Written Narrative Discourse in Second Language Acquisition Studies


  1. Introduction

The purpose of this literary review is to learn as much as possible about written narrative student discourse (WND) in the second language (L2) classroom. In Winter of 2018, I will conduct my first student-based study on non-native (NNS) and heritage German language learners (HL) by asking them to engage in L2 WND. The impetus for this project is to research the development of possibilities for self-hood via discourse as inspired by Heidegger’s 1924 lecture on rhetoric as the hermeneutic of Being, and Foucault’s attention to discourse as epistemological (1972). I choose to look through the lens of subjective development during second language acquisition (SLA) (Kramsch, 2003; Pavlenko & Latolf, 2000). Unlike Pavlenko’s rich narratological study of texts (2001), I will investigate subjectivity through student WND because written narration has a “tangible contribution to the ‘reflexive project of the self’,” (Ivanic, 1998) and students exist at a particular conduit of identity development. This literary review investigates existing approaches to SLA WND and commences with a discussion of how the findings inform my project.


  1. Pragmatics of WND

Discourse Theory, much like the Latin term ‘discurs’, is interpreted as a complex linguistic phenomenon. Narrative is a mode of discourse while the student classroom narrative defines a domain of discourse. Narrative discourse is historically interpreted through Speech Act Theory in communication studies as a socio-pragmatic praxis of phronesis, or use of practical wisdom (Bühler, 1934; Fisher, 1985; Jakobson, 1960). In current SLA narrative discourse research, communicative wisdom is investigated as a variable linguistic skill, techne, which must be re-conceptualized in each new language. For example, If the student doesn’t know how to write a narrative following a Bildungsroman structure, how can she achieve native accuracy in German WND production? Approaching SLA WND as both a linguistic task and a genre task makes the classroom domain linguistically and contextually critical to SLA.

An analysis of WND’s development in SLA studies shows early attempts at correlation of grammar with functions of discourse (Halliday, 1978; Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975) and more recent attention to interpersonal meanings beyond lexicogrammatical analysis (Martin and White, 2005). Current methodology trends towards a corporeal discourse analysis of teacher contextualization, task assignment and perception, and finally, student response; “What kind of interaction may bring about what kind of affordances for language learning?” (Huth, 2011) My findings for WND in SLA address the roles of artefacts (multimodality, metaphor), code-switching, and cooperative learning (scripting, repair and feedback).


  • Cohesion and Coherence as Properties of WND

In this literature review, I outline theories and methods that play a part in analyses of WND in SLA. The majority of research done on narrative in SLA follows the development of speech acts “taking an extended turn to tell a story (narration)” (Burns, Champion, de Villies & Pearson, 2012). Throughout this review, some SLA oral narrative discourse studies will be used to delineate ideas about WND analysis, but no textual or naturalistic studies are included. Historical approaches to discursive narrative analysis include the advent of microstructures, the cohesive links between sentences, and macrostructures at the level of thematic coherence and organization (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). ‘Thematic coherence’ takes a more functional approach to meaning. ‘Cohesion’ implies a formal linguistic distinction of appropriate negotiation of meaning, it is a Generative Grammar that “provides texture” (Wang & Guo, 2014). For example, because German language lacks a continuous tense, an English learner of German might lack cohesion in their narrative if they have not acquired the use of German adverbs to assign the aspect of an event as ongoing. (Berman & Slobin, 1994).  Halliday and Hasan (1976) suggest different cohesive devices for analysis of ND which resemble SLA stages of acquisition.[i] In their model, interlanguage variability of aspectual items create breakdowns in cohesion.

Systemic-Functional Linguistics (SFL) takes into account the cohesion of lexical and aspectual functions of discourse (Simon-Vandenbergen, 2014, as cited in Martin, 2016). The difference between the lexical grammatical aspect and the aspectual grammatical distinction mark two different but complementary frameworks in SLA studies – the Aspect Hypothesis (Anderson, 1986 as cited in López-Ortega, 2000) and the Discourse Hypothesis (Bardovi-Harlig, 1994). Discourse systems of foregrounding and backgrounding are functional systems that don’t rely on grammar alone (Bardovi-Harlig, 1995; Hopper, 1982; López-Ortega, 2000). The relationship of discourse and aspect recurs back on Vendler’s ranking of aspectual classes as the red thread between language and philosophy through discourse (1957, 1967, as cited in Vendler, 1980).

Halliday uses Vendler in his 2004 study about “the linguistic system as a whole” (3) during spoken narrative discourse. Halliday cites his 1970 study about systems of transitivity and ergativity, explaining that speaker involvement in a narrative as either the “Affected” or the “Causer” shifts the tense and the aspect, particularly in relationship to verbal morphology. I will reflect on narrator subject position in section VI, but am using Halliday’s study to contend that cohesion is determined both formally and functionally. Vendler’s ranking suggests that the aspectual category of ‘telicity’ has the highest level of complexity in discourse – the notion of experienced time as a determinus for morphology. Anderson (1991) also determines that acquisition of telic morphology follows acquisition of lexical time phrases, which he called the “Lexical Aspect Hypothesis”. Researchers Bardovi-Harlig and Reynolds (1995, 1998), López-Ortega (2000), Potowski (2005), Ramsey (1990) Salaberry (1999) and Wulston-Christianson (2015) look at aspect in foreground and background clauses to determine that lexical cohesion increases with SLA, following the order of the Lexical Aspect Hypothesis.

Studies that have disproven the Lexical Aspect Hypothesis, most notably the European Science Foundation’s longitudinal corpus, are often function-based rather than form-based (Bardovi-Harlig, 2000: 269). Looking at lexical aspect and verb morphology in WND against a backdrop of functional concerns like foreground and background, Flashner (1989), Ellis (1986) Givón (1983), and Verónique (1987) have mixed results about whether foreground or background verbs typically carry morphology. Likewise, in Hatch, Shirai and Fantuzzi’s 1990 study of interlanguage variability in narrative discourse, the grounding aspects are weighed against the time distinctions, but they conclude: “Tense cannot be described without reference to narrative structure and the goal of the storyteller” (Cohen, Gass & Tarone, 2013). Grounding principles (the background and the foreground information), lexical aspect and subject position are interdependent properties of cohesion in SLA WND.

