Dissertation Defense


PhD in Second Language Studies Dissertation Defense

Sangki Kim

Stabilization of Idiosyncratic Fixed Expressions in the Wild:
A Longitudinal Conversation Analytic Perspective

Chair: Gabriele Kasper

Wednesday 29 March, 14:00–16:00
Moore Hall, Room 155A

Formulaic expressions (FEs) are considered integral to second-language (L2) competence, understood as allowing for: (1) socially shared resources to readily participate in everyday interaction; (2) a processing short-cut for fluent native-like performance; and (3) the seeds of L2 development. However, researchers using interlanguage (pragmatics) and dual-processing perspectives have argued that stabilized idiosyncratic FEs are evidence of rule-based productivity, thus challenging usage-based perspectives on FEs (Bardovi-Harlig & Stringer, 2016; Wray, 2002). While a few studies have documented the stabilization of idiosyncratic FEs from usage-based perspectives (Eskildsen, 2012; Hauser, 2013c), there is still a paucity of research focusing on the use of idiosyncratic FEs in the L2 lifeworld, despite being recognized as characteristic of naturalistic adult SLA.

Falling at the intersection of three research strands—the learning of formulaic language, stabilization of L2 competence, and L2 learning in the wild—this study aims to contribute to greater understanding of the stabilization of idiosyncratic FEs, using multimodal conversation analysis (Mortensen, 2012). Data for this study consist of 79 hours of video recordings capturing service encounters with customers over a 30-month period at a convenience store in Honolulu. The focal participant (Minji) is an adult Korean user of L2 English.

Focusing on one type of routine sequences in payment activities, the analysis delineates Minji’s continuing use of idiosyncratic FEs in terms of their composition and sequential placements. The study examines how Minji and the customers co-construct the routine sequences with a focus on the customers’ epistemic status and their orientations to textual material in the setting. By accounting for the structure of understanding in the routine sequences, this study highlights the in-situ sense-making practices that Minji and the customers employ and their reflexive relationship with the stabilization of the idiosyncratic FEs. The analysis also focuses on repair activities arising in the informing sequences, looking at how the participants manage sources of trouble and their impact on L2 learning opportunities. The findings explain the stabilization of idiosyncratic FEs as embodied, sequential, and experiential phenomena occurring in an environment filled with meaningful materials and, further, are co-constructed in and through the participants’ interactional competence.