Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

An Impetus for Change: Classroom Analysis Using Sinclair and Coulthard's Model of Spoken Discourse

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

An Impetus for Change: Classroom Analysis Using Sinclair and Coulthard's Model of Spoken Discourse

Article excerpt

Abstract

Analyzing classroom talk using the Sinclair & Coulthard model of spoken discourse gives teachers an awareness of two important features of the classroom: the communicative roles assumed by both teacher and student and the language choices made by the teacher. This paper examines an application of the Sinclair & Coulthard model, particularly at the level of exchange, move and act and the manner in which they interrelate. Looking at the usefulness of this kind of analysis in two types of activities in the classroom for understanding classroom communication and communicative patterns in discourse allows teachers to objectively understand the choices they make and how those choices impact the communication that is likely to take place in the classroom.

Keywords: Discourse analysis, Spoken discourse, Sinclair, Coulthard, Communicative roles, Exchange, Move, Act

1. Introduction

For many EFL teachers our purpose is to better enable our students to communicate in the L2 outside the classroom. However, in many EFL contexts this type of preparation for real world communication does not take place; students are given minimal opportunities for use of the L2 and when it does arise it is mostly in the form of a response function. By analyzing classroom talk using the Sinclair & Coulthard model teachers can become more aware of two important features of the classroom: the communicative roles assumed by both teacher and student and the language choices made by the teacher. This awareness can act as a springboard for change in classroom interaction to create a more truly communicative environment that can better prepare students for real world communication.

The purpose of this paper is to first give a brief overview of the Sinclair & Coulthard model, examining it particularly at the level of exchange, move and act. From there, the author will describe the context in which his application of the model took place before commenting on the ease and difficulty of fitting the classroom data into the model. Finally, the writer will examine the usefulness of this kind of analysis for understanding classroom communication and how this understanding can lead to more effective teaching strategies.

2. Sinclair and Coulthard Model

Sinclair & Coulthard's spoken discourse model was developed in 1975. The model was based on a rank scale drawn from Halliday's (1961) rank scale on the description of grammar. The model proposed to show how interaction in the classroom takes place by taking a linguistic and functional look at discourse. The structure for the Sinclair & Coulthard model was originally developed through the application of transcripts taken from primary school classroom settings in the 1970's. However, these settings were primarily teacher centered which has led to criticisms of the model as most modern classrooms do not reflect the structure of the data out of which the model arose. Nevertheless, it remains a relatively powerful model that allows us to objectively evaluate communication that occurs in the classroom.

2.1 The Rank Scale

Sinclair & Coulthard's model takes a structural look at classroom conversation by breaking the discourse down into five ranks: lesson, transaction, exchange, move and act, which relate hierarchically; each rank is realized by the rank below it. The following is a diagram of DA model rank-levels based on Seigel (2008: 3)

For the purposes of our analysis we are interested only in the levels of exchange, move and act and the manner in which they interrelate: acts realize moves and combinations of moves realize exchanges. We shall take a more detailed look at these rank levels and their relationship with each other below.

2.2 Exchange and Moves

There are two types of exchanges: boundary and teaching exchanges. Boundary exchanges mark off stages in the discourse and are realized by either a framing move, a focusing move or a combination of both. …

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