Breakdowns in cohesion do not completely undermine coherence of the WND, meaning that there is a way to analyse WND beyond cohesion. Privileging a thematic discourse analysis, Widdowson’s 1978 Illocutionary Act Theory states: “In the case of cohesion, we can infer the illocutionary acts from the prepositional connections which are overtly indicated: in the case of coherence, we infer the covert prepositional connections from an interpretation of the illocutionary acts,” (Wang & Guo, 2014). “Coherence” emerges as a metalinguistic analysis of meaning which looks at “underlying functional connectedness” (ibid.) of written or spoken language. WND can be coherent without cohesion, which represents the success of universal grammar communication within a basic variety of morphology (Klein & Perdue, 1997). Underlying structural relationships of narrative story telling can be contributed to our pragmatic communicative capability as humans.

Evaluating coherence in SLA is both a socio-pragmatic and pragmalinguistic concern because linguistic actors are negotiating conversational goals (Mitchell, Mylers and Marsden, 2013 (henceforth ‘MMM’: 210). MMM note that one main goal of L2 pragmatics research is determining how far L1 pragmatic knowledge transfers over: is politeness register the same between languages? A challenge to investigating L2 pragmatics is the attainability of L2 pragmatic data, in which learners react to different social situations. One method here is the Discourse Completion Task, which is a written task requiring learners to appropriately respond to a given situation. This method is criticized because it does not take place in real-time – it is inauthentic (ibid.) To this end, significant attention has been paid to conversation within L2 pragmatics studies (ibid.).

Coherence in WND is understudied in SLA outside of its relationship with tense and aspect because of a contention about the validity of delayed response communication (ibid.). Written narratives created outside of the classroom (and read in the classroom) can be seen as a text, while SLA WND remains a discourse by virtue of its statements made in conversation with the task (Foucault, 1969). Because classroom L2 WND requires a negotiation of meaning, the SLA written narrative remains in a discoursal form. The narrative line functions around the specific goals of the author, and in the context of SLA, the reader, too.

Leppänen and Kalaia (2002) assign this process of “story grammar” to linguistic autobiographies, examining them in the coherence schema of Propp’s Story Grammar Analysis (1968, as cited in Pavlenko, 2007): setting, initiating event, character’s internal response and plan, character’s attempts to solve the problem, consequences. Following this narratological line, Labov’s High Point Analysis is applied to SLA NWD by Rintell (1990): presence and non-presence (abstraction), orientation, complicating action, evaluation, and a resolution. Mann and Thompson (1987) also take a functional approach with Rhetorical Structure Theory, suggesting that narrative discourse can be simply divided into nuclei and statellite statements. Maeno (1995) uses stanza analysis on L2 narrative prose. These coherency studies account for the dialogical processes of positioning the self in an L2, though other frameworks of analysis also claim to do so.

Considering learners’ own positionality as a property of SLA NWD has inspired analysis of discourse to the extent of Subject Positionality, Life Reality Positionality and Text Reality Positionality (Pavlenko, 2007). In each of these three endeavours, emphasis is directed to either the subjective sphere, the socio-political sphere and the narrative value sphere. By thematically coding SLA narrative discourse, themes from each category are highlighted. Advantageous to this method is the thematization of SLA experiences and therefore themes that are important to learners. For example, Menard-Warwick (2009) points out the life reality and subjective experience of gender norms within SLA. These resources create visibility for key issues in learner experience. A textual reality example of this is Francheschini’s 2003 study of Turkish immigrants in Germany: their textual nuance and subtleties increased significantly when narrating about her adulthood in Germany, as opposed to the more basic textual form her narration of childhood took on.

SLA NWD has formative and functional aspects that are interwoven. Analytic approaches to SLA NWD take cohesive and coherence approaches, which are bound together by rhetorical, linguistic and contextual L2 knowledge. Purely formal considerations of SLA NWD are not enough to analyse discourse, while purely functional analyses are not enough to measure SLA. SLA NWD is special because it represents a crossroads of subjective and linguistic development into another system of expression.


  1. Genre and Critical Language Awareness in WND

In her 1992 study of SLA and narrative writing, Hatch agrees with Halliday (1976) that narrative coherence is transferred from the L1 and must be learned again for the L2. For example, the American positions their narrative orientation at the front of the discourse (in the form of a thesis) while the German positions their orientation at the end (the analysis). Trained in school to write in these specific academic styles, German learners of English struggle with narrative formation due to conflicting communicative competence (Bagarić, 2007).

For one or two days per semester, “English Academic Writing (C1)” students at the University of Münster would demand a discussion about how thesis-based “inductive” reasoning became prevalent in American academic writing. I would explain to them that the American thesis-based writing is a relic of oral, political argumentative tradition, while the German purpose-based introduction is a relic of the philosophical, written tradition (Dahl, 2004; Mauranen, 1993). While reading American narratives in the following lessons, students would complain that American authors “auspacken” (“to give it up” in a manner similarly annoying to conveying too much personal information to an acquaintance) too quickly, and they lose interest. This cultural variation between “inductive” and “deductive” discursive style was so strong, that some of my students refused to write thesis-based argumentative papers in their bilingual subject courses. Hinds’ 1987 contrastive rhetoric approach would suggest that English is a “writer-responsible” language while German (and most others) are “reader-responsible” because the purpose-based model requires readers to reach the end before making conclusions. Mauranen (1993) suggests that discourse acts performed in oral and written narrative are culturally informed.

SLA NWD is a learned genre. Features that differentiate it between languages require the L1 narrative style to be considered during analysis in order to find, particularly, the coda. Coda is the meaning statement, the moral statement, approached by Hatch as universal to all narrative stories (1992), but this universality is debated by researchers of Hopi and Japanese narratives (cited in Hatch, 1992: Shaul et al., 1987; Matsuyama, 1983). Would educating learners about rhetorical function of L2 narrative heighten their discursive potential, or would it distract students from freely expressing their lived realities by imposing a structure?

