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Cognitive Insights into Discourse Markers and Second Language Acquisition

Edited By Iria Bello, Carolina Bernales, Maria Vittoria Calvi and Elena Landone

This volume employs a range of empirical methodologies – including eyetracking, direct observation, qualitative research and corpus analysis – to describe the use of discourse markers in second language acquisition. The variety of different approaches used by the contributors facilitates the observation of correlations between morphosyntactic, semantic and pragmatic features of discourse markers and enriches our understanding of the cognitive behaviour of L2 speakers, both in the understanding and production of texts. Some of the essays examine the acquisitional paths of discourse markers in instructional and natural contexts, with a particular focus on situations of language contact and social integration; others describe experimental studies that analyse the cognitive processing of discourse markers in L2 learners. All the contributions aim to offer new insights which will expand and develop existing theoretical claims about this area of study and open up avenues for further research.

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7 The appropriation of discourse markers by students of Italian as a Foreign Language in a sequence of action-oriented learning tasks (Marilisa Birello / Roberta Ferroni)


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7 The appropriation of discourse markers by students of Italian as a Foreign Language in a sequence of action-oriented learning tasks


Face-to-face conversation is the result of a collaboration and continuous process of negotiation, which implies the participants’ active involvement in the interaction in order to co-construct the message. Bazzanella compares face-to-face conversation to a piece of fabric ‘in which the contributions from the speaker and the interlocutor(s) are woven together to a point where they almost blend into one another to create one single product’ (Bazzanella 1994: 62, own translation). This fabric, as conversation analysis has masterfully shown (see, among others, Schegloff 1972; Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson 1974), is internally organized by mechanisms that make it an orderly activity governed by its own rules,1 like traffic.2 The conversation flow is characterized by anything but linear turn-taking, being instead broken by a series of linguistic elements, which, together with the ‘words of the body’ (parole del corpo, Poggi 2006:11, own translation),3 work to establish an atmosphere of participation and interest among the participants and contribute to characterizing spoken language as a unique ← 169 | 170 → form of communication.4 More specifically, these elements are phenomena which have been extensively dealt with in conversation analysis (see, among others, Schegloff 1981; Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson 1974), such as: dialogic repetitions,5 appositional beginnings, used by speakers in turn taking;6 self-initiated and other-initiated interruptions;7...

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