SLS 660 - Assignment 2: Microanalysis

This assignment will ask you to address the second key question in this course: How do the social meanings produced in language inform language teaching, learning, and use? In exploring answers to this broad question, consider how people create social meaning by using language and by interpreting other people's language use. The point is to better understand how language is a medium for social interaction, and for the construction of social categories. This paper will also provide you with an opportunity to reflect upon research methodology and analytical procedures in data analysis. In class, we will examine analytical approaches including 1) narrative inquiry, 2) ethnography, 3) interactional sociolinguistics, and 4) membership categorization analysis. You will need to provide a rationale for the framework you choose for analyzing your data.

Some potentially interesting research questions:
1. How are teachers and students' verbal contributions to classroom practices gendered?
2. How are heritage language learners different from foreign language learners, and what are the implications for teaching?
3. What sorts of Japanese do locals use in retail encounters with Japanese tourists?
4. How is politeness treated in interaction in language X?
5. How gendered is male talk? What is male talk in language X? How might males fluctuate in producing 'maleness' in their L2?
6. What constitutes cross-cultural interactions? How do people perform 'culture' in face-to-face interactions?
7. What discourses are present in learners' narratives about the need to learn English in Japan/Korea/Taiwan/Germany/etc.?
8. How do language learners become more acculturated (or not) through language learning?
9. How do MA students in SLS become socialized into academic presentations or classroom participation?
10. Do HELP students have opportunities to use English for communicative purposes in Honolulu?
11. How can teacher talk or student talk offer ESL students the guidance they need for learning alongside their L1 English peers?

The aim of this assignment is to give you some hands-on experience with microlevel approaches to the study of language use, and also to motivate you to incorporate discussions of identity into your research and teaching practice. To this end, you will carry out sociolinguistic data collection and analysis and read some relevant literature. You will write a 13-15 page paper which will describe your research question, rationale for choosing one methodological approach, methodological procedures, data analysis, and discussion of findings. Compared to the first paper assignment, this assignment is more research oriented and will rely on your interpretation of language data (as opposed to writing a synthesis of existing research within sociolinguistic variation or language policy data).


OPTION A: Narrative inquiry

If you are primarily interested in how people's social identities constrain and/or aide their learning and use of particular languages and language varieties, or other issues related to S/F/HLs, then you may want to consider narrative inquiry as an option. Narratives are a rich resource for learning more about speakers' emotions, perceptions, and interpretations of their everyday interactions involving their L1, L2, etc. Narratives can be obtained by doing interviews with language learners and language users, and they can also be obtained by asking participants to write responses to questions or discussion points that you pose (on paper or electronically). Recently, in the field of applied linguistics, narratives written by applied linguists themselves have become accepted as 'legitimate' language analysis as well. Ideas for carrying out research on narratives include:

Data collection and transcription

You do not need to transcribe the entirety of your narratives, as interviews that last 10 minutes can take up to 20 pages of transcription. Instead, listen to your narratives (or read through them, if they are collected via writing) multiple times to allow for particular themes and recurrent ideas to 'emerge' from the data. Once you have noticed an element to comment on, then transcribe selections of the narratives to use as illustrations of your research. These transcriptions can be written into your paper in block paragraph form, preferably using italics or through indenting the text so that it is separated from the rest of the writing. Follow Pavlenko's points about narrative analysis by paying attention to the context, content and form. To attend to this specifically, divide your analysis into three parts.

If your narratives involve the use of language other than English, please provide both the original language and the English translation of the excerpts that you include in your paper. The original translation may be included as an appendix.

Special considerations for narrative and identity:

1.   Narratives require RICH DATA, which is sometimes difficult to obtain in interviews. In order to get RICH DATA, you need to develop a rapport with your interviewees, which means that you shouldn't record the interviews on the very first meeting if you don't know the interviewee very well. Instead, set up a time to chat first, and then set up another time to do the recording. Also, consider ways that you can get your interviewees to tell you STORIES, rather than to simply answer questions in a general manner. STORIES (retellings of past events) are frequently sites for RICH DATA since they allow us to see how characters are created, how emotions are described, and how people are positioned vis-a-vis discourses. Interviews without STORIES offer very little opportunity for learning much about identity construction.