Critical Language Awareness (CLA) of writing as a complex social act shapes writer identity, granting the writer social control over their expression (Ivanic, 1998). For example, the students in Münster noticed the use of thesis statements in “personal history” narratives of American university applications, and questioned whether this is a requirement for admission. Developed by Hawkins in 1984 and further by Fairclough in 2003, this CLA hypothesis suggests that students should “discover language for themselves” (Bolitho et al, 2003) before producing language. In the case of WND, teacher input includes the designing, presentation of and potential involvement in the student writing task. CLA in SLA “empowers learners by providing them with a critical analytical framework to help them reflect on their own language experiences and practices,” (Ivanic, 1997), essentially placing narrative at the heart of WND.

Janks discusses the implication of CLA on encouraging transformative action through student journals (1999). In her 2014 book Doing Critical Literacy Janks concludes that WND provides a platform for evaluating student awareness of socio-cultural orientation. Creating cultural contextual awareness proves to elevate the critical level of L2 narrative in English African American Vernacular (Dyson & Smitherman, 2009; Sweetland, 2006), heritage Spanish learners (Valdés, 2005; Leeman & Serafini, 2016; Parra, 2016; Reznicek-Parrado, 2014) and L2 learners (De Cock & Suñer, forthcoming; Campbell, 1990; Kramsch, 2009). During a seminar held between the UC Davis Department of German and Catholic University Louvain, Professor Suñer showed data suggesting that historical context facilitated the comprehension of metaphoric taboo expressions and increased depth of SLA NWD. Using contextual awareness to improve the level of ND is also accomplished by Professor Claire Kramsch.

Kramsch’s The Multilingual Subject (2009) uses studies of university student SLA narrative to discuss language learning and the development of subjectivity. At the end, there is a disclaimer that her students had been informed by a four-month term of multilingualism studies. Kramsch’s students’ awareness of potential SLA narrative depth and direction was culturally au courant, giving them a critical awareness of linguistic subjectivity. Even discourse analysts who have focused on subjectivity within SLA narrative (cited in Pavlenko, 2007: Granger 2004; Pavlenko 2003; Treichel, 2004; Yelenevskaya and Fialkova, 2003) had not exposed their classes to multilingual theory beforehand. My research group will, like Kramsch’s, come from a multilingual theory course, but my course will be taught in a common L2. I hope that their instruction in multilingual theory will allow them to narrow down, clarify and interpret linguistic experiences like in the case of Kramsch and Lam’s 1999 SLA diary narrators.

CLA provides a framework for implicit learning, which supports an input-based, emergentist cognitive model of SLA (MMM, 2013: 99). This contrasts conscious, elicit learning known in the Skill Acquisition Theory (ibid.: 139). CLA is particularly relevant to SLA NWD because it approaches language teaching as discourse teaching, rather than explicit grammar instruction. Kramsch and Suñer contribute NWD coherence and cohesion to conceptual systems previously engaged with during in-classroom context building. CLA underlines lexical, aspectual and discursive crossroads of WND to the extent that writing narrative is viable system for CLA (Svalberg, 2007). Svalberg cites that in preparation for L2 narrative writing, Jones (2001) exposed his Spanish learners to authentic and inauthentic oral narratives and asked them to notice differences. Likewise, this passive approach to teaching critical discourse was undertaken as an educational program in South African highschools, “in order to not agitate the already inflamed national psyche,” after the democratic revolution (Janks, 1996). Using Fairclough’s model of Dimensions of Discourse Analysis, CLA becomes a reciprocal process of ideological and social analysis unto narrative production that includes critical ideological and social discourse (Fairclough, 2003: 206). Task development in the framework of CLA uses and produces informed SLA WND.


  1. Code-switching and Conducting L2 WND

Targeted instruction towards narrative writing is one way to scaffold learners’ understanding of the task, but it does not represent the learner’s interpretation of the NWD task itself. This section looks to social-constructivist theories of SLA to understand the subjective experience of a NWD task; engaging the “reader-writer relationship rather than directly with the text” (Mauranen, 1993) Writers establish their identity by taking on a “stance” which is not encoded in language (Ochs, 1993). Negotiation of a social stance is particularly difficult for SLA NWD because they are presenting themselves in a context that is not their own. They may also lack awareness about how to position themselves in their desired manner. Addressing interlanguage phenomenon, like avoiding using a thesis statement, Hinkel (1997) shows that learners may choose to not accept the L2 culture because it threatens their reputation in the L1 culture. Rampton’s 2002 study of British learners of German suggests that ritualizing the contentious threat to face, in this case, the use of the imperative in casual speech, “bonds the class into a rite-like initiation,” (Kramsch, 2009). This transition between primary habitus and secondary habitus of a new language is applicable across educational settings. The question at the fore is: how can SLA NWD maintain personal integrity while abiding by new habitus?

Kramsch’s The Multilingual Subject draws on Kristevean notions of personal resignification in the L2. One could say that the Münster students who refused the thesis-based construction lacked the symbolic tactics to resignify, and were instead “hostage to an idealized cognitive model of the self” (ibid.: 117) based on the German language. Kramsch suggests that researchers have approached symbolic orientation in many different ways: attitude (Carroll, 1962; Spolsky, 2000), appraisal (Schumann, 1997), investment (Norton, 2000), enagagement (van Lier, 1996; Pennycook, 2001) and motivation (Dörnyei, 2001). The question of resymbolization and SLA NWD is posed most clearly by Kramsch: “How do they use the semiotic resources offered by their various symbolic systems? What intertextualities do they establish with their prioir discourses and how do they resignify or reaccentuate them?” (ibid.: 127)

The narrative is a conceptual map of our experience. In an SLA context, the SLA is inherently bilingual, with a chance and likelihood of multilinguality in a classroom. Because of this, there are various narrational positions available to the narrator, a circulation of cohabitating awarenesses. So, what happens to the learner when they are asked to narrate something in their L2 when they have experienced and remembered it in another language? This highlights the possibility of code-switching during NWD tasks as beneficial to the cohesion and coherence of NWD (Kramsch, 2009; Pavlenko, 2007).

