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Applied Linguistics 30/1: 4969

Oxford University Press 2008


doi:10.1093/applin/amn033 Advance Access published on 29 September 2008

Lego my keego!: An Analysis of Language


Play in a Beginning Japanese as a Foreign
Language Classroom
CADE BUSHNELL
University of Hawaii at Manoa
In this article, I present an analysis of talk-in-interaction from an introductory
Japanese as a foreign language classroom at an American university. An
examination of the data revealed language play (LP) to be a highly salient
feature of the participants interactions. LP has come into increasing focus in the
second language acquisition research of the last decade. Research in L1 has long
shown the prevalence of LP in both the language data available to the learner
and learner language production (e.g. Garvey 1984, [1977] 1990), and recent
research in L2 has shown that LP is also a prominent characteristic of the
language production of both child and adult L2 learners (Kramsch and Sullivan
1996; Cook 1997, 2000, 2001; Lantolf 1997; Sullivan 2000; Tarone 2000; Broner
and Tarone 2001; Belz 2002a, 2002b; Bell 2005; Cekaite and Aronsson 2005;
Kim and Kellog 2007). Adopting Cooks (2000) definition of LP, I use conversation analysis to examine instances of LP in the participants interactions.
Analysis focuses specifically on the ways in which LP functions within the
context of the language learning classroom to provide affordances (van Lier
2000, 2004) for language learning, and to become a resource for sequenceorganization. The analysis shows that by and through the fictional world of
LP, the participants were able to engage in the teacher-assigned pedagogical
activities on their own terms. In the discussion, I argue that LP is potentially
of great benefit to the linguistic development of second language learners
echoing Cekaite and Aronssons argument in favor of a ludic model of language
learning, in which they contend that we need to take non-serious language
more seriously (2005: 169).

INTRODUCTION
Cook (2000: 5) argues that play is highly beneficial to human development,
and that language play (henceforth LP) in particular is important not only in
child language acquisition, but in adult language learning as well. However,
as Cook noted, a serious examination of LP had at that time on the whole
been neglected, or at least sidelined, in the study of language and language
learning (2000: 4) and until the 2000s, second language researchers had paid
relatively little attention to LP, a notable exception being Kramsch and
Sullivan (1996). In the field of second language acquisition (SLA), where the
dominant theoretical frameworks have tended to emphasize interaction

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LANGUAGE PLAY IN A BEGINNING JAPANESE FL CLASSROOM

focusing on referential meaning (e.g. task-based instruction; Long 1983,


1996; Doughty and Pica 1986; Skehan 1998; Pica 2005; but see, e.g., Block
2003, 2007a, 2007b on the recent social turn in SLA research), this is not a
surprising fact. However, research in L1 has long shown the prevalence of LP
in both language data available to the child language learner, as well as
learner language production (e.g. Garvey 1984, [1977] 1990). LP is also a
salient feature of child L2 acquisition (Tarone 2000; Broner and Tarone 2001;
Cekaite and Aronsson 2005; Kim and Kellogg 2007) and recent research on
adult L2 acquisition has unequivocally shown it to be in no way a childish
activity (Kramsch and Sullivan 1996; Cook 1997, 2000, 2001; Lantolf 1997;
Belz 2000a, 2000b; Sullivan 2000; Bell 2005).
While previous research has often focused on the intrinsic features of LP
(e.g. Cook 1997, 2000), or the possible effects of LP on interlanguage
structures and second language acquisition (e.g. Tarone 2000), the present
study will examine several of the socially situated functions of LP. Using
conversation analysis, I examine naturally occurring linguistic data collected
from a beginning Japanese as a foreign language classroom. In the analysis, I
will show that the participants co-construct and use the fictional worlds of LP
as a resource by which to organize the pedagogical-task-as-social-interaction.
Moreover, I will argue that LP functions to offer affordances (van Lier 2000,
2004) for the development of sociolinguistic competence (Tarone 2000), and
for encoding the target language in a highly internalizable and deeply
processed (Craik and Lockhart 1972; Craik and Tulving 1975) fashion.

Functions of language play in second language acquisition


Tarone (2000) argues that LP may be an important facilitator to SLA in at
least the following ways. First, LP may lower affective barriers to SLA by
providing a means of assuaging anxiety, thus allowing linguistic data to pass
through the affective filter (Krashen 1981) and become intake (Chaudron
1988; Schmidt 1990).
Second, LP may increase the memorizability of the discourse engaged in by
the learner. Craik and Lockhart (1972), and Craik and Tulving (1975) suggest
that retrieval from the long-term memory is facilitated by the creation of a
trace, or triggering association. Craik and Lockhart (1972) also argue that
depth of analysis or elaborative encoding will promote the creation of a
strong trace. They define depth as involving a greater degree of semantic or
cognitive analysis (1972: 675) and argue that this semantic enrichment can
be achieved through an accumulation of associations, images or stories on
the basis of the subjects past experience with the word (ibid.). In this vein,
Cook (2001: 3813) provides concrete examples of the mnemonic efficacy of
LP, and suggests that LP may produce such lasting impressions on the
memories of learners that, even after years of disuse, they will still be able to
vividly recall the language encoded via LP.

