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567

Melissa L. Fiori

The Development of Grammatical


Competence through Synchronous
Computer-mediated Communication
MELISSA L. FIORI
Juniata College

ABSTRACT
This article reviews the ndings of a study which set out to examine the role that
consciousness raising (CR) plays in grammatical development in synchronous
computer-mediated communication (SCMC). Students participated in weekly
SCMC sessions. Spanish L2 forms por/para and ser/estar were chosen, and the
data from two groupsform-and-meaning focused (FMF) group and meaningfocused (MF) groupwere analyzed. Three pre- and posttest measures were
administered (elicited imitation/sentence repetition testing, grammaticality preferences component, and orals). Pretest scores demonstrated homogeneity at the
onset of the study and pre-to-post score analysis revealed improvement for both
groups, excluding grammaticality preference scores for the MF group. Posttest
scores revealed signicant statistical differences in the outcomes in favor of the
FMF group. Analysis of the chatscripts for the FMF group revealed (a) higher
levels of syntactic maturity and equal levels of lexical density, (b) greater quantities and more accurate productions of the target forms, and (c) absence of using
a default form of the copular verb. Analysis of the chatscripts for the MF group
revealed (a) a primary focus on meaning, with instances of attention to form, and
(b) adoption of ser as the default copular verb. Social behavior was an important
element in the study. First, the instructor engaged in equal feedback practices for
both groups. She chose not to alter her feedback practices in the chats and engaged uniformly in terms of correction with both groups. The FMF participants
actively engaged in self- and peer-to-peer corrective strategies. In addition they
stayed on task, were less likely to resort to L1 use, were cooperative, and were
more likely to recognize instructor-to-student feedback. On the contrary, the MF
group was likely to joke, bully, and resort to L1 use, and was less likely to collaborate. It was concluded that CR had a greater impact on development in chat
with a specic focus on form than in chat without such specic instructions and
that unintentional focus on form was insufcient to facilitate growth to the same
degree as deliberate focus on form.
KEYWORDS
Synchronous Computer-mediated Communication, Consciousness Raising, Focus on
Form, Focus on Meaning, Social Interaction

CALICO Journal, 22 (3), p-p 567-602.

2005 CALICO Journal

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

INTRODUCTION AND REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

There have been mixed results about the efcacy of synchronous computer-mediated communication (SCMC) as a tool for grammar acquisition. While SCMC
has been established as a tool for increased participation (Beauvois, 1992; Kern,
1995; Pratt & Sullivan, 1996; Warschauer, 1996, 1997; Chun, 1998) and studentdirected learning (Peterson, 1997; Abrams, 2001; Kern, 2000; Warschauer, 1997),
few agree that it fosters grammatical acquisition. Most agree that formal accuracy
suffers since participants tend to respond to this environment as an informal arena
for information exchange in which abbreviations, casualness, and speedy communication have priority over grammatical accuracy (Kern, 1995, 1998; Blake,
2000; Lee, 2000; Sotillo, 2000). Two studies examined grammatical development
in terms of negotiation of meaning, task type, and feedback (Blake, 2000; Pellettieri, 2000), one investigated modication devices (Lee, 2000); and one analyzed
the acquisition of past tense morphology (Salaberry, 2000).
Both Blake (2000) and Pellettieri (2000) focused on corrective feedback, negotiation, and task type in their studies. However, while Pellettieri correlated SCMC
with the development of grammatical competence, Blake remained unconvinced.
Pellettieri set out to identify instances of negotiation of meaning in task-based
chat and whether negotiation of meaning facilitated mutual comprehension. She
also set out to determine whether negotiation of meaning emerges in written chat
as it does in verbal chat and whether target-like L2 forms resulted from the negotiation process. Pellettieri administered ve 30-minute tasks to 20 participants and
observed greater negotiation of meaning and greater attention to form in single/
minimal outcome tasks, but not in multiple outcome or open conversation tasks.
She also observed that students negotiated at all levels of discourse and were
compelled to focus on form in order to attain mutual comprehension. Based on her
observations, Pellettieri concluded that task-based SCMC cultivates negotiation
of meaning and argued that the structure of SCMC environments allows for the
think time that in all probability plays a signicant role in the development of
grammatical competence.
Blake (2000) also investigated language modication devices in chat versus
face-to-face environments and linguistically categorized the modications in his
study of L2 Spanish interlanguage development in SCMC. Additionally, he compared task typejigsaw and information gapand its relation to negotiation of
meaning. Blake reported that well designed tasks, especially jigsaws, did in fact
encourage students to focus on form as they noticed the gaps in their lexical interlanguage. However, he also reported that most negotiations were lexical in nature,
with the largest part of all negotiation arising from misunderstandings of the lexicon. Syntactical negotiation was not only less frequent but also incidental.
Lee (2002) examined modication devices as they surfaced in SCMC environments in a third-year, university-level Spanish class. She found that the most
common modication devices (help requests, clarication checks, and self-correction) facilitated comprehension of input and output and enhanced the negotiation of both meaning and form. While some students were aware of their linguistic performance and sought assistance, others were not interested in correcting