Code-switching is an important linguistic resource with semantic and affective functions. Following the positive reasoning for task-based code-switching set out by Macaro’s 2001 article, using the L1 during complicated writing tasks accelerates their output process (Anton and DiCamilla, 1998; Kobayashi and Rinert, 1992; Friedlander, 1990), reduces memory constraints (Kern, 1994; Skinner, 1985), allows for contrastive analysis as a nuance within narrative recall (Butzkamm, 1998; Campbell, 1997), and contributes to the development of conceptual abilities and “encourages autonomy of expression” (Ministrè de L’Education Nationale, 1996). Codeswitching is a fundamental language skill (Hagen, 1992) that has been proven to benefit coherence and cohesion of SLA NWD.

The aforementioned studies record teacher’s intentional use of L1 with the learners, and also learners’ allowance of use of L1 with the teacher. A principle idea for L2 exclusivity, that is, that learners would have less exposure to target language (cited in Macaro, 2001: Cook, 1991; Harbord, 1992), is overcome by the idea that the L1 would trigger a deeper understanding of the task. The problem with looking at classrooms as divided into L1 and L2 is noted by Gramling as a “myth of monolingualism” (2016). If a teacher were to use the majority L1, this would still be imposing a framework of power on students’ whose L1 was not represented, while still depriving students of a lexical and syntactic framework for answering. In this heteroglossic context, the multilingual learner encounters the need to cohesively and coherently comprehend and create the NWD task.

As Odlin (1989) suggests, L1 forms used in L2 production may not meet the normative cohesion or coherence of narrative discourse. Odlin is cited in Kubota’s (1998) study of the transfer of L1 to L2 during writing tasks, finding that participants’ L1 and L2 morphological patterns were shared between languages. Using the L1 to scaffold production of L2 is investigated by Uzawa and Cumming (1982), also cited in Kubota, who claim that the L1 nuances were simply simplified to meet requirements of the L2 task. Beare (2000) and Carrington (2007) gave their students the allowance to use L1 in their narrative building, and then tracked student strategies. In both cases, students relied heavily on L1 during conceptual and rhetorical planning, but rearranged their rhetorical structures to create target-like L2 texts. Kobayashi and Rinnert (1992) and Cohen and Brooks-Carson (2001) discovered that early SLA made better use of direct translation, while more advanced students preferred ‘direct composition’ in the L2.

As concluded in Nassaji and Karim (2013), students’ success in L2 writing depends on their awareness of L2 rhetorical features, and the possibility to draft in L1 when they feel it is necessary because “learners need to be trained to discover strategies that work best for them.” Kramsch also suggests that “second language acquisition research strives to find ever better strategies for language learners to gain their own, autonomous space in the foreign language,” (119) and promotes students’ reflection on their own SLA NWD process.


  1. Corpus Linguistics, CMC and Potential of WND

Unlike the study of narrative as a text, SLA studies of WND see narrative writing by language learners as a discourse. Because the student is in constant communication with the teacher, NWD is a teacher-student discourse unlike spoken narrative discourse between students. Though significant research has been done on SLA oral narratives and SLA narratives as text, the contributions to SLA NWD are relatively slim. This is possibly due to more simplistic methods of testing rhetorical and linguistic accuracy, like with the Discourse Information Gap (DIG) and other shorter activities. Though oral narrative satiates the SLA desire to understand subjective experience of learners and allows conveyance of multimodal meaning, it is a less complex form of rhetorical and linguistic transfer than the written narrative. Attributes of NWD include greater deliberation and sophistication in nuance. NWD is, essentially, a greater body of knowledge about the language learner.

Coding narratives according to themes, rhetorical and linguistic trends, patterns and conceptual changes (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) allows the development of a functional corpus of SLA NWD. Corpus Linguistics as an analytical tool marks the arrival of competence-based performance data (MMM, 8). Jaworski and Coupland (1999) underline that a large corpus of WND qualitative, thematic research complements the quantitative corpus. Lee (2008), McEnery, Xiao and Tono (2006) call for corpus linguistics to augment their annotation systems to mark pragmatic features, which would allow function-based rather than form-based searches possible (Barron & Schneider, 2014). Function-based searches in NWD corpora would allow thematic subcategorization. This feature is used by corpora of spoken narratives, like in the USC Shoah Foundation’s tagging of themes within Holocaust (and other genocide) survivor narratives. Known as the “Visual History Archive”, the Shoah Foundation’s systematic classifications of multimodal discourse make it a significant project for oral narratives. NWD is included in the Narrative Corpus developed by the Heidelberg Corpus (Hendriks, 2005), the British National Corpus and the ICE-GB (cited in Rühlemann, 2015: Nelson, 2001; Rühlemann & O’Donnell, 2012). None of these include functional or thematic subcategories, but provide a database of research for further studies.

Likewise, CMC is a potential realm for gathering SLA NWD. This post-modern addition to the possibility of narrative discourse provides ample opportunity for collecting student-student samples. Garton (2012) suggests that teacher-fronted elicitation of NWD produces reactions of agency among learners, that they will purposefully reinterpret the project to match their own linguistic aspirations. Likewise, Hellermann and Doehler (2010) note the individual adaptation of tasks in student-student discourse pairs, suggesting that this type of co-construction produced more discourse than teacher-student interaction. Toth (2011) contends that student-student narrative discourse is better at solidifying known structures, while teacher-student discourse encourages students to grammaticalise. CMC also distorts the possibility of teacher-student NWD, because, in the case of blogs or Canvas chats, students are asked to engage in a public space, rather than personally. Kramsch (2009) suggests: “The displacement creates a physical space of disjunction that throws off his interlocuters.” (165)

Teacher-fronted SLA NWD exists in a unique realm of academic interaction with a focus on context, accuracy and reflection. By analysing SLA NWD, the context of a learner as a learner is forefronted in the narrative reflection, while the lexical-grammatical aspects are deemed important beyond merely the comprehension in student-student interaction. There is space in the SLA studies discourse for a corpus of NWD to be collected and marked according to cohesion and coherence, in order to balance attention between the subjective, socio-political and textual research being done.