CADE BUSHNELL

51

Third, LP may provide the learner with opportunities for incorporating


other voices (see Bakhtin 1981) into their L2possibly fostering sociolinguistic competence. Sociolinguistic competence requires the appropriation
of not just one register, but of several voices or varieties appropriate to the
speech communities to which the learner belongs, or wishes to belong
(Tarone 2000: 46). Bakhtin (1981, 1984) emphasizes that we do not learn
our languages from a dictionary, but rather that we weave together a
patchwork of voices appropriated from the speech of others. LP gives learners
an opportunity to experiment with other voices without concern for adverse
social consequences. This process may enable learners to gain ownership of
the voices and construct their own complex identities, allowing them to
participate in their speech communities with a greater range of resources for
and freedom of self-expression (Tarone 2000).
Fourth, because LP may entail production of alternative linguistic forms, it
could play a crucial role in the destabilization and restructuring of the learners
interlanguage (IL) (Tarone 2000; Broner and Tarone 2001; Bell 2005; Kim and
Kellogg 2007). Tarone (2000) argues that IL development requires both
centripetal and centrifugal (see Bakhtin 1981) forces, which are manifest in the
push of the demand for accuracy and the pull of creativity and innovation,
respectively. She suggests that LP creates just such a situation for learners as
they engage in the act of noticing linguistic forms in the course of LP and
gradually replace incorrect productions with correct L2 forms.
Cekaite and Aronsson (2005: 170) touch upon two additional functions of
LP. The first is that of a face-saving device which allows participants to
commit face-threatening acts (FTAs) (Brown and Levinson 1987) while
effectively avoiding social repercussions by remaining off-record in the
context of play (see also Zajdman 1995; van Dam 2002). Second, they
suggest that LP may function as a venue for extended multiparty interaction.
They note that [i]n ordinary conversations speech errors and overt
corrections frequently trigger play episodes (Cekaite and Aronsson 2005:
176). In the case of L2 learners, such instances may provide an opportunity
to engage in a language related episode (LRE) where the focus of the
interaction shifts from conveying a message to attending to the linguistic
form of the message itself (Swain 2000). LP may thus contribute to the
creation of a space for continued collaborative attention to form.
It is arguable that all of the functions mentioned above (i.e. affective,
mnemonic, sociolinguistic, IL destabilizing, FTA mitigating, and interactional)
may have considerable impact on SLA. In the analysis presented below,
however, special attention is given to the ways in which LP functions to
provide affordances for learners to internalize interactional episodes, and to
develop greater levels of sociolinguistic competence. Additionally, I will also
emphasize another important function of LP, which, to the best of my
knowledge, has not been directly touched upon by previous research: LP as a
resource for organizing and engaging in social interaction.

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LANGUAGE PLAY IN A BEGINNING JAPANESE FL CLASSROOM

Research questions and methodology


I will employ the methodology of conversation analysis (CA) in considering
the following research questions:




In what ways do the participants of this study use LP?


How does this use of LP function as a resource for engaging in social
interaction?
What affordances (van Lier 2000, 2004) for language development are
made available through the LP?

CA is an extremely robust tool by which to examine social interaction. It is


especially useful in helping the researcher to understand, from the participants
perspective, how they (the participants) co-achieve social order and intersubjectivity within their interaction (Sacks et al. 1974; see also Tanaka 1999 for
Japanese). Much of the previous research has tended to view LP through the
lens of the individual learner. LP has been seen as a social phenomenon only
insofar as it occur[s] as part of a process in which learners appropriate the L2
speech of others in interaction and internalize it (Broner and Tarone 2001:
497). Furthermore, the relationship between LP and social action has often been
de-emphasized in order to focus on its intrinsic features (see, e.g., Cook 1997).
By using CA, however, the present study seeks to give careful consideration to
the ways in which the participants orient to and use LP as a resource for
engaging in and organizing their social interaction in the context of the
pedagogical task.

SETTING AND DATA


Classroom setting
Data were collected from two second semester Japanese as a foreign language
(JFL) classrooms at an American university. Signed consent was obtained
from all participants prior to data collection. The data used in this study come
from a subset of the data collected from one of these two classes. Ten of the
fifteen students in the JFL class examined here had been together in the
same class taught by the same teacher from the previous semester. None of
the five new students were known to the other ten prior to the beginning of
the data collection period. This fact served to create a classroom in which the
intra-group interactions of one group of students were characterized by a
familiarity and solidarity that reflected their shared social history from the
previous semester. Such familiarity/solidarity was generally absent in the
other group of students in both inter- and intra-group interactions (though
some of the students from the new group had developed associations within
their own group prior to data collection).
Class met four days a week for 50 minutes per session. The typical
pedagogical flow began with a teacher-fronted presentation followed by
whole class, teacher-fronted practice. The students would then be asked to

CADE BUSHNELL

53

form pairs or groups and be given various tasks related to the pedagogical
focus (often involving some variation of role play) as the teacher circled the
room providing assistance. The teacher then usually led the students in
discussing any highlights, problems, etc. they experienced while engaging in
the task. Occasionally, several pairs or groups of students would be asked to
perform the task in front of the whole class.

Participants and data collection procedures


Approximately 25 hours of audio data were collected from the class in
question. In the present study, I analyze data from a whole-class interaction
(Excerpt 1), and data from the interactions of two individuals (Excerpts 2
and 3) from the JFL class described above. These two participants, Sal and
Hal, were representative of the average to above average students in the
class. Data collection was accomplished by having one participant, Sal, wear
a lapel microphone for the entire class period during every day of the data
collection period. This procedure was followed from the week prior to
collection of the data used in this study. Additional data were also gathered
via several informal interviews with Sal. According to Sal, at the time of data
collection he and Hal were already well acquainted with each other as a
result of extensive prior interaction.