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linguistic mistakes, preferring to ignore these errors. She also found that students
used simple sentence structure due to the rapidity of the medium and, therefore,
that the SCMC environment encouraged uency rather than accuracy. As a result,
she suggested that students should be advised of the need to write correctly to
maintain a balance between function, content, and uency (p. 7-8). A study by
Salaberry (2000) showed greater evidence of morphosyntactic development for
past tense verbal endings in L2 Spanish in the SCMC dialogues than in the faceto-face dialogues.
Finally, Sotillo (2000) examined syntactic complexity in the discourse functions
that surfaced in synchronous and asynchronous CMC in order to determine which
approach offered greater prospects for the production of syntactically complex
language. Two groups of undergraduate ESL students enrolled in an advancedplacement writing course participated in her study. Class work was supplemented
by 90 minutes of synchronous group discussion or asynchronous communication via a message board, respectively. Sotillo demonstrated that asynchronous
CMC sparked greater syntactic complexity and length, that the nature of SCMC
facilitated learner output in the midst of the learners collaborative efforts, and
that asynchronous CMC tended to resemble formal written discourse. In addition,
she claimed that the text-based nature of SCMC was not enough to overcome the
incessant urge for uency and rapidity and, thus, resulted in syntactic reduction
and diminished accuracy. She attributed the difference to students attitude that
bulletin board documents are more formal and entail planning and revising before
submitting the nal version as opposed to their attitude that SCMC documents are
quick paced and conversational in nature in which form is not of great importance.
Nonetheless, another observation reported by Sotillo bears mentioning because it
emphasizes the need for further research on SCMCs utility in the development of
grammatical competence. While Sotillo reported that grammatical accuracy may
suffer in the SCMC environment, her data revealed that the synchronous groups
interactions exhibited fewer errors than the asynchronous groups utterances.
While the benets of SCMC in terms of the quantity and quality of learner output and the student centeredness of the environment have been established, what
remains uncertain is the extent to which SCMC fosters grammatical development.
This article outlines the ndings of a study which set out to determine whether
consciousness raising (CR) in SCMC assists in the development of distinctions
between por/para and ser/estar in L2 learners of Spanish to a greater degree than
SCMC without CR. CR, in general terms, helps students in the learning process
by drawing attention to features of the L2. Rutherford and Sharwood Smith (1985)
contended that CR, the deliberate attempt to draw the learners attention specically to the formal properties of the target language (p. 274), facilitates language
learning. Rutherford (1987) further dened CR as increasing the salience of principle grammatical structures.
STUDY OVERVIEW

Data were gathered from level-three Spanish courses at a large state university
and consisted of a series of readings on personalities, histories, and writings of the

