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13. DISCOURSE APPROACHES TO ORAL LANGUAGE ASSESSMENT

  • Richard F. Young

Abstract

This chapter begins with a careful look at a sample conversation and examines the many layers of interpretation that different academic traditions have constructed in order to interpret it. These layers of interpretation include linguistic forms, nonverbal communication, linguistic context, situational context, and the embodied histories that participants bring to interaction. All are incorporated into a rich definition of discourse. The chapter then reviews recent studies that have compared the discourse of oral interaction in assessment with oral discourse in contexts outside assessment to show how different they are. The next section discusses studies that have related ways of speaking to the cultural values of communities of speakers with a view to understanding the cultural miscommunication that occurs in assessment of speaking in a second language community. The review concludes by stressing the wholeness of face-to-face interaction, listing the layers of interpretation of interaction that have not thus far been considered in oral testing, and setting out a potentially fertile area for future research.

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