Types of language play: rehearsal vs. fun


Generally speaking, two distinct categories of LP have been discussed in the
literature (Broner and Tarone 2001). The first type has been referred to as
rehearsal (Bell 2005; Broner and Tarone 2001) and is marked by such
characteristics as a lower vocal volume, the absence of laughter,
manipulation of phonological and morphosyntactic elements new to the
learner, and lack of overt reference to a fictional world. Additionally, this
type of LP is typically addressed to the self in the form of private speech
(Broner and Tarone 2001; see also Lantolf 1997, 2000; Ohta 2001).
The second type of LP, which most resembles the type examined in the
current study, has been referred to as fun LP (Broner and Tarone 2001).
According to Broner and Tarone (2001), this type of LP contrasts with LP as
rehearsal in that it may typically feature smiles or laughter, marked shifts in
vocal pitch and quality, use of linguistic forms already known to the learner,
reference to fictional worlds, and unlike the typically private rehearsal LP, fun
LP often appears to be addressed to an other. In this article, I shall assume that
the type of LP discussed by Cook (2000) falls under the heading of fun rather
than rehearsal LP, though he does not use these terms himself. Cook notes
that fun LP is ubiquitous in everyday interactions and that it may take on
different functions according to the contexts within which its various features
are deployed. Furthermore, he analyzes fun LP into three levels (formal,
semantic, and pragmatic) and identifies several defining features for each level

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LANGUAGE PLAY IN A BEGINNING JAPANESE FL CLASSROOM

(e.g., repetition and patterning [formal]; separation from real-world reference


[semantic]; and social inclusion and or exclusion [pragmatic]). Importantly,
however, Cook also maintains that it is not necessary that all features exhibit
equal prominence, nor that all features be present in every instance. Thus, for
the purposes of this study, the presence of one or more of Cooks features will be
acknowledged as an instantiation of LP.

ANALYSIS
Playing together: features of language play in whole-class
interaction
Excerpt 1 shows a segment of talk involving whole-class interaction where the
teacher (T) is working to create a transition to a new pedagogical focus by
asking the students (Ss) to recall the topic of the previous weeks lesson: keego
honorific language. While consideration is also given to the function(s)
(offering affordances for language learning, and sequence-organizational) of
the LP, for illustrative purposes, the analysis will foreground the various
features of the LP as they are evident in the excerpt. In this regard, Excerpt 1 is
an especially perspicuous example because features from all three of Cooks
(2000) levels are identifiable within this one excerpt. (See the Appendix for a
list of transcription conventions and grammatical terms.)
Excerpt 1: Lego my keego1

T:

ii
good

desu ka? minasan. keego


C

simasita
did

everyone

(.) o benkyoo

honorifics

study

ne.=
IP

Ok? Everyone, we studied (.) honorifics right?


3

S1:

=keego.
honorifics

Honorifics.
4

T:

((nodding to S1))keego. keego wa nan desu ka?


honorifics

honorifics T

what

((nodding to S1)) Honorifics. What are honorifics?


5
6

(2)
S2:

keego?
honorifics

kego (.) kaimasita? KEG. [KEEGO.=


kego

bought

keg

honorifics

=Honorifics? (You) bought a kego? Keg! Honorifics!


7

Ss:

[KEG. KEGO.=

CADE BUSHNELL

KEG

KEGO

Keg! Kego!
8

S2:

=KE::GO:::hehehehehehehe
KE::GO:::hehehehehehehe

Kego! hehehehehehe
9

Ss:

=hehehehehehehe
hehehehehehehe

=hehehehehehe
10 T:

hai, DAME::. [hehehehehehe


yes

no good

hehehehehehe

Yeah right! hehehehehehe


11 S2:

[AH::: ((disappointed tone))


AH:::

12

AH. KE:GO [hehehehehe OO]KI BIIRU.


AH

KE:GO

hehehehehe

big

beer

Aaah! ((disappointed tone)) Ah! Kego hehehehehe big beer!


13 S3:

[OOKII BIIRU. hehehe]


big

beer

hehehe

Big beer! hehehe


14 Ss:
15 T:

HEHEHEHEHEHEHE
sore wa ke:ggu. ke:ggu. (.4) [ke:ggu kore
that

keg

keg

keg

this

Thats keg. Keg. Keg this


16 S2:

[kegu?
keg

Keg?
17 T:

keego. [hehehehehe
honorifics

hehehehehe

is keego. hehehehehe
18 S2:

[KE:GO KEGU KE:GO. (1)


KE:GO KEGU KE:GO.

19

20
21
22
23

DON'T PLAY WITH MY KE:GO=


Kego kegu kego! (1) Dont play with my ke:go!=
S3:
S2:
T:
Ss:

=LEGO MY KEGO. [HEHEHEHEHEHE]


[LEGO MY KE:GO. HEHEHEHEHE]
[HEHEHEHEHEHE]
[HEHEHEHEHEHE]

