Author

Yue Yuan LI

Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (MPHIL)

Department

English

First Advisor

Prof. Andrew GOATLY

Abstract

Previous research focused primarily on how interruptions vary according to social factors in situations where English is the native language for all speakers (see Menz and Al-Roubaie, 2008; O‟Reilly, 2008; West and Zimmerman, 1983; Zimmerman and West, 1975). Little has been done on interruptions in situations where English is used as a lingua franca. The purpose of this research is to 1) provide conversational evidence on how experienced ELF speakers make interruptions, 2) explore functions of interruptions in ELF communication; 3) compare the types and functions of interruptions in ELF communication with those in ENL communication; 4) compare the types and functions of interruptions across genres.

An interruption is a type of turn-transition where one speaker verbally prevents another speaker from completing her turn. It is composed of three parts: the base part, the interrupting part and the post-interruption part. The research examines interruption based on theories of turn-organizations (Sacks, Schegloff &Jefferson, 1974) and sequence organizations (Schegloff, 2007). Interruptions are classified in terms of the completion of the interrupting part, overlapping speech, matching in topic between the base part and the interruption part, matching in topic between the interrupting part and the post-interruption part. Comparisons are made of interruption types across three genres: question-and-answer sessions, seminar discussions and conversation. The data comes from interactions of experienced ELF speakers from the Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (VOICE) and those of native speakers of English from Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English (MICASE) and Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English (SBCSAE).

The quantitative study of ELF and ENL interruptions reveals that interruptions occur slightly less frequently in ELF than in ENL communication. ENL speakers are on the whole more successful than ELF speakers in making interruptions; however, ELF speakers are more cooperative than ENL speakers in terms of interruptions. The qualitative study reveals that ELF speakers employ interruption more often to deal with language problems while ENL speakers make interruptions more often to give information or express opinions. In addition, the study has found that the frequency and types of interruptions vary across genres: interruptions occur far more often in conversation and seminar discussions than in question-and-answer sessions and misaligned interruptions occur far more often in seminar discussions than in question-and-answer sessions.

Recommended Citation

Li, Y. Y. (2010). A comparison between the verbal interruptions by speakers of English as a lingua franca (ELF) and speakers of English as a native language (ENL) (Master's thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.14793/eng_etd.4