  • Discussion of Findings

When taken together, this paper has provided an extended review of understanding how SLA narrative discourse works in the L2 classroom. These findings suggest that narratives represent a discursive practice between the learner, the target language, the target culture, their teacher and themselves. More specifically, the grammatical, lexical and other critical features of communicative competence have taken shape in the context of NWD. This paper has noted that teachers are an integral part to SLA NWD, but more important is student interpretation of the task. Thus, the structure of interaction between teachers and students via the task has been investigated. However, although a great deal of information has been learned about the nature of WND in the SLA context, more empirical research is needed. What follows are potential future research paths in this area as well as some sample research questions.

First, most of the research on SLA NWD has been carried out in L2 classrooms that focus on linguistic content. More research is needed to understand the nature of discourse patterns in content-based courses. Focusing on SLA NWD of advanced bi- and multilinguals could shed light on their process. Some research questions to be explored here include: How do high-proficiency learners participate in discourse with their teacher through narrative? What are the features of NWD in content-based courses as opposed to linguistic-based courses? Is this an argument in favour of CLIL?

Second, virtually none of the studies reported here have dealt with the question of how students’ ethnic backgrounds play in to their formation of foreground and background in NWD. Though alluded to by studies of Hopi and Japanese differences in narrative genre, the treatment of narrative as a universal reality seems problematic. The paucity of research regarding linguistic socialization into genre begs the question: How does the learner’s L1 factor in to narrative genre?

Third, there is a distinct poverty of discourse data for German learners. The PoLL and ESF longitudinal projects shed some light onto narrative progression in German, but these studies are not thematised for coherence. The abundance of literature on French, Spanish and English exists within the realm of romance languages, while other Latin-based languages with more complex casual forms are ignored. Given the relative difficulty of learning native-like German modality and mood, at what point in SLA does NWD become ‘advanced’? What marks an advanced German learner in NWD? Are there culturally specific writing conventions that should be taken into account?

Fourth, though CLA studies account for empirical investigation into in-class work and learner production of critically aware NWD, there is no work done about the contribution of whole-class discussions. Reserved primarily for smaller, seminar-style, content-based settings, CLA as a classroom discourse has room for exploration. A main question here is: do students gain more implicit information in whole-class or peer settings? How is multimodality advantageous to CLA? What is the best potential scaffolding for their abstract/symbolic competence?

Many studies engage how students perform narrative discourse in oral settings and

focus on specific patterns of interaction between discourse partners. They investigate the student’s positionality and acquisition level from a retrospective point of view. In my SLA NWD study, I want to focus on students as active reshapers/ resignifiers of their own language. I would like to use in-class experiences (in the L2) to facilitate NWD. To the end of CLA multimodality, I will look towards L2 cinematic expression as an authentic and affective way to deliver meaning.














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New Media as a Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge


New Media as a Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge

Erin T. Altman

21 March 2013



Conceptualization of the nation-state has a geopolitical history in territorial definition. Defined by political borders, the nation-state is comprised of citizens and non-citizens. Regulated by national policy, national education systems, economy and (other state regulation), citizens and non-citizens have specific experiential boundaries within the nation-state. Fast-forward to the 21st-century, introduction of the Internet increased rapid global communication. Uniting experiential differences with cross-border commonalities, the institution of “New Media” allowed life spheres once bounded by the nation-state to thrive in a global community. In this vein of rapid and broadened communication, does New Media undermine political hegemony?

An epoch of globalized knowledge has intrigued geographers and political philosophers alike. The Internet’s spectrum of information is mediated by the formalized interest in communication studies, and reaches a point of practical convergence in the field of Communication Geography. Beginning through the discourse of globalization under the Association of American Geographers’ ‘Geography of the Global Information Society’ in the late 1990s, Communication Geography now represents phenomenal points of geographic and political intrigue. Dissemination of knowledge over a non-physical space indicates a differentiation in geopolitical power from that of the post-modern age of print media. The epoch of New Media signals a revision in philosophies of communication, geography and power.

New Media’s relationship with the Internet is a viral one; increased access to the Internet and subsequent Internet enlargement are aspects of New Media’s definition of being ‘new, unregulated content’ (Lister, 2003). Inexorability of New Media has gained the attention of geographers and political philosophers, situating the Internet as an entity ‘without boundaries, without limitations, except through state regulation of media.’ (Lister, ibid). New Media is a broad representation of this exponential production of knowledge, unto a platform which is controllable only through governmental intervention with citizens’ freedoms to information. Content that faces scrutiny and regulation includes pornography, intellectual property, and anti-social movements. New Media’s ethical dimension calls in to question the moral biases, societal pressures and most importantly- political agendas in the globalized community.

The globalized community is defined in this case as those who have infrastructural ability to allow Internet access. Establishment of this ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ relationship echoes the economic mapping of modern nation states, and substantiates the discussion about New Media geopolitical philosophy by outlining the actors. For the sake of giving primacy to New Media politics, rather than global inequities, the ‘Core’ represents those countries whose annual income per capita is higher than the annual cost of an Internet-capable device. Because of the significant difference in income distribution, it is unnecessary to determine the cost of this computer, rather the ‘peripheral’ countries can be outlined by those misfortuned by civil war, populations with 1/3 prevalence of HIV/AIDS, infant death above 50% and other development indicators outlined by the United Nations (2000). Geopolitical inactivity of ‘peripheral’ countries allows ‘core’ countries to enable the discourse surrounding New Media’s information society.