55

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LANGUAGE PLAY IN A BEGINNING JAPANESE FL CLASSROOM

S2s utterance in line 6 corresponds with the second feature of LP noted


above: a separation from real-world reference. Here, after a 2 second pause
following Ts redirection to the previously studied topic of keego honorifics
(lines 15), S2 repeats the word keego with a rising intonation and immediately
follows with the question kego (.) kaimasita? ((you) bought a keg?) (line 6). By
using the verb kaimasita bought, S2 re-semiotizes (Belz 2002a) the Japanese
word keego based on its phonological similarity with the English word keg (i.e.
keg of beer). This re-semiotization signifies a segment boundary between talk
oriented to the real world and a new orientation to a non-real world in which
T has purchased a keg of beer. In lines 12 and 13, S2 and S3 co-clarify this
re-semiotization by the addition of ookii biiru big beer. The fact that the
interactional frame has been shifted to one of LP is further evidenced by the
extended loud laughter from the other Ss in line 14: they are now in on the joke,
having entered into an intersubjective state with the authors of this LP segment.
The second instance of LP in Excerpt 1 corresponds with the linguistic
patterning and/or repetition feature of LP. The Ss foreground the
phonological features of their play via manipulations and repetitions (lines
6, 7, 8, 12, and especially 1821). In lines 15 and 17, we see T making a
repair of S2s utterance by emphasizing the phonological differences between
keggu keg (foreign loan word: cf. native Japanese sakadaru sake cask; keg)
and keego honorifics. Ts contribution, notably accompanied by laughter
(line 17), triggers a further expansion of the LP by juxtaposing the two pronunciations, which S2 immediately incorporates into the play in a sing-songy
manner (lines 16 and 18). S2 also incorporates the phonological material
ke:go into the L1 clause dont play with my ke:go (line 19).
The third feature of LP mentioned abovethe pragmatic function of social
inclusion and or exclusionis especially salient in line 20 where S3 latches
onto S2s substitution play utterance with lego my kego (echoing the catch
phrase lego my Eggo from a well-known television commercial for
Kelloggs Eggo waffles). By couching kego in a highly idiomatic chunk of
culturally charged language, this move again results in the re-semiotization
of the Japanese word keego. This triggers widespread and extended laughter
evidence of the socially inclusive nature of the collaboratively constructed LP
frame (note the references to shared social experience among American
college students, i.e. beer that comes in a keg and instant breakfast food).2
LP in the case of whole-classroom interaction makes salient a complex web of
orientations to talk. We see instances of T constructing his default identity
(Richards 2006) as teacher through his use of organizational talk (line 4) and his
repair (lines 15 and 17). However, while the initial exchange between T and S1
orients towards classroom management as an interactionally accomplished
activity, the orientation of the talk quickly changes as S2 reorients to Ts talk not
as a student, but as a speaker (Shimazu 2000; Richards 2006). Other Ss
subsequently orient to S2s move as a potential initiation of an LP round and use
the LP as a resource by which to extend and engage in the interaction via
collaborative participation and laughter (lines 7, 9, 13, 14, 20, and 23).

CADE BUSHNELL

57

Playing being sensee: Engaging in the task as play


In Excerpts 2 and 3 below, I turn to a consideration of LP in dyadic
interactions between learners. An examination of the data revealed many
instances of language play. LP activities such as joking, story telling and
verbal dueling were commonin spite of the fact that the participants of this
study were beginning learners of Japanese. Though I continue to make note
of instances in the data that correspond to the features of LP as identified by
Cook (2000), I shift the analytic emphasis to the function(s) (sociolinguistic,
mnemonic and sequence-organizational) of the LP. In Excerpt 2, Sal and Hal
are negotiating a task in which they are required to talk about what they did
over the weekend. Just prior to this sequence, whole class practice had
focused on talking about weekend activities using the question shuumatu wa
nani o simasita ka (what did you do during the weekend?) and the response
pattern X o simasita (I did X), or X o 5verb4-ta (I 5verb4-ed).
Excerpt 2: repooto o kakimasita

H:

S-san, nani o (.) er shuma:tu wa (.) nani o


S-title

what

er

weekend

what

simasita ka?
did

Mr. S, what did you do over the weekend?


3

S:

AI::::::uh:: (5) watasi wa (2) ukagai (2)


ai

uh

MASU.

i ask you dude=

DS marker

I ask

you

HU-ask

dude

Ai, uuh Ill ask. I ask you dude


5

H:

=uh:::

S:

shumatu ni nani o simasita ka, (.)H-san.


weekend

DA

what

did

H-title

What did you do on the weekend, Mr.H.


7
8

(3)
H:

{repooto o}kaki:masit [a, it's right there=


report

wrote

it's

right

(I) wrote (my) report, its right there


9

S:

10 H:

[hehehehe
=you know. {repooto o

kakimasita},

there

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LANGUAGE PLAY IN A BEGINNING JAPANESE FL CLASSROOM

you

know

report

wrote

you know. (I) wrote my report


11 S:

AH. so
AH

that

desu ka:: hehe


C

hehe

Ah. Is that right? hehe


((lines 8 and 10: {words}= regal tone))