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

Spanish-speaking world complemented by a textbook grammar component. For


this study, all students were required to read the materials prior to class in order to
be prepared to participate and lead discussions on the materials. At the end of each
week, all participants addressed the same discussion topics in chat session, and
the instructor participated in these sessions. Topics required students to debate,
compare and contrast, argue and defend their points of view. The structure of the
level-three courses followed a basic Spanish program characterized by a taskbased, whole language approach in which students were minimally exposed to
grammar and vocabulary. Three sections were originally chosen for the study, but
only the data from two were analyzed since the researcher was unable to obtain
the equipment necessary to gather the data for the third group. The sections were
designated as form and meaning focused, with and without chat, versus meaning
focused with chat. The form- and meaning-focused chat group was to serve as the
experimental group. The form- and meaning-focused face-to-face group and the
meaning-focused chat group were to function as controls for the SCMC environment and the treatment of CR, or lack thereof. The data lacking for the form- and
meaning-focused face-to-face group required the data to be analyzed in terms of
the SCMC groups only. The study set out to determine, then,
1. whether CR assists in the emergence of the distinctions between por/para
and ser/estar in SCMC,
2. whether the lack of CR for por/para, ser/estar hinders the emergence of
these structures for the group that does not focus on form in SCMC, and
3. The role that CR plays in development of por/para and ser/estar in
SCMC.
PARTICIPANTS AND INSTRUCTOR

The participants in the project were all between the ages of 19 and 25 and had
been put into the level-three courses by university instructors or placement exams. All students reported to have no known disabilities or incapacities to prevent their participation. There were 27 students in the form-and-meaning-focused
(FMF) group and 17 students in the meaning-focused (MF) group. One instructor,
a native speaker of Spanish, taught all participating sections. She had taught at
the university for 4 years prior to this study and completed its summer intensive
teaching preparation program in teaching methodologies. Training sessions on the
chat client and the course management system were held by university technical
services personnel. The instructor, a chatter herself, was very familiar with the
chat environment and was enthusiastic about using a SCMC component in the
course for the rst time. The course materials, manuals, design, components, and
expectations were reviewed by the researcher so that the instructor could address
any concerns and questions about the study before it began. The researcher and
the instructor were in constant contact during the study until the close of the data
collection. A number of formal and informal meetings were conducted to prepare
for data collection and instructor participation. Finally, the instructor had been

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571

teaching under a basic program in which communication was highly valued and
grammar was frowned upon. The instructor valued a balance between communication and grammar and did in fact introduce grammar-based exercises in the
classroom.
PRODECURES

Pre-and Posttest Procedures

In order to address the main areas of inquiry, three pre- and posttests were administered in the second week of classes and in the week before the universitys
nal examination period. The rst test involved elicited imitation, also known as
sentence repetition testing (EI/SRT). EI/SRT is a process in which participants
listen to a series of sentences of varying levels of difculty and attempt to repeat
the sentences verbatim within a 3-second time frame (see EI/SRT test in Appendix
A). EI/SRT is considered to be a measure of language development (see Radloff,
1992; Vinther, 2002). A perfect score consisted of three points per sentence, and
all three points were earned if the student repeated the sentence accurately in its
entirety. Two points were awarded for one error, and one point was awarded for
two errors. Errors consisted of word substitution or exclusion, additions of words
or phrases, repetitions and false starts, incorrect endings, and incomprehensible
utterances/garble. No more than one error classication was marked for a given
utterance. For example, if the participant were to repeat the phrase Su libro es
de fama internacional as su, su libro es de fama internacional, that utterance
would merit a one point deduction with su, su being marked as either a repetition or a false start but not both.
In the second test, oral exam topics were assigned by the course instructor and
were thematically related to the course material. Students in both groups covered
the same subject matter (skits in groups of four for the rst oral exam, PowerPoint
presentations in groups of two for the second oral exam) and were held to the
same expectations and standards. Since the format did not test spontaneous language production (i.e., students prepared their oral presentations outside of class),
oral exam represents a limitation to the study. Students were evaluated on accent,
grammar, vocabulary, uency, and comprehension on a 6-point range from beginner (1 point) to native speaker (6 points). The standards utilized in this study were
borrowed from Radloff (1992, pp. 147-151).
The third test consisted of a grammaticality preference component (GPC) in
which students were asked to review 55 paired phrases in Spanish and choose
their preference from ve options: (a) phrase a, (b) phrase b, (c) neither phrase,
(d) both phrases, (e) not sure (see GPC test in Appendix B). Students recorded
their answers on bubble sheets. Scores were determined in accordance with how
well the participants preferences matched those of the instructors for por/para
and ser/estar.

