Promoting oral production in a written channel: an investigation of learner language in MOO

Weininger, Markus J. and Shield, Lesley (2004). Promoting oral production in a written channel: an investigation of learner language in MOO. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 16(4) pp. 329–349.



Crystal (2001: 47–48) has suggested the [text-based] language of the internet, including MOO (Multi-User Domain Object Oriented)-discourse, is “a new species of communication” that is “more than an aggregate of spoken and written features”. Since some researchers and teachers (e.g., Chun, 1998) believe learners’ spoken performance in L2 (the target language) to have been enhanced by using synchronous text interaction, we have been engaged in analysing and describing MOO-discourse corpora according to “written” versus “oral” linguistic indicators in an attempt to address the question as to whether MOO can really be considered an appropriate rehearsal arena for face-to-face interaction. As reported elsewhere (Weininger & Shield, 2001), our analysis of NS (native speaker) MOO-discourse has suggested that while this may be classified as 'written speech', the discourse model advanced by Koch and Oesterreicher (1994), which places MOO-discourse towards the 'proximate' end of a continuum ranging from language of proximity to language of distance (where these concepts replace the problematic labels of 'oral' and ’written’ language) seems to offer a more appropriate description. This model defines discourse of any sort in terms of its linguistic content and the context of its communication setting, rather than merely by the medium employed. In this paper, we apply discourse analysis techniques and word frequency counts to samples of NNS (non-native speaker) MOO-discourse and compare the results with those of our earlier analyses of NS MOO-discourse to find out if online learner language complies with NS usage. We compare teacher-led with teacherless NNS MOO-discourse, asking whether there is any evidence of variation according to situation and context. Returning to the question of the efficacy of MOO as a rehearsal arena for face-to-face interaction, we attempt to answer three questions about NNS MOO-discourse and, in conclusion, indicate areas that we believe require further investigation.

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