The interaction begins with both Sal and Hal orienting to the task-at-hand as
directed by the teacher. Hal asks Sal about his weekend using the model
provided by T in the prior activity, forming the first pair part of a Question/
Answer adjacency pair. However, Sal hesitates to respond to Hals question by
deploying a greatly lengthened first word followed by the hesitation token uh,
followed by a 5 second pause (line 3). At this point, Sal informs Hal that he
(Sal) will do the asking. Though Sals turns in lines 3, 4, and 6 ignore the
adjacency pair initiated by Hal, Sal formulates his utterance in line 4 by using
highly colloquial language accompanied by contextualization cues (Gumperz
1982; Ostermann 2003) that are subsequently oriented to by Hal as a potential
initiation of LP: the alignment marker, dude, a code-switch into English, and
finally, use of the voice of Teacher by referring to Hal in the same manner that T
does (e.g. by attaching of Hal-san to the end of his question in line 6; a possible
inversion of reality, one feature of LP (Cook 2000: 123)).3
In line 8, following a 3 second pause, Hal orients to Sals actions by deploying
a highly marked tone of voice (an apparent imitation of a British accent), which
serves the function of aligning his interactional frame with the non-real world
orientation (one of Cooks (2000) features) initiated by Sal. Hals actions
simultaneously become a preferred response to Sals invitation to engage in LP
and the first pair part of a Joke/Laughter adjacency pair (Schegloff 1987; Sacks
1989). Sal unhesitatingly responds (note the overlap in lines 8 and 9) with the
second pair part of laughter (line 9). Upon experiencing favorable reception
from Sal, Hal recycles his laughter-evoking utterance to which Sal responds in
line 11 with further laughter and an acknowledgment token, so desu ka::, with
an affected elongation on the final syllable.
In Excerpt 2, although Sal and Hal chose to orient to the task as friends-at-play
rather than students-at-work, they have been able to skillfully merge the
requirements of the task with their LP. They are collaboratively using and
creating with the target language. Additionally, line 6 shows Sal experimenting
with the use of a different voice (i.e. the voice of teacher) as he initiates this
round of LP. Such experimentation has been argued to be beneficial to the
development of sociolinguistic competence of both child and adult L1 and L2
learners (Tarone 2000) and is a common feature of the LP in my data. Finally,
Excerpt 2 shows Hal and Sal collaboratively co-constructing their LP; I suggest
that this co-construction and use of ludic activity becomes a resource by which
learners may organize the deployment of on-task target language forms.

CADE BUSHNELL

59

Making sensee sick: Interactionally (re)organizing the task


through play
During the portion of class directly preceding Excerpt 3, T has modeled the
interaction for the Ss by calling on a volunteer and working through the pattern
of interaction with him, and has also offered a brief explanation in English and
Japanese regarding the proper use of keego honorific language for referring to
the actions of ones superiors. Excerpt 3 shows Sal and Hal enacting a role play in
which one of them is to play the part of a sick student seeking audience with his
busy teacher in order to reschedule an appointment, and the other to play the
part of the teacher. In their interaction, however, Hal and Sal (re)organize and
transform the task by, through, and for their play, while simultaneously
displaying an orientation to the use of on-task language.
Excerpt 3: siroi bi:nzu

S:

so, youre gonna be the sensee.


so

youre

gonna

be the

professor

alright?
alright

So, youre gonna be the professor. Alright?


2

[at least on this one.(.) so, a, sensee.=


at

least

on

this

one

so

professor

At least on this one. (.) So, a, professor.=


3

H:

[yeah, i can live with that


Yeah, I can live with that

S:

=konnichi wa.
today

=hello.
5

H:

{a:::. S-sa:n}.=
a

S-title

{Ah. Mr. S}.=


6

S:

H:

=heheh
koni(h)ti

wa(h).

today

He(h)llo(h).
8

S:

ano::, uh:::(.)
um

uh

Um. uh
9

H:

{S-sensee. [S-sensee}
S-teacher

S-teacher.

{Professor S. Professor S}
((lines 5 and 9: {words}=East Asian sage tone))
10 S:

[ is this kon? (is this) kon? =

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LANGUAGE PLAY IN A BEGINNING JAPANESE FL CLASSROOM

is this

this

is

this

this

Is this this ? (is this) this?


11 H:

=its ima.
its now

Its now.
((lines 10 and 11: talking about how to read
a certain Chinese character))
12 S:
13

ima, ah::. ima wa. ano:, ima:: wa:

chotto

now

little

ah

now

yorosii desu
good

um

now

ka?

Now, ah. Do you. uum, do (you) have a minute now?


14 H:

hai.
yes

mo:: mochiron.
of c-

of course

nan

deshoo?

what

Yes. of c-, of course. What seems to be the matter?


15 S:

ano:: (1) uh (2) ki- ki:noo:, ki:noo:, uh


um

16

uh

ye-

yesterday

uh

(.) ki:noo, nani o (.) mesiagari (.)


yesterday

17

ye:sterday

masita

what

H-eat

ka?

DS marker

Um uh ye- yester, yester, uh what did you eat yesterday?


18

ah, hiru go:han. hiru. (1) ((to T)) uh, how


Ah

19

noon

food

noon.

uh

how

would you say eat something for lunch?


would

you

say

eat

something

for

lunch

Ah, lunch. noon. ((to T)) Uh, how would you say eat something for
lunch?
20 T:

hiru gohan de.


noon

food

DA

For lunch.
21 S:

ok. we're good. uh, thank yo- uh, domo


ok

22

we're

good

uh

thank

yo-

uh

very

arigatto:: gozaimasita, a:
thank you

HU-exist

Ok. were good. uh, thank yo- uh, thank you.


23

((reorienting to H)) ok, so ano(H)O(H)O:,


ok

24

kino(.)

so

um

hiru- hiru gohan DE(.)

yesterday

noon

noon

food

DA

((reorienting to H)) Ok, so u:(h)m(h), yesterday lun- for lunch (.)


25

uh, nani o(.) uh,


uh

what

uh,

mesiagarimasita ka?
H-eat

CADE BUSHNELL

uh, what (.) did you eat?


26
27 H:

(2)
uh::, Wahoos sando (1) o tabemasita,
uh

28

Wahoos

sandwich

ate

sosite, (3.2) uh (.) {siroi BI:NZU} o (4)


and then

uh

white

bean(s)

Uh, (I) ate a Wahoos sandwich and then, (3.2) uh white beans (4)
29 S:

>SENSEE SENSEE.< {HANBAAGAA O


professor professor

30

hamburger

[MESIAGARIMAS-}MASEN >MAS [EN DESITA KA<?


