Learner (and Teacher) Talk in EAP Classroom Discourse

  • Eric Friginal
  • Joseph J. Lee
  • Brittany Polat
  • Audrey Roberson


Research on spoken classroom discourse has a comparatively long tradition in linguistics, applied linguistics, and education in general. This, of course, is due to the fact that communication is central to educational contexts. It is through language that teachers conduct their work and students display what they have acquired. Language use in L2/foreign language classrooms, however, serves a distinct purpose, one that is quite unique from that of other classrooms. In most L2 classrooms, language is not only the medium of instruction but also the objective of learning (Lee 2010; Long 1983). In other words, “the medium is the message” in language teaching (Hammadou and Bernhardt 1987, p. 302). While teachers who teach in students’ L1 (e.g., teachers who teach Korean to L1 Korean speakers) also use the language as medium and object of instruction, one difference between L1 and L2 classrooms is the fact that, unlike L1 students, L2 learners in many cases have yet to develop high levels of proficiency in the target language. In order to gain a deeper appreciation of the complexity of L2 classroom discourse, researchers have used different analytical frameworks, including interaction analysis (e.g., Allen et al. 1984), discourse analysis (e.g., Cullen 2002), and conversation analysis (e.g., Lee 2007). The vast majority of research in these traditions, however, has mostly limited the analysis to the micro-levels of teacher-student interaction, focusing on the distribution and functions of teacher and student contributions to the three-part exchange structure: teacher initiation, student response, and teacher feedback (or IRF) (Sinclair and Coulthard 1975). Little research has examined L2 classroom discourse, particularly that of EAP classrooms, from a corpus linguistic perspective.


  1. Allen, P., Fröhlich, M., & Spada, N. (1984). The communicative orientation of language teaching: An observation scheme. In J. Handscombe, R. A. Orem, & B. P. Taylor (Eds.), On TESOL ‘83: The question of control (pp. 231–252). Washington, DC: TESOL.Google Scholar
  2. Csomay, E. (2007). A corpus-based look at linguistic variation in classroom interaction: Teacher talk versus student talk in American university classes. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 6, 336–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cullen, R. (2002). Supportive teacher talk: The importance of the F-move. ELT Journal, 56, 117–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fanselow, J. (1977). Beyond Rashomon – Conceptualizing and describing the teaching act. TESOL Quarterly, 11, 17–39.Google Scholar
  5. Hammadou, J., & Bernhardt, E. (1987). On being and becoming a foreign language teacher. Theory into Practice, 26, 301–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hyland, K. (2005). Metadiscourse: Exploring interaction in writing. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  7. Lee, Y.-A. (2007). Third turn position in teacher talk: Contingency and the work of teaching. Journal of Pragmatics, 39, 180–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Lee, J. J. (2010). The uniqueness of EFL teachers: Perceptions of Japanese learners. TESOL Journal, 1, 23–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lee, J. J. (2011). A genre analysis of second language classroom discourse: Exploring the rhetorical, linguistic, and contextual dimensions of language lessons. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Georgia State University, Atlanta.Google Scholar
  10. Lee, J. J. (2016). “There’s intentionality behind it…”: A genre analysis of EAP classroom lessons. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 23, 99–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lee, J. J., & Subtirelu, N. (2015). Metadiscourse in the classroom: A comparative analysis of EAP lessons and university lectures. English for Specific Purposes, 37, 52–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Long, M. H. (1983). Native speaker/non-native speaker conversation and the negotiation of meaning. Applied Linguistics, 4, 126–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Moskowitz, G. (1971). Interaction analysis – A new modern language for supervisors. Foreign Language Annals, 5, 211–221.Google Scholar
  14. O’Boyle, A. (2014). “You” and “I” in university seminars and spoken learner discourse. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 16, 40–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Seedhouse, P. (2004). The interactional architecture of the language classroom: A conversation analysis perspective. Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  16. Sinclair, J. M., & Coulthard, R. M. (1975). Towards an analysis of discourse: The English used by teachers and pupils. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Spada, N., & Fröhlich, M. (1995). COLT observation scheme. Sydney: The National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research, Macquarie University.Google Scholar
  18. Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Tsui, A. B. M. (1985). Analyzing input and interaction in second language classrooms. RELC Journal, 16, 8–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. van Lier, L. (1996). Interaction in the language curriculum: Awareness, autonomy and authenticity. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  21. Walsh, S. (2002). Construction of obstruction: Teacher talk and learner involvement in the EFL classroom. Language Teaching Research, 6, 3–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Yang, S. (2014). Investigating discourse markers in Chinese college EFL teacher talk: A multi-layered analytical approach. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Friginal
    • 1
  • Joseph J. Lee
    • 2
  • Brittany Polat
    • 3
  • Audrey Roberson
    • 4
  1. 1.Applied Linguistics and ESLGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Ohio UniversityAthensUSA
  3. 3.Georgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Hobart and William Smith CollegesGenevaUSA

Personalised recommendations