for teaching purposes
discourse and teaching
discourse is important in teaching English communicatively.
There have been some attempts at describing oral discourse
grammar for teaching purposes (McCarthy and Carter, 1995:
207-218). In terms of content, spoken discourse activities
in EFL coursebooks have so far dealt with service encounters
(e.g., at a shop), problem-solving situations, information
exchange, casual talk etc. Yet, spoken discourse in real life
situations is not systematically presented by materials writers
and language teachers. Let us explore the areas where this
structures in spoken discourse
is an example of casual talk, "Preparing for a party"
(found in McCarthy and Carter, 1995: 208). What characterises
the extract below is the use of elliptical structures, e.g.
"Don't have to
" Omitted elements, however,
can easily be reconstructed from context. The same holds for
repetitions, long pauses, seemingly irrelevant words etc.
All these characteristics of genuine discourse are often ignored
by coursebook writers or, at best, they are tackled in an
unsystematic way. As Gabrielatos (2002) notes, 'if learners
expect over-explicit messages, they may be confused and discouraged
by the elliptical nature of everyday language'.
Now I think you'd better start the rice
what you got there
B: Will it all fit in the one
A: No you'll have to do two separate ones
C: Foreign body in there
B: It's the raisins
C: Oh is it oh it's rice with raisins in it
B: No no no it's not supposed to be [laughs] erm
C: There must be a raisin for it being in there
D: D' you want a biscuit
C: Er yeah
D: All right
Conventions of correctness in discourse
spoken discourse, like in written discourse, there are some
conventions of what is correct. For instance, in expressing
futurity, "to be going to" is associated with intention,
while "will do" is supposed to express decision-making.
This distinction, though, has no merit, unless it is embedded,
thus enacted, in a natural discourse such as in a restaurant:
[to her friend] I'm gonna have the deep-fried mushrooms, you
like mushrooms don't you?
[A couple of minutes later]
A: [to the waiter] I'll have the deep-fried mushrooms with
erm an old time burger, can I have cheese on it?
(found in McCarthy and Carter, 1995: 213)
"to be going to" is addressed to a friend sharing
one's intention to choose certain food, while "will"
is addressed to a waiter, since it is more proper for giving
and content in discourse
real life, spoken discourse such as in buying or selling things,
or in having other business done, is characterised by short
dialogues, which are grammatically and semantically simple.
Yet, in coursebooks, such dialogues are misrepresented as
quite long texts which are grammatically and lexically complex,
thus misleading learners of English (Taborn, 1983).
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