Display and referential questions: Effects on student responses

Brenda M. Wright


It has been claimed by several researchers, (notably Gass, 1997; Long, 1996; Pica, 1994; Swain, 1995) that, according to the interaction hypothesis of second language acquisition, negotiated interaction facilitates SLA. Swain (1995) coined the output hypothesis, which suggests that pushed output encourages fluency, gap-noticing, and hypothesis testing while controlling and internalizing linguistic knowledge. The current study focuses on display and referential questions in relation to quantity of output, and examines this with regard to researchers’ claims about SLA benefits. The output of fifty-two Japanese adult EFL learners was recorded during a communicative activity that used display and referential questions to elicit description. The output was then analysed quantitatively using units of length and complexity (Brock, 1986; Chaudron, 1988) to examine if question type affected output; and instances of pushed output negotiation for meaning were also investigated. A qualitative exploration of students’ reflections on their output for the two question types showed common perceived differences and insights into links with motivation. This study indicates that, overall, referential questions in the interactive context of a communicative classroom may be beneficial in promoting enhanced student output, negotiation and SLA.



display and referential questions; student output; negotiation; pushed output; SLA

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