Chat Procedures

Each chat session lasted approximately 50 minutes for the MF group and approxi-

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mately 40 minutes for the FMF group, for a total of 350 minutes (5.83 hours) and
280 minutes (4.67 hours), respectively. Participants chatted once weekly during
class time in the departmental language laboratory, which housed thirty computers, over a period of 11 weeks. Eight weeks of data were analyzed because two
sessions served as training sessions and one session was lost due to university-wide technical difculties. Participants were given a manual explaining the
laboratory procedures and expectations. Discussion questions were posted on an
overhead projector during the chat sessions for easy reference. All students were
to maintain Spanish for the entire session, to be respectful of one another, to concentrate on the discussion questions and related themes, and to not use the hour to
socialize. Students in the FMF group were requested to come to class on time and
log on immediately, have prepared their prechat questions before coming to the
chat session, and have reviewed por/para and ser/estar. They were encouraged
to work together to develop and explore their ideas in depth and detail, to express
and defend their opinions, and to focus on grammatical forms and accuracy, especially with regard to por/para and ser/estar. Students in MF group were also required to adhere to the same set of rules in terms of respectfulness and punctuality,
but no mention of form-focused attention was made. As part of the CR treatment,
the FMF group was required to prepare prechat questions. These questions, whose
purpose was to expose learners to the target forms in context before beginning
each session, were available to the students on Wednesday evenings so that they
could prepare for Thursdays chats. Prechat questions were made available to the
students the evening before so that they would come to class prepared for discussion. The instructor took approximately 10 minutes to review the answers to these
questions before the FMF participants started their chat sessions. In addition, the
FMF students were given access to a consolidated version of the textbooks grammar pages for quick reference during the semester, but not for use during the
chat sessions. The instructor was directed not to correct the grammatical errors
of the students in the MF group, especially local errors that did not impede comprehension. She was also instructed to solicit more information through recasts
or clarication requests in response to students global errors (provided that the
clarication requests focused on the messages content rather than its grammatical
structure). For the FMF group, she was asked to pay particular attention to ser/
estar and por/para and was given the option to engage in a number of corrective
strategies: (a) restate the incorrect statement correctly (recast), (b) ask for clarication of both meaning and form, (c) ask students to elaborate on their intended
message so as to encourage them and to give them an opportunity to produce the
correct form, (d) solicit clarication for an unclear or incorrectly stated utterance,
(e) provide explicit feedback by calling direct attention to the nontarget-like utterance, and (f) provide metalinguistic feedback. Analysis of the data revealed that
the instructor relied on clarication requests and recasts as her primary feedback
strategies; the single example of metalinguistic feedback that surfaced in the FMF
group was not corrective in nature, and the three instances of explicit correction
were lexical and not grammatical in nature.

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Melissa L. Fiori
RESULTS

Pre- and Posttest Results

In order to determine whether the participants were drawn from the same population, t tests for independent samples were run on the results of the pretest scores.
The results did not indicate any signicant differences between the groups on any
of the three measures (EI/SRT, GPC, or oral exam) (see Table 1).
Table 1
Analysis of EI/SRT, GPC, and Oral Exam Pretest Scores
Pretest

EI/SRT

FMF group means

MF group means

26.45

24.65

23.86

GPC

Oral exam

18.78

t (37)

15.00

2.010

.052

18.79

-0.021

.983

1.095

.281

The results of the t tests on the posttest scores revealed signicant differences
between the groups on two of the three measures (see Table 2). The difference between the means of the two groups was signicant on the EI/SRT and GPC posttests by not on the oral exam posttest. Students in the FMF group outperformed
those in the MF group on EI/SRT and GPC posttests but not on the oral exam
posttest.
Table 2
Analysis of EI/SRT, GPC, and Oral Exam Posttest Scores
Posttest

EI/SRT

FMF group means

MF group means

29.95

25.71

GPC

Oral exam

40.09
21.91

t (37)

28.29

2.241

.031

20.24

1.158

.138

2.095

.046

Chat Transcripts

Group Comparisons
The rst step in the data analysis required examination of group focus. Analysis of the data shows that the FMF group explicitly focused on form through
self and peer-to-peer corrections and also by marking errors for saliency through
capital letters and/or asterisks. The FMF group also produced 1,990 verb forms,
compared to 1,657 in the MF groups, with a greater variety of tense and mood
represented. The MF data demonstrated a primary focus on meaning with some
attention to form.
Examples (1-3) demonstrate the complex structures that characterized the FMF
group. In the rst sample, Derechista2 produces two if-clause statements very
well: (a) if + present (si tengo) + future (llorar) if I have to , I will and (b)
if + present (si paso) + conditional (estara) if I spend , I would be.

