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Research timeline: Second language communication strategies

  • Sara Kennedy (a1) and Pavel Trofimovich (a2)


Speakers of a second language (L2), regardless of proficiency level, communicate for specific purposes. For example, an L2 speaker of English may wish to build rapport with a co-worker by chatting about the weather. The speaker will draw on various resources to accomplish her communicative purposes. For instance, the speaker may say ‘falling ice’ if she has forgotten the word ‘hail’ or may repeat the last few words of her interlocutor's utterance to show that she is listening and engaged. The term communication strategies (CSs) refers to the strategic use of various resources (both linguistic and non-linguistic) for communicative purposes. While speakers also use CSs in their native languages (L1s), research on L2 CS use is particularly interesting because speakers’ L2 linguistic resources and the associated cognitive processes are typically less developed, compared to those in their L1. Therefore, for L2 users to accomplish their communicative purposes in the L2, it is important that they effectively use the resources available to them. This research timeline presents key developments in theoretical understanding and empirical research targeting L2 CSs, mainly in oral communication. The timeline places particular emphasis on the evolution of theoretical approaches to the study of CSs and the consequent expansion of research in terms of the nature of participants, speech samples, and analytical tools used.



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Levelt, W. J. M. (1983). Monitoring and self-repair in speech. Cognition 14.1, 41104.
Levelt, W. J. M. (1989). Speaking: From intention to articulation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Levelt, W. J. M. (1993). Language use in normal speakers and its disorders. In Blanken, G., Dittmann, J., Grimm, H., Marshall, C. & Wallesch, C.-W. (eds.), Linguistic disorders and pathologies. Berlin: de Gruyter, 115.
Levelt, W. J. M. (1995). The ability to speak. From intentions to spoken words. European Review 3.1, 1323.
Richards, J. (1971). Error analysis and second language strategies. Language Sciences 17.1, 1222.


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