(Re)negotiating Speech Codes in an Online Language Learning Community
Hart, Tabitha Blanche
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This dissertation examines the local, situated speech within the Eloqi community of practice. Eloqi is a pseudonym for an organization that built an online, voice-enabled, interactive learning platform connecting English language learners in China with trainers in the United States. The learners and trainers connect for regular 15-minute conversation lessons designed to help the learners successfully pass the oral component of IELTS, an internationally recognized English language proficiency exam. Using the theoretical and methodological framework of the Ethnography of Communication and Speech Codes Theory, I analyze the significance of participants' speech as well as the technological platform on and through which this speech occurs. I find that there is one predominant speech code deployed in this community - the Code of Logic. The Code of Logic, which community members associate with native English speech, is comprised of 6 interrelated norms, premises and rules pertaining to communicative conduct. These are: (1) the speech of the learners should be clearly organized; (2) the learners should speak succinctly; (3a) the trainers should be open and honest in their feedback to the students; (3b) it is an added benefit if the learners are open and honest in their communication with the trainers; (4) the learners should be proactive; (5) ideally the speech produced by the learners in this community should be spontaneous rather than "canned"; (6a) the trainers should be positive and supportive towards the learners; and (6b) the learners should frame themselves in a positive light. In addition to analyzing the Code of Logic, I also examine the ways in which this speech code (i.e. the Code of Logic) and the talk in this community are shaped by the technological medium. I demonstrate the ways in which a particular script, or interaction order, is encoded into the user interface connecting the trainers and learners. Finally, I reflect on a subset of problematic interactions, ones in which speech does not go smoothly by the community members' standards. I find that confusion about procedure is at the root of participants' misunderstandings in these problematic interactions.
- Communications