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Example 1 (FMF sample of syntactic maturity)

derechista2 llorare si tengo que dejar porque si paso mi vida en un solo lugar no
estaria comfortable en un lugar otro
[I will cry if I have to leave because if I spend my life in one place I
wouldnt be comfortable in another place]
Example (2) demonstrates a growing presence of the subjunctive in the FMF
participants interlanguage. Here, students recognized that expressing ideas such
as it is funny that or I dont think/believe that require the subjunctive, although neither statement is perfectly formed (*atace should be written ataque and
no creo should be followed by que).
Example 2 (FMF sample of syntactic maturity)
diego_rivera2

es muy comedia de Don Quijote atace molinas de viento


[It is very funny that Don Quijote attacks the windmills]
chaparrastique2 No creo personas en 2003 luchen molinas de viento
[I dont think people in 2003 would ght windmills]
Example (3) demonstrates reexive verb usage. Reexive verbs require the
pronoun to be placed before the inected verb (me despierto I get up) or onto
the innitive form as in al levantarse upon waking up. Given those options, the
following are also possibilities: (a) se puede despertar and (b) puede despertarse.
Pronoun placement with reexive verbs tends to be a difcult feature to master.
However, the FMF group not only produced the reexives but also exercised a
wide range of possibilities in expressing them. Aside from one misspelling (*a
vezes), the exchange is characterized by correct use of the imperfect for both
meaning and form, a sound implementation of the principle of the present perfect,
and accurate subject-verb agreement.
Example 3 (FMF sample of syntactic maturity)

cubanacan2 pero a vezes mi mente se puede despertar pero no puedo mover mi


cuerpo
[But sometimes my mind can wake itself up but I cant move my
body]
bandera2 recuerdo algunos de mis suenos cuando me despierto, pero despues
de un poco tiempo usualmente les olvido
[I remember some of my dreams when I wake up, but after a little
while I usually forget them]
besazo2
Mi amiga, pero ha oido de un hombre que sabe mucho de los suenos
[My friend, but she has heard of a man that knows a lot about
dreams]
chequere2 no creo muchas personas recuredan sus suenos al levantarse
[I dont think many people remember their dreams when they wake]

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Group focus was also examined in terms of student-to-student feedback practices.


Metalinguistic feedback, recasting, explicit correction, clarication requests, orthographic correction, and joking behaviors were examined. Explicit correction
and orthographic correction were the most commonly deployed feedback measures in the FMF group, while the MF group relied on clarication requests.
Twenty-six instances of explicit correction surfaced in the FMF group. Feedback ranged from student-to-student to self-corrections, and participants marked
their corrections with an asterisk for saliency. Students self-corrected for subjectverb agreement (Example 4), for gender-agreement (Examples 5 and 6), and for
the indirect object pronoun (Example 7). Note that in Example (5), Cubanacan2
writes i\un to call attention to the need for the masculine form.
Example 4 (FMF sample of student-to student explicit correction)
cubanacan2 no es
[It isnt]
cubanacan2 no son
[They arent]

Example 5 (FMF sample of student-to student explicit correction)


cubanacan2 es una quimico malo
[It is a bad chemical]
cubanacan2 i\un
[i = incorrect \ un]

Example 6 (FMF sample of student-to student explicit correction)


cencerro2 sin imagincion, vida es aburrido
[Without imagination, life is boring]
cencerro2 aburrida
[boring]

Example 7 (FMF sample of student-to student explicit correction)

derechista2 pienso que mis suenos hablan sobre cosas estan en mi vida o estaren
en mi vida
[I think my dreams speak about things that are in my life or will be in
my life]
derechista2 me hablan*
[Speak to me* (student-generated asterisk)]
Students generated 20 orthographic corrections in the FMF group. In each case,
the students self-corrected and, at times, marked their corrections with an asterisk.

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Example 8 (MFM sample of student-