H-didnt eat

DS-NG

Professor, professor! Didnt >didnt you eat a hamburger<?


((lines 28 to 30: {words}= wild tone))
31 H:

[siroi whoa o:::o:::o::


white

whoa

White whoa ooo


32 H:
33

no no::, SIROI BI::NZU::. siroi

bi::nzu o

no

bean(s )

no

white

bean(s )

white

tabemasita kedo (.) uh (1) ge:ri o su- heh


ate

but

uh

diarrhea

O d-

heh

No no. White beans! I ate white beans, but (.) uh (1) diarrhea (I)
ge- heh
34 S:

GEri

o::,=

diarrhea

Diarrhea,=
35 H:

=geri

simasit(h)a. [heheheheh

diarrhea

did

heheheheh

=(I) got diarrhe(h)a. heheheheheh


36 S:

[A::::::H
ah

37

HEHEHGERHEHEH A:::
hehehedihehehe

ah

Aaah. hehehehdiarhehehe ! aaa.


38

GE- [SENSEE(.) GERI

O SIMA- SIMASITA KA?

di-

professor

diarrhea

di-

Di- professor (you) go- got diarrhea?


39 H:

[geri
diarrhea

heheh
heheh

Diarrhea heheh
40

HAI.
yes.

did

61

62

LANGUAGE PLAY IN A BEGINNING JAPANESE FL CLASSROOM

In lines 1 and 2, Sal initiates the interaction via his managerial use of L1. Hal
produces a turn overlapping the last half of Sals utterancea weak
endorsement of Sals proposal: yeah, I can live with that. In line 5, Hal
deploys a marked tone of voice in his production of an exaggeratedly
elongated change of state token: ah (Heritage 1984; see also Mori 2004 for
Japanese). The participants subsequently orient to this move as an initiation
of a round of LP in which they collaboratively co-construct a double-framed
interaction, that is simultaneously both a non-real world and on-task (i.e.
real world) frame.
Hals marked tone of voice and word choice suggest that this is an
instantiation of double-voicing (Bakhtin 1981; Tarone 2000), and that Hal is
assuming the role of a stereotypical East Asian sage/sensee. Several things are
happening here. First, T has assigned the Ss a role play wherein they must
assume either the role of T or S. By engaging in this task, Sal and Hal are
doing being students. Second, within this T-imposed frame, Sal has assigned
the role of sensee to Hal. Third, Hal simultaneously plays the role of T (an
orientation to the real world demands of the task), and the role of sage/
sensee (an orientation to the non-real world feature of LP). This is evidence
of Hals developing awareness of the interactional effects made available
through assuming different voices. It also highlights the way in which LP
provides a venue for further development of such sociolinguistic competency
through experimentation. In line 6, Sal responds to Hals LP with laughter, a
sign that he acknowledges Hals attempt to double-frame the interactional
sequence as an opportunity to initiate a round of LP nested within an
orientation to task accomplishment.
In the subsequent interaction, Sal and Hal weave LP into the task-at-hand
in a complex way, eventually reorganizing and transforming the task
dramatically. The pair temporarily puts the Hal-initiated LP on hold while
they engage in a brief side sequence (Jefferson 1972) concerning the correct
reading of a Chinese character printed on the cue sheet for the role play
(lines 10 and 11), and pursue several moves with a practical orientation to
the task-at-hand (lines 1217). After asking T for some grammatical
assistance in lines 18 to 22, Sal produces the first pair-part of a Question/
Answer adjacency pair in lines 2325. Hals line 27 begins by first providing
the second pair-part to Sals adjacency pair and then continues using sosite
and (line 28), which maintains the floor by creating an addition-relevant
slot. Hal fills this slot with the considerably loud and emphasized siroi
BI:NZU (i.e. white bean(s); Hal subsequently uses this object to produce an
accounting of his intestinal distress in lines 3135). In lines 29 and 30, Sal
continues to orient to Hal as sensee on the one hand (both by reference to
the title and by using honorific language), while resonating with Hals siroi
BI:NZU by producing a prosodically similar HANBAAGAA, a word recycled
(note that such recycling may work to heighten a sense of social inclusion
a feature of the pragmatic level of LP) from the LP of a previous interactional
sequence (not shown) on the other. This move shows that LP need not be

