Communicative aspects of definitions in classroom interaction: learning to define in class for first and second language learners
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Linguistics and education
, p. 126-144
University of Antwerp
This paper studies the interactive structure and the interactive meaning of definitions in primary school classroom interaction. The classes that were chosen are classes which consisted solely or for a large part of second language learners, as definitions might have a special importance for them in their second language acquisition. Three categories of definitions will be analyzed: teacher definitions, pupil definitions and jointly formulated definitions. It will be shown that teacher definitions have a very important communicative function. They help the pupils grasp the words and the worlds associated with them. Pupil definitions on the other hand like most pupil utterances in classroom interaction often have a completely different communicative function: their main goal is to express the pupil's knowledge. As far as the interactive structure of the definitions is concerned, there appears to be a huge difference between teacher definitions and pupil definitions. Teacher definitions resemble dictionary definitions most. A pupil definition on the other hand is mostly not a one-liner by one person. It often develops into a jointly formulated definition, which is a process of information exchange between teacher and pupil, in the course of which the definition is being built up gradually.