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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Issues in Applied Linguistics

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ial is a refereed journal managed by scholars in the field of applied linguistics. Our aim is to publish outstanding research from faculty, independent researchers, and graduate students in the broad areas of second language acquisition, language socialization, language processing, language assessment, language pedagogy, language policy, making use of the following research methodologies (but not limited to): discourse analysis, conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis, critical race theory, and psychophysiology. ial publishes articles, book reviews, and interviews with notable scholars.


Perception of Irony by L2 Learners of Spanish

Recent studies on the second language (L2) acquisition of irony and humor indicate that learners both use and recognize verbal irony in the target language and suggest that the ability to understand irony and to engage in verbal humor increases with greater language proficiency (Bell, 2005, 2006; Bouton, 1999; Cook, 2000; Davies, 2003). While the study of irony has enjoyed a long history in linguistics and the topic of humor in an L2 has received some attention in the field of SLA, few studies have specifically analyzed the understanding of irony by L2 learners. The objective of the present study was to examine the interpretation of ironic utterances in Spanish-language films by L2 learners of Spanish and the impact of an audiovisual context on the ability of learners to interpret irony. The results of the study support previous work on irony and humor in L2 learning in suggesting that the recognition of irony improves as proficiency level and experience with the target language increase. Furthermore, the hypothesis that the greater number of audio and visual sources available to the listener will make irony easier to process and identify (Yus Ramos, 1998; 2000) was only weakly supported and only for the more advanced learners in this study. It was argued that constraints on working memory and processing help to explain why the audiovisual context did not seem to assist the beginning- level learners in interpreting irony and why it seemed to help the more advanced learners in doing so, at least in one movie scene.

Examining Teacher and Student Gender Influence in Task-Prompted Oral L2 Variability

Variability appears to be a worthwhile strand for research in SLA arising out of the realistic, communicative approach to language learning. In accounting for variability, different frameworks have been proposed, each focusing on certain aspects of the learners. Gender is an instance of the variables that is “always present but not always apparent” (Sunderland, 2000, p. 203). In addressing the gap in literature on the relationship between gender, task and variable learner performance, this study concentrated on 20 male and 20 female university English majors’ fluency, complexity and accuracy. Spoken protocols as samples of their task-prompted monologic speech addressed to the same male and female teacher were transcribed and coded for each of the three variables. Results of 2×2 (i.e. teacher gender × student gender) Repeated Measure Mixed Factorial ANOVA indicated a) overall higher fluency when addressing the female teacher, b) no significant differences in complexity in terms of neither the teacher nor the participant gender, c) females’ higher accuracy regardless of the addressee, d) overall higher accuracy with the male teacher, and finally, and e) significantly higher accuracy in female participants’ speech addressed to the male teacher than in any other participant-teacher pair. Implications of the study are discussed in the light of earlier findings as well as theoretical perspectives in literature.

The Assumption of Participation in Small Group Work: An Investigation of L2 Teachers’ and Learners’ Expectations

This qualitative study explores the claim that second language (L2) teachers and learners believe student participation to be valuable and expected in the context of small group work. Their perspectives were analyzed within the framework of recent research on the morality of teaching, which highlights the importance of the conditions underlying effective classroom interaction. Data gathered from an exploratory, in-class forum revealed both converging and diverging beliefs. These teachers and learners shared the assumption that student participation in small groups is expected and beneficial; they also valued the participation of all group members, favorably evaluated collaborative interaction, and did not view knowing the “right” answer as a prerequisite for participation. However, though learners’ expectations regarding participation were clearly influenced by issues of personality and the composition of small groups, the teachers’ beliefs were not as flexible. These results affirm the importance of teachers’ and learners’ involvement in classroom research as well as highlight the need to incorporate learners’ perspectives into pedagogy.