Positioning New Media as an ‘information society’ clarifies its internal discourse separate from that mediated by state-civil society relations. Bringing to light the state-civil society relationship as different from the global-New Media relationship requires the understanding of nation-states as maintaining hegemonic power. Given that the modern livelihood of any societal actor is defined by citizenship through state legibility (O’Tuathail, 1998), New Media represents a differing societal discourse in its allowance for society to remain anonymous from a hegemony. Signifying again the global, a-political aspect of New Media discourse, anonymity of expression is adverse to the legibility of print media. New Media’s exponential increase in communication, coupled with the significant transcendence of non-economic geographic borders, lends to an institution of power that is not the nation-state.

In defining the nation-state against New Media, there is a blatant primacy in their different situations of power (Hanafi, 2005). Reflecting on the resource struggle that established colonial relations, leading to modern-day borders of nation-states (Murphy, 2013), power is expressed over a given territory and over a given population. These two elements of capital, human and territory, suggest a physical embodiment to the nation-state. New Media, on another level, has no physical embodiment. Speculation by the Osmo Project (2008) about mapping New Media, so as to physically represent the ‘Geography of Internet Infrastructure’ proved to be a spatial model of network expansions. So to say, the map of New Media is impossible to represent cartographically, but does maintain a certain taxonomy of expansion. Using the Barbasi-Albert model of evolving networks, which was originally designed for the purpose of tracking military communications in the Second World War, Osmo Project represents the expansionary possibilities of the Internet as limitless. The geographies of nation-states remain steady until a phenomenon of upheaval, as opposed to New Media, which expands without physical boundaries. In the discourse of geopolitics, expansion is akin to power gains, because of the increase in territorial and human resources. Unlike geopolitics, New Media assumes no hegemonic desire for power. Given that geopolitics is etymologically relational- given the root of ‘politics’ in the Grecian division of men based on political affiliation- New Media is merely one actor against no others. Why, then, is New Media involved in the discourse of geopolitics, if it is not an inherently power-seeking institution, with no geographical territory, and with anonymity of societal involvement?

Describing the “constellations” of New Media as representative of globalizing forces, senior geopolitical philosopher Jürgen Habermas suggests that the communicative and geographic scope of New Media leads to political fragmentation. Habermas’s conversation about evolving identities and cultures within the nation-state are significant, due to their representation throughout the discovery of the Internet. Habermas recognizes the global forces of New Media as being overwhelmingly powerful of the nation-state; New Media’s transcendence of borders- omnipresence if you will- acts as a “cultural substrate of civil solidarity.” (Habermas, 2001.) Solidarity is used in Habermas’s conversations about changing geopolitical structures, to power lying increasingly in the hands of civil society, rather than with the state. Phenomenal separatisms highlight the increasing volatility of civil society’s solidarity, and are in a direct rebellion to the increased power of the state (Foucault, 1977). From the beginning of nation-state creation, the consolidation of internal power through citizenship and representation within a hegemonic vacuum has likewise increased the state-civil society bond. Foucault’s notion of rebellion in the face of increased power proves that civil society, although identifiable within the nation-state’s borders, begins to fraction. By centralizing the state hegemony, nation-states are disregarding the smaller substrates of civil society. New Media’s representation of these ‘cultural substrates’ encompasses the ability for members of global civil societies to communicate their alterity from the confines of state legibility- citizenship. This formalized understanding of New Media’s pressure on hegemony can be summed as a platform, which allows civil societies to communicate towards solidarity, which effectively fragments the consolidation of state power.

Defining the discourse of geopolitical theory in to the formal (theoretical), practical (implemented) and popular (societal) expertise, historian Paul Routledge has outlined the three analyses of New Media: the formal being the outside speculation, like this essay. The practical, being the regulated state policy regarding New Media. And finally, the popular, being civil society’s use of New Media. It is important to note here, that the popular is not a reaction to the regulation, but is a discourse within itself. Civil society is divided from hegemony of the state through the anonymity of New Media, which allows for the solidarity among actors. Expanding on solidarity as a popular discourse, the predictions of Habermas have become significant in the recent Arab Spring uprisings.

New Media gained an entirely greater geopolitical significance after the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring. University of Washington study, “The Project on Information Technology and Political Islam” (2011) quantifies the New Media traffic of popular democratic expressions leading up to the Tunisian revolution and subsequent Egyptian overthrow of President Mubarak. The study shows that conversations about liberty, democracy and freedom gained almost 80% of total viewership, and the taxonomy of expansion was proven through the civil society’s rebellion going viral between network clusters in just the week before any given Arab Spring uprising. University of Washington’s study is intriguing, because although touted as the ‘Arab Spring’, the uprisings had very little to do with each other. Egyptian feelings of tax oppression and Tunisian desire for furthered reputation did not exist within the same network clusters, yet the New Media usage patterns were parallel.  Leading the study was Professor Phillip Howard, who claimed that it was not a regional movement, but ‘circumstantial evidence of New Media’s ability to insight solidarity.’

More intrinsically, the solidarity of the New Media movement in the Arab Spring was through the creation of online communities and use of forums. Enabling civil society debate to occur outside the sphere of physical interaction within the state, New Media gave rise to less-geographical, more-ideological communities. In an interview with Egyptian friend and colleague, Omar Hagrass, who took part in both the ‘freedom-blogging’ and Egyptian uprisings, the interconnection between separatist groups through New Media was shocking; not only had Egyptian Computer Scientists created network clusters to divert state attention, but the networks created communities among separatists from the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico, and the Ulster Nationalist movement in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. Described by renowned author Benedict Andersen as an ‘imagined community’, the New Media networking done by Egyptian, Mexican and Irish separatists had nothing to do with personal relationships, but instead an imagined kinship in their cause. (1991) Andersen’s prediction of globalized communication as a means to develop a certain consciousness away from that of the traditional nation-state oriented map is congruent with Habermas’s understanding of solidarity between civil society actors as a weakening of the state. New Media becomes a vehicle for shared experience, despite the geopolitical setting.

