Dissertation Defense


PhD in Second Language Studies Dissertation Defense

Alfred Rue Burch

Motivation in Interaction: A Conversation-Analytic Perspective

Chair: Gabriele Kasper

Thursday May 5, 2:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.
Moore Hall, Room 258

Over the past decade, the field of L2 motivation research has begun to turn its focus toward what Dörnyei & Ushioda (2010) have termed “socio-complexity” approaches, following recent trends in the wider field of SLA that incorporate discursive and usage-based methodologies (Atkinson, 2011; Cadierno & Eskildsen, 2015; Firth & Wagner, 1997; 2007; Ortega, 2013). These socio-complexity approaches, including Ushioda’s (2009) “person-in-context” perspective, Dörnyei’s (2005; 2009) “L2 motivation self system” and various Complexity/Dynamic Systems Theory (CDST) approaches (Dörnyei, 2014; Dörnyei, MacIntyre & Henry, 2015; MacIntyre, 2012; MacIntyre & Legatto, 2011), though eclectic in focus and methodology, have all begun to step away from the assumptions of context as background variable and individual differences as psychological traits that have dominated much of the previous L2 motivation research, to instead view motivation as dynamically changing and socially contextualized on multiple timescales, and more importantly, have come to recognize that “L2 learner” is just one of many potentially relevant situated identities (Zimmerman, 1998) for those interacting in their L2s (Firth & Wagner, 1997; Ushioda, 2009).

This study contributes to this dynamic and contextualized perspective at the interactional time scale by utilizing EMCA (Ethnomethodology/Conversation Analysis) – including sequential analysis (Schegloff, 2007), membership categorization analysis (Fitzgerald & Housley, 2015; Stokoe, 2012), discursive psychology (Edwards & Potter, 1992; 2005) and a focus on embodied interaction (Streeck, Goodwin & LeBaron, 2011) – to analyze mundane Japanese as a Second Language interactions. The data follows Peony, an L2 speaker of Japanese, in video recordings of interactions between her and her L1 speaking friends and family collected over the course of 13 months. The analysis takes into account the linguistic, embodied, and material resources that Peony and her co-participants employ, and the unfolding interactional trajectories and projects that they co-construct, in order to develop a perspective that focuses on motivation as socially viewable, accountable, and accomplished.

In particular, this study focuses on three aspects of motivation-in-interaction: 1) persistence, or the sustained orientation (often through interactional difficulty) toward an interactional goal, 2) initiative, or engagement and participation at points where it would not be noticeably absent or accountable to not engage, and 3) motivation as topic, focusing on Peony’s self-assessments of her Japanese ability and her accounts regarding the efforts she makes towards studying the language. The analysis reveals that while there are indeed times that Peony’s effort is oriented toward specific learning objects, much of her effort is exerted towards other situated identities such as being an attentive friend or family member. Furthermore, the sequential nature of persistence and engagement, and Peony’s relationships with her co-participants on one hand, and the relationships with others that are invoked in her conversations, with their concomitant category bound rights and obligations on the other, make clear that motivation at the interactional level is very much a matter of mundane morality (Jayussi, 1984; 1991).