use in the MOO?
2.When and how do these types of play appear?
3.What can the study of ludic language contribute to the study of foreign language acquisition and the pedagogy?
        In the theoretical part, the author discusses so many issues related to language plays after doing some literature review. For example, basing his work on Vygotsky’s, Lantolf argues that the purpose of the play is not just fun, but developing cognition to handle utterances beyond current level of competence in which play is represented as serious exercises working toward proficiency which was the same as the notion of “noticing” suggested by Swain(1995).

        Cook(2000) also divided the features of language play into 3 main categories; linguistic, semantic and pragmatic. Cook sees that the major contribution of language play toward language acquisition is to emphasize the interdependency of form and function in complex systems such as language and he argues that the acknowledgement and encouragement of play in the language classroom would help remedy the supposed dilemma between focus on structure and focus on use.

        Based on the two seemingly opposing views of language play of Lantolf’s and cook’s, Broner and Tarone argue that both types of play do in fact exist, separate and distinct , and most likely satisfy completely different purposes. Moreover, based on Bakhtin’s(1981) notion of double voicing, they suggest that certain types of what they classify as semantic play can also produce pragmatic effects.

       Cook benefits from Wolfson’s theory of social relations in order to explain how these exchanges can either encourage solidarity or competition. He gives an example of an insult which to an enemy may be seen as an act of aggression, to a friend the ability to take such playful liberties may emphasize the closeness of the relationship.

        In order to interpret behavior, Goffman(1974) developed the theory of the primary frames in which he suggests that people and animals operate within frames of behavior that require a return to the meaning of the behavior in the primary frame and make a transcription of this meaning.

       Summarizing what she has discussed earlier in the literature review , the author simplified the meaning of the word “play” defining it as a word which is often employed to describe any sort of creative tinkering with normal set-ups (plays on words, play with ideas, identity play , play with genre expectations, etc) for nearly any reason (fun, rehearsal , social relations). She focused on three main aspects of play which are; what is played with?, how and to what end?

      The author then explains how she conducted her study giving a thorough explanation about the participants and the procedure she followed. Two groups were involved in the study; a second- semester beginning level course and a conversation course attended by advanced students using MOO.

        Basing her interpretations on the data gained from her study and the previously discussed theories on language play, the author proposes three categories of analysis; play with the form, play with the content/concept and play with the frame influenced by Cook’s division into linguistic, semantic and pragmatic play.

       In the findings, the author proves that the second- semester students seemed to spend greater deal of time on play with frame, while the conversation students seemed to engage in more play with content.

In summary, this study highlights some aspects of communication that have been underemphasized in the SLA research and foreign language pedagogy. Yet, play can no longer be regarded as an anomaly or exceptional form of communication, but must be acknowledged as a legitimate and conventional use of language. The students in this study were not playing with the language, but within the language. Moreover, there are differences between face-to –face communication and CMC devices. I suggest that there is a need to understand all other aspects of communication not just face-to-face or CMC types if we want to clarify the picture on how they influence language acquisition. In addition, this study does not provide any evidence on what role do these plays play in SLA and finally, this study might be limited to 3 play types only which are form, content/concept and frame which might not have an exclusive role in communication and might not affect language learning directly.

Badriya Al Mamari

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