The anti-geopolitical use of New Media is concurrent to the post-Soviet evolution of geographic theory. Known formally as ‘critical’ or ‘feminist’ geopolitics, the movement for recognition of the intricacies of civil society dominate discourse and shed light on the access to shared experiences. Assuming that the state creation of citizenship creates an empirical definition between one group and another- effectively ‘othering’ them- shows the consolidation of state power in the territorializing of its’ citizens.  This power dynamic is known as the ‘Logic of Alterity,’ which suggests that unified identities are inevitably the hierarchical power. (Isin, 2007. Arendt, 1958.) The Logic of Alterity maintains that subdivision in civil society is seen as ‘wrong’ because of its implied danger to the normative power. The bond between state and civil society consolidations of power are approached monolithically from a macro- to micro-scale. As suggested by New Media’s increased capacity for communication, the state-civil society power is weakened in its normatively unbound allowance for subdivision.

Practically speaking, subdivision in society is increasingly unavoidable with ever-increasing flows of immigration, ideas and innovation. Subdivisions could be ignored, like in the extreme case of fascism, or subdivisions could be embraced under greater state regulation. In the case of the Arab Spring, subdivisions were stifled; New Media was blocked on Internet servers, or Internet itself would be entirely cut off from an area. When this occurred during the Palestinian riots for statehood from Israel in early 2012, the international reaction became an official UN movement towards the ‘Right to Internet Access’. Beginning in 2003, upon the introduction of a knowledge-based economy in Great Britain, the Internet became institutionalized by UN members as a significant expression of freedom. Pressure towards sanctions by the German and French governments (and later acting as leaders in the 2012 vote for Palestinian statehood) depicted a civil society subdivision that was actually favoured by the Social Democratic party leaders. German and French states had seen 8-15% more Palestinian refugees since the upswing in Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the mid-1990s (Human Rights Index, 2005), and despite their non-citizen status of asylum, their voices were clearly present in the decision of French and German ministers to the UN. Despite Palestine having the infrastructural and income capabilities for Internet access, Palestinian refugees were unable to connect to their families in a time of crisis, creating a heightened solidarity around immigrants and New Media discourse.

This hegemonic representation of a non-state civil society is based in the power of New Media itself. As a tool not only for the civil society actors, the state uses New Media to analyze changes in society, which could lead to possible separatism or other fractions of state power. Using New Media as a regulatory mechanism, the German and French governments issued an official Eurobarometer forum on the UN’s ‘Right to Internet Access’ (2011). The Eurobarometer, as the official European Union mediation of member states’ citizens’ feelings towards policy and livelihood, is a vehicle for the maintenance of relations between the state and civil society. The European Union (EU) is a supranational regional power, with a doctrine of supremacy over specific member state policy and is exactly the type of burgeoning power that Foucault described as piquing rebellion (1977). Foucault’s description of heightened power leading to heightened rebellion was a founding anti-geopolitical argument; the European Union stifles rebellion through institutions facilitating power-civil society discourse, such as the Eurobarometer. In fact, in an effort to reduce waste, the EU cut all publically distributed paper materials from its budget- leaving only one vehicle of representative democracy (outside of the national legislatures)- New Media.

Presence of the EU in New Media supersedes any other governmental body, because of it’s expansive “The EU and You” section for forum, information and response. Provided in all 27 recognized European languages, as well as Norwegian, Mandarin, Arabic and Japanese, “The EU and You” is a vehicle of power consolidation through civil society connection (Lister, 2003). This use of New Media by a regional economic hegemony is telling of New Media’s coalescence of communities that that never existed before. If we assume that interest in the EU’s New Media campaign comes from the representative desire from these member states, can we also assume that the representation is being fulfilled?

In the case of Palestinian representation to the UN, Germany and France had already written the ‘Internet as a Human Right’ proposals before the Israeli stripping of Palestine’s Internet access. To this extent, the leading question in the Eurobarometer poll read, “Does freedom to access and contribute to the online community part of your rights to expression?” (personal translation, Europa.eu, 2012). Charged with the vernacular of ‘freedom’, ‘contribution’, ‘community’ and ‘your rights’, the Eurobarometer poll had a suggestive slant towards the affirmative. Upon solicitation of the UN for Internet rights, the EU’s New Media campaign expanded to include open access to textbooks, learning tools for production, and other knowledge-based constructions of European hegemony. Recognizing New Media’s potential for a vehicle of neoliberalism, the EU uses the Internet to distribute ‘Western’ ‘knowledges’ under the guise of open access to information towards a emboldened economy (Cooke, 2004). Nuancing the core-periphery status of nations within and outside of the western ideological constraints, the EU is using New Media to create an ideological hegemony.

New Media’s ability to expand communication across multiple geographical confines is seen as both a tool and threat to state-civil society relationships. Established so far, New Media is a supragovernmental concept, which causes state-civil society distress because of the anonymity of its exponentially increasing character. New Media is also seen as a community-building tool, which can provide democratic reflection on society, amongst a wider group of people. This democracy, though, has established a new ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ structure- beyond that of economic difference, although beginning with it. New Media’s discourse is essentially a Western phenomenon (Cooke, 2004). The Internet, begun by economic forces like any other modern capitalist endeavour, is also perpetuated by economic forces through payment for its access (on a device) and use. The specifics of the Internet’s existence through the capitalist market, and with the largest servers (Cisco Systems) and largest domain providers (Google, Apple, Yahoo!, and others) being traded publically, does New Media exist within a predominant power structure of the economy?

The impact of economic distribution of New Media access, through either personal access or promotional capabilities, creates a symbiosis between civil societies, the state and the outlying force within them- capitalism. New Media presents an epoch to this relationship, though, in its force of mediation between geopolitical economic disputes. In this vein, New Media is a disruptive force to the history of trade war and commoditization of political relations, because of the anonymity of online economic actors. The financial industry, comprising over 85% of the British Gross Domestic Product, is almost entirely mediated by New Media forecasting and broadcasting (Rowe, 2013). Global Stock Exchanges use the medium of New Media to freely express geopolitically important resource abundance and exchange value. Intrinsic relations of the very essential definition of power- resource security (Murphy, 2013) and the power of New Media access have made those who hold it increasingly more powerful than before.