2.   In doing interviews, you want to consider the role that your questions may have in shaping the answers that your participants provide you. You should also consider the effect that your identity (as a grad student, as a NS/NNS, as a woman, as a man, as an older/younger person, etc.) might have on your participants' answers. Note that narratives are not simply answers to research questions, but presentations of the self. This is also part of the 'micro-context' that Pavlenko (2007) describes.

3.   To make sense of your data, you may see a need to collect background information about your participant(s). This may be difficult, depending on the personal relationship that you have (or don't have). Narratives are much richer, however, if researchers can include information about the participants' backgrounds. Make sure to provide pseudonyms for the speakers to protect their anonymity.

Sample papers
Iyoda - L2 MBA student narratives
Yoon - Resistance to L2 Korean
Lee - Heritage language identities online


Option B: Ethnography

Most ethnographies require a lot more time than you will have in this course. However, you can use the second assignment to become more familiar with ethnographic methodologies, which you may extend for future projects in SLS. If you choose this option, you will need to find a context that you are interested in analyzing through repeated observations, fieldnotes, interviews, and possibly, recordings as well. Because your time is limited, you will need to pick 2-3 ethnographic methods (among interviewing, document collection, observing, and recording) to employ in addressing your research question. Possible questions follow:

1. How do language teachers successfully create student-centered classrooms?
2. What aspects of Hawaiian culture and language do people who learn hula become familiar with?
3. How communicative is language teaching in a particular classroom?
4. What opportunities do immigrants in Hawaii have for using their L1 and English in their daily lives?
5. What role does gender or ethnicity play in choosing a foreign language to study at the college level?
6. How do international students who live together use English as a lingua franca?
7. How do employees of multinational companies in Seoul/Tokyo/Berlin/Taipei use English in their workplace contexts?
8. Why do people learn their heritage languages? How do they find ways to learn them outside of traditional classrooms?
9. What identities do second year MA SLS students develop and use in their interactions with first year MA SLS students?


As examples we have read such as Morita (2004) show, your analysis will be interpretive but will be based on the data that you collect through multiple ethnographic methods. Interpretive authority is especially significant in ethnography, and I encourage you to make your analysis as inclusive and participatory as you can by inviting the participants in your study to share their views of the data analysis. Many people who do ethnographic work include the perspectives of the participants in the analysis, even when it contradicts their own interpretations.

Identity is an especially rich area of inquiry in ethnography. Consider framing your initial research question around issues of identity to start, and consider the following as resources for your literature review and methodological framework:

1. Kanno, Yasuko. 2003. Negotiating Bilingual and Bicultural Identities: Japanese Returnees Betwixt Two Worlds. Erlbaum. (an example of a critical ethnography)
2. Norton, Bonny. 2000. Identity and Language Learning. Longman. (an example of a critical ethnography)
3. Toohey, Kelleen. 2007. Ethnography and language education. Encyclopedia of Language and Education.


Option C: Recording and Analyzing Interaction
   Interactional Sociolinguistics
OR

  Conversation Analysis (focus on Membership Categorization)

1. Audio or video record and transcribe a communicative event in which at least two speakers participate. Examples include classroom contexts such as a pair/group task, a teacher-centered interaction, a role-play activity, or a task-structured activity during a classroom lesson. Other examples include examining talk at a coffeeshop dinner conversation, or a service encounter. In general, including yourself as a research participant is usually a bad idea since you will be tempted to employ internal, psychological motivations for describing the interactions - which is precisely what you want to avoid for this assignment, as the methodologies will take a social-constructivist perspective on the language data, rather than a psychoanalytic stance.   The activity that you record should take place for at least 5 minutes, but it would be best to find an activity that you could record for longer so that examine the data and then choose a portion that contains an interesting stretch of talk. Your transcription should be at least two pages long (single-spaced) and no longer than four pages long.

2. Analyze the event according to one of the following theoretical frameworks:

   a. Interactional Sociolinguistics: This will be your choice if you want to focus on how people use contextualization cues (features of talk, including non-verbal actions that signal meanings) to create meaning through their talk. It is a good option for the analysis of conversational data that includes people who are members of a culture which you is different from your own. Interactional sociolinguistics allows researchers to bring in interviews and ethnographic observation of the 'context' surrounding the talk.

   b. Conversation Analysis (Membership Categorization Analysis): This will be your choice if you want to see how people categorize themselves and their actions in and through talk. It is a good option for the analysis of any accepted social fact, such as 'race' or 'gender' or 'cultural difference' since it requires that you find evidence in the talk for such social 'facts.' MCA does not allow for resesarchers to bring in outside information in the analysis of talk.

3. Consider the role of IDENTITY in your analysis. Which of the multiple possible identities of the speakers involved are made relevant to the interaction or text? In your consideration of identity, be sure to consider aspects which we have studied such as: teacher/student, male/female, ethnicity, nationality, age, occupation, education, sexual orientation, novice/expert, regional affiliation, NS, NNS, bilingual, non-standard speaker, bidialectal, etc. All of these identities will not appear in your data, and other identities are likely to appear that aren't listed. Be sure to provide evidence (from the data itself) that any of them are relevant to the interaction.

4. Write up your analysis by framing your study within your methodological choice. Keep a copy of the media which you used to capture your data so that I may examine it if needed. Provide me with an appendix that contains the transcribed data as well.

5. References: Support your analysis by at least three published studies. Include three additional references to assist you in your discussion of research methods and identity. This means your paper will have a minimum of 6 references total.

Sample Outline for organizing your paper:

      1. Introduction to the research study. Why did you choose this particular context? What is the research question(s)?

      2. Description and rationale of research methodology chosen

      3. Methodological procedures

      4. Presentation of data and analysis of identities

      5. Discussion (keep in mind the two questions on our syllabus regarding implications for learning/teaching/use of second, foreign, and heritage languages)

      6. Appendix (here you should include the entire transcript of your data).

Special instructions for the recording of naturally occurring data:

1. If possible, try to use video to capture your data, especially if you are looking at classroom interactions or interactions involving several people. Video is superior to audio because it captures non-verbal behavior, which is typically highly meaningful in interactions. Also, it is much easier to tell who is speaking to whom with the help of video data.   If video data is simply not feasible, audio data is fine too. Video cameras are available for checkout in the language learning labs.

2. In transcribing your data, follow the examples given by Cameron where each new speaker is placed below the next. And, number your lines. Your transcription should look like this (note that the [square] brackets indicate overlapping talk):

1 A: Have you started your second paper assignment yet?
2 B: Nah, I'm going to wait til the night before.
3 A: Wow! You are nuts. [ha ha ha
4 B:   [ha ha ha ha

In analyzing your data, note that it is very helpful to refer to line numbers as you do so. MS Word has a very accessible way to number lines (on format menu > bullets and numbering)

3. If you choose to transcribe language data which I am not familiar with (I'm only really familiar with Spanish and Swahili), then you will need to provide a three-line transcription such as the one below in Swahili. If you are dealing with a language written in a non-Roman script, please use the romanized script (such as Romaji ) in the first line. Note that the first line is the language as it would be spoken in Swahili; the second line is a morpheme-by-morpheme translation of each word; and the third line is a gloss (translation) into conversational English:

1 A: Umeanza       pepa   ya    pili     yako  bado?
    you-have-start   paper  of   second   your   yet
    'Have you started your second paper assignment yet? '
2 B: La,    nitasubiri   mpaka  usiku   kabla.
    no    I-will-wait   until    night   before
    'No, I'm going to wait til the night before.'

Special note: If you are analyzing data which requires translation, I will accept less than 2 pages of transcribed data (at least one full page of data, minus the translation is the minimum expectation). Translation requires a great deal of work, and I'd like to reward your efforts here.

4. When recording your data, make sure to give yourself a buffer zone around the expected number of minutes that you'll need for the transcription. Most of the time, it's best to avoid relying on the first few minutes of recorded talk since the initial period of a recorded conversation can be a bit awkward, especially if participants are adjusting to the recording equipment. Data which comes from later on in the recording session will be less affected by the recording devices, as participants should be somewhat more comfortable as time passes.

Sample papers
Park- MCA on ethnic categories
Lee - MCA on intercultural conversation
Miyachi- Interactional Sociolinguistics on laughter in English conversations (Japanese and Americans)
Sano- Interactional Sociolinguistics on Japanese tourists in Hawai'i


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