CADE BUSHNELL

63

sustained in an uninterrupted manner. Rather, it can be put on hold within


the course of the interaction (as in lines 1822), or even across interactions
(as with Sals recycling of HANBAAGAA), as it is collaboratively constructed
by the participants. Thus LP has arguably provided affordances (van Lier
2000, 2004) to the participants for elaborative encoding (Craik and Lockhart
1972; Tarone 2000)making the language of their interactions highly
memorizable.
In lines 3140, Hal uses his line 28 siroi BI:NZU in a subtle reversal of the
discursive roles of the task4an action which makes relevant a sickness
telling by Hal-as-sensee rather than by Sal-as-student.5 Hal does this by
producing an accounting of his sickness, asserting that the siroi BI:NZU
were a contributing factor to his geri diarrhea (lines 32, 33, and 35). In line
34, Sal produces GEri o::,, with an elongated last syllable, a slightly rising
intonation, and a volume increase as well as a heavy emphasis on the first
syllable of geri. In line 35, Hal orients to this action by Sal as being a possible
initiation of repair by latching on to Sals line 34 with a redeployment of the
potential repairable geri o simasit(h)a., with a falling final intonation. Hals
line 35 also features laughter, which begins during the last syllable of the
final word in his utterance. This laughter token touches off a round of
partially overlapped laughter, by which Hal and Sal collaboratively orient to
Hals line 35 as a joke (Schegloff 1987; Sacks 1989). In lines 38 and 39 the
participants produce repetitions of the laughable item, geri. In addition to the
absurdity of the notion of sensee confiding in his student in this manner
about his intestinal distress, the joke here seems also to be related to a sort of
covert6 social inclusion (one of Cooks (2000) LP features) based on the
shared cultural knowledge that this type of lexical item might normally be
considered taboo in a classroom setting. Thus, the participants are able to use
LP to organize a co-display of their orientations to social norms, and the
potential humorousness of flouting such norms. Of additional significance is
the fact that geri was a new vocabulary word for this lesson. Thus, the
participants use of geri as they engage in LP further evidences the doubleframed nature of this interaction; Sal and Hal are simultaneously orienting to
the task as both friends-at-play and students-at-work. Also, though the
participants have effectively transformed the task by reversing the discourse
roles by and through their LP, they have still displayed an orientation to
(most of) the requirements of the pedagogical task by gaining audience to
the teacher and then producing a sickness telling (although it was the
teacher that was sick and not the student).
Excerpt 3 shows that Sal and Hal have oriented to the T assigned role play7
in an LP frame. They have used their LP as a resource by which to organize
their interaction, into which they creatively and seamlessly incorporated ontask linguistic elements such as newly introduced vocabulary like geri, and
even keego honorifics. It must also be emphasized that not only have
Sal and Hal managed to include such language in their LP, but that the LP
has provided affordances (van Lier 2000, 2004) for language learning:

64

LANGUAGE PLAY IN A BEGINNING JAPANESE FL CLASSROOM

(i) Hals multi-voiced orientation to the task (i.e. his simultaneous


assumption of both the T assigned role of teacher and the Sal assigned
role of sensee, along with his own deployment of his East Asian sage voice),
Sals incorporation of keego, and the participants flouting of social norms in
co-constructing their joke have provided them with affordances for further
development of their sociolinguistic competence; and (ii) the ways in which
the participants were seamlessly able to put the LP on hold in their
interaction, recycle items from previous interactions featuring LP, and the
fact that Sal subsequently went on to recycle items from the LP in Excerpt 3
in later interactions8 is indicative of how LP has functioned to provide
affordances for elaborative encoding.

CONCLUSION
Cekaite and Aronsson (2005: 169) argue in favor of a ludic model of language
learning, contending that we need to take non-serious language more
seriously. The goal of this research has been to give serious consideration to
instantiations of LP in the interactions of beginning students of JFL. To do so,
the following research questions were considered:




In what ways do the participants of this study use LP?


How does this use of LP function as a resource for engaging in social
interaction?
What affordances for language development are made available through
the LP?

The present study has clearly illustrated the complexity and depth with which
adult L2 learners may engage in LP. First, the learners have been shown to use
LP as a resource through which to organize their co-engagement in pedagogical
tasks. Within the contexts of the data considered in this study, I have argued
that LP used in this manner functions to provide affordances (van Lier 2000,
2004) for encoding the target language in a highly memorable fashion, and for
developing greater sociolinguistic competence by, for example, experimenting
with different voices. The findings of this study contribute to SLA research by
accounting for these under-considered functions of LP, which may be of great
benefit to classroom language learning.
A growing body of research has shown that not only do learners tend not
to engage in negotiation when performing (referential) meaning-focused
interactional tasks (Foster 1998; Roebuck 2000; Foster and Ohta 2005), but
they often fail even to do the expected task (DiNitto 2000; Seedhouse and
Richards 2005). In my data, however, a joint orientation to an LP frame
seems to have provided a shared space in which the participants were able to
reorganize the task as play and then effectively engage in the task-as-play.9
Importantly, the participants have been shown to be using on-task language
forms as they engage in LP. This fact forces us to re-conceptualize LP as a
possible motivator and facilitator rather than as disruptive, off-task behavior.

CADE BUSHNELL

65

In this vein, Cook (2000: 204) argues that Play . . . does not entail a rejection
of order or authority, though it does at least imply more voluntary and
creative reasons for embracing them.
Furthermore, Foster and Ohta (2005) suggest that one possible reason for the
paucity of negotiation for meaning in classroom interaction may be that such
negotiation actually constitutes a face-threatening act (Brown and Levinson
1987). By providing a non-real world frame, however, LP may create a low
anxiety (Tarone 2000) space for learners to freely experiment with and use L2
free from any concerns of losing face (see Zajdman 1995; van Dam 2002;
Cekaite and Aronsson 2005). Future research should be done to examine the
mechanism by which LP creates such a space. If, as many SLA researchers have
reasoned, it is true that negotiated interaction and engagement in tasks are an
important or essential ingredient to SLA, it thus becomes arguable that LP is
indeed worthy of serious consideration as a contributing factor to language
development. Finally, longitudinal research should be done to track the ways in
which participants act on affordances provided by LP, and how these
affordances contribute to language development.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 10th Annual International Conference of
the Japanese Society for Language Sciences in Shizuoka, Japan, 1213 July 2008. I wish to
express my heartfelt appreciation to Dina Yoshimi for her valuable comments on earlier versions
of this paper. I am also deeply grateful to the Applied Linguistics editors and the anonymous
reviewers for their valuable suggestions, and to the University of Hawaii at Manoa CA data
session participants for their many helpful insights. However, any errors or misinterpretations of
the data are my own.