In a World Systems Theory analysis of the access to New Media, author Mark Graham suggests that the ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ economies will no longer be defined by income per capita, but rather by their participation in “democratic, capitalist endeavours” (2011). With a strong New Media bias in favour of the democratic system, which promotes and perpetuates a capitalist society, the ‘core’ expands and the ‘periphery’ becomes now a ‘gap’ (et al.). New Media’s perpetuation of dominant capitalist and Westernized communication has created a perilous ‘gap’ between participating countries- and those who do not subscribe to capitalist or democratic idealism- such as Russia, North Korea and greater Africa. Taken on as a practical policy by the United States’ New Rule Association (2005), the ‘gap’ was described as former President George W. Bush Jr. as a, “threat to democracy”. Could it be, that actually New Media is a threat to states that do not so well mediate their civil societies? Or, is New Media just neoliberalization mechanism that is addressed as transnationally important?

The epoch of New Media symbolizes a change in the discourse about communication, geography and power. As a tool for consolidation of both state and civil society power, and as a mechanism of mediation between the two, New Media allows greater flows of knowledge and communication. New Media does not stand without a greater influence, though. Creating a symbiosis between the geopolitical economic sphere and the civil society representative sphere, New Media allows relations to form beyond the control of hegemonic power, but within the influence of it. As seen by the undertakings of both civil society actors and governments, the influence of New Media is strong upon society, and society’s participation in it gives access to the Western powers of knowledge and capital.


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Second Language Acquisition and Teaching; Final Quiz Study Guide.


  1. What are the fundamental beliefs of Behaviorism about language?  How do these translate into language teaching methods (think ALM)?  What are some critiques of Behaviorism?Fundamental beliefs of Behaviorism are that:
    (1) Knowledge is experience-based
    (2) Learning is the establishment of a stimulus response connection (learning being a stimulus-response).
    Behaviorism can only happen through habit formation.
    Behaviorism can only examine observable-phenomena, therefore making no non-existent speculation.
    Behaviorism focuses only on performance, rather than on what input is being acquired. This translates to teaching methods that lead to misunderstandings.
  1. What are Chomsky’s fundamental beliefs about language?  In particular, how do mentalists/generativists investigate linguistic knowledge of native speakers?Chomsky’s fundamental beliefs on language (and on syntax) marked an epoch in linguistic study. Instead of following the Behaviorism model, Chomsky argued to “identify competence” of mental grammar that allows one to make a sentence and “analyze performance”, which is what is said.
    Chomsky’s Mentalist approach differed from Behaviorism by performance being key.
    Chomsky’s fundamental beliefs about language are:
    Language Acquisition Device- Also known as the “Language Organ”, is a mental organ, which activates during the critical period to help a language learner to organize input and to see the patterns of language. Everything in a developmental sequence is due to this activation of the LAD.
    Universal Grammar- Chomsky suggests that some rules of grammar are “hard-wired” to the brain, allowing language to be learned without it being taught. Universal Grammar refers to a common structural basis of all languages.
    Poverty of the Stimulus- This theory is made up of 3 main ideas:
    (1) In ordinary speech, children aren’t exposed to enough speech to understand it fully, so a structure is needed (Universal Grammar).
    (2) Usually language learners are not given information on how to modify speech, which is fixed by Universal Grammar.
    (3) Teaching and correction have no measurable effect on the target language, and input only provides “positive evidence” of what is target-like. (But never explains what is not target-like.)
  1. Krashen’s approach to SLA is an outgrowth of the mentalist approach to language —what are the 5 key hypotheses in Krashen’s model?  Be prepared to critique each of Krashen’s hypotheses.The Mentalist approach to SLA follows the idea that the L2 must follow the Universal Grammar constraints, but Krashen’s SLA theory emphasizes the function of age and set parameters, known as the critical period.
    Krashen’s theory follows 5 hypotheses:
    (1) There is a difference between Acquisition (procedural) and Learning (declarative). Learned knowledge can’t ever transfer to acquired knowledge. This is also true neurologically, because different types of information are stored differently in the brain.
    (2) Natural Order Hypothesis- Elements of a language are acquired in a sequential order, also known as a morpheme order.
    (3) Monitor Hypothesis- Learned knowledge can act as a filter on one’s output, and fixes language-acquired errors. One must pay conscious attention to target-like speech and know the grammatical rules.
    (4) Input– Input must be only one level above the level known. (i+1) The LAD is activated by i+1 and Universal Grammar.
    (5) Affected Filter- Affection by motivation, attitude, self confidence and anxiety (cultural insecurities) prevents error input from being acquired, destroying SLA.
    Critiques of Krashen’s Hypotheses:
    Something to do with The Silent Period
  1. How does Krashen’s approach translate into language teaching methods (for examples, think Natural Method, TPR, immersion, sheltered-content ESL classes)?Krashen’s SLA theory translates in to 4 types of language teaching methods:
    (1) Total Physical Response (TPR)-
    (2) Immersion-
    (3) Sheltered-Content ESL-
    (4) Natural Method-
  1. Some critiques of Krashen’s model concern the establishment of acquired knowledge: by what process does input become acquired knowledge, and why does he claim that there is no process by which learned knowledge becomes acquired knowledge? If this is true, what are the implications for language teachers?Krashen’s theory states that learned knowledge never becomes acquired knowledge. The implication for language teachers would be, that classroom learning will never establish a L2 fluency.
  1. Know the difference between input and intake, and be prepared to discuss a range of factors that turn input into intake.  These factors should be organized around the issue of consciousness/attention (Krashen, Schmidt, Tomlin & Villa, Guion & Pederson, and Paradis).
  1. Be prepared to offer a loose characterization the entire interactionist paradigm, focusing on the role they claim interaction plays in turning input to intake.
  1. Name at least 5 characteristics of foreigner talk, or the way native speakers often modify their input when interacting with L2 learners.  Which of these (if any) do Interactionists consider to be facilitativeto acquisition?Foreigner Talk is when a native speaker modifies the input in an attempt to facilitate better communication with a L2 learner.
    5 Characteristics of Foreigner Talk include: