The preallocation of student topic nomination and negotiated compliance in conversation-for-learning

Nao, Marion (2013). The preallocation of student topic nomination and negotiated compliance in conversation-for-learning. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, 7(3) pp. 251–272.



This paper explores teacher-student interaction in the English conversation lounge of a Japanese university, in which students are advised to pre-select a topic of interaction prior to engaging teachers of EFL in conversation-for-learning, i.e. conversation for the students’ implied acquisitional benefit. Such preallocation of student topic nomination presents an attempt to deinstitutionalize discourse by reversing the teacher-student roles which are assumed to otherwise reflexively sustain an apparent institutional default of asymmetry of speaking rights. This institutionally prescribed norm is examined through illustrative transcripts of audio-data in which the participants in conversation overtly signal their expectations of who is to nominate topic. Such framing of talk at the onset of topic nomination is analysed with reference to the participants’ use of pronominal deixis and ‘talk about’ as explicit metacommunication. It is by these means that participant assumptions underlying the nomination of topic are investigated, allowing for a fuller understanding of the implications on interaction of the preallocation of student topic nomination. This provides further insight into the way in which preallocation as an institutionalized process may, in fact, inhibit conversationalization, counter to the way intended.

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