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Relative Knowledge of Content Domain: An Influence on Native-Non-native Conversations

Jane Zuengler and Barbara Bent

The study was undertaken to determine whether content knowledge influences conversational participation when native speakers (NSs) interact with non-native speakers (NNSs).  It also investigated whether NSs tend to participate more actively than NNSs in NS-NNS interactions.  The hypotheses concerned predictions that (1) when the interlocuters have relatively equal content knowledge, the NS will participate more and (2) when the interlocutors have relatively unequal knowledge of the domain, the relative content 'expert' (NS or NNS) will show more conversational participation.  The content domains chosen were the subjects' major field and a domain outside their major field.
Conversations from 45 NS-NNS pairs were analysed for amount of talk, fillers, back-channels, interruptions, resisting interruptions, and topic moves.  Outcomes of several measures reveal participation patterns which can be explained by the interlocutors' relative content knowledge.  No clear,  overall tendency was found for the NS to participate more actively in the conversation.
Zuengler, J. & B. Bent 1991 Relative Knowledge of Content Domain: An Influence on Native-Non-native Conversations. In Applied Linguistics 12/4: 397-415.

Key points relevant to the study of filled pauses


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