APPENDIX
Transcription conventions
^
glottal stop
hehe
laughter
"#
high or low pitch (placed prior to affected element)
4words5 quicker than surrounding talk
5words4 slower than the surrounding talk
[
beginning of overlapped speech
]
end of overlapped speech

latching (i.e. no pause after the completion of one utterance and the
beginning of another)
(3.3)
length of pause (measured in seconds and tenths of seconds)
(.)
unmeasured pause
(words)
unclear utterance
((words)) commentary by transcriptionist
wo:::rd
geminate
WORDS louder than surrounding talk

66

LANGUAGE PLAY IN A BEGINNING JAPANESE FL CLASSROOM

words softer than surrounding talk


words
more emphasis than surrounding talk
wocut-off

continuing intonation
.
final intonation
?
question intonation

Interlinear grammatical notation key


C:
Copula
CT:
Continuer
D:
Double particle (kamo, toka, etc.)
DA:
Dative particle (he, ni)
F:
Speech filler
IP:
Interactional particle (yo, ne, etc.)
L:
Linking device (-te, si, kedo, etc.)
M:
Noun modification particle (no, na, etc.)
N:
Nominalizer
NG:
Negative
O:
Object marker
P:
Past tense
PA:
Passive
Q:
Question marker
QT:
Quotation marker
S:
Subject marker
T:
Topic marker
Stylistic indicators (when necessary):
DS-:
Distal style
FS-:
Formal style
H-:
Honorific
HU-:
Humble
PS-:
Plain style

NOTES
1 Transcriptions appear with the first
line in Romanized Japanese followed
by a literal translation with grammatical elements in all capital letters. An
italicized gloss in natural English is
supplied in the third line.
2 Although Excerpt 1 embodies all three
features of LP, it will be recalled that,
according to Cook (2000), this need not
necessarily be the case.
3 One of the anonymous reviewers
questioned whether Hals use of
S-san in line 1 should not also be

seen as an instantiation of doublevoicing. While we cannot know Hals


intentions in framing his utterance in
such a way, three features of the data
must be noted. First, and most
importantly, Sal does not display an
understanding of Hals line 1 as being
LP initiation relevant. Second, Sals
line 6 differs from Hals line 1 in that it
affixes H-san in an utterance final
position (which imitates Ts use of this
resource for classroom management).
Finally, it is both accompanied by

CADE BUSHNELL

other contextualization cues and contextualized as being teachers voice


via prosodic features such as intonation and stress (features which are
contrastingly absent in Hals line 1).
4 I am indebted to both one of the
anonymous reviewers and the participants in a fall semester 2007 data
session at the University of Hawaii at
Manoa for their insights on this point.
5 Note that, Sals action of questioning
the sensee (i.e. Hal) about what he
had for lunch does not accomplish the
role reversal in and of itself. Rather, it
is Hals subsequent orientation to the
ensuing adjacency pair (especially his
own line 28 second pair-part) as a
resource for initiating his sickness
telling that does this.
6 Some ethnographic data suggest that
Sal and Hal may have perceived their
LP as an illicit activity. In one recording, Sal made the following comment
(addressed apparently to the researcher,
whom Sal knew would eventually be
listening to the recording) about the LP
he and Hal had been engaging in:
Ok. Hals not answerin my questions! I ask him where hes going
and he says hamburger. I ask him
what he ate and he says nemasita
(i.e.slept) (laugh). You giveim
the grade you want; I just wanna
set the record straight (laugh).
This comment by Sal not only
evidences Sals awareness of having
engaged in LP, but also suggests that
Sal views LP as a somehow substandard or illicit activity which could
rightly be dealt with in a disciplinary
manner (i.e. you giveim the grade you
want)
7 One of the anonymous reviewers questioned the value of examining LP
within a role play task since it would
seem to be a given that play would be a
salient part of such an interaction.

67

However, the simple fact that the


word play is included in role play
does not a priori ensure that LP will
feature in the interaction (in fact, in my
data, role plays were also often characterized by a serious orientation to
the tasklikely stemming from the
possibility of being requested to present
the role play in front of the class
afterwards). Furthermore, a major part
of the analytic focus in Excerpt 3 is on
the ways in which, by and through
their LP, Sal and Hal reorganized
and transformed the task in a way
which provided them with affordances for language learning that
almost certainly would not have surfaced otherwise.
8 In addition to the evidence for elaborative encoding provided by Sals recycling of HANBAAGAA from a previous
interaction with Hal, the LP of this
interaction apparently provided (at
least) Sal with affordances for internalizing the new lexical item geri
diarrhea as well: he was observed to
use it in LP during an interaction with a
different partner two days later.
9 Orienting to work as play is a common
human phenomenon. Cook (2000:
203; emphasis mine) notes that
people often play while working, and
that imbuing work with a playful
sense may increase productivity by
co-ordinating actions and making
[the work] seem lighter and more
co-operative. In a study of interactions in various New Zealand white
collar workplaces, Holmes (2007)
offers additional empirical support for
the work-related benefits of humor.
In particular, she notes that humor
(i) potentially contributes to the
construction of effective relationships in the workplace, and (ii) may
stimulate intellectual activity relevant
to the achievement of work-related
objectives.

68

LANGUAGE PLAY IN A BEGINNING JAPANESE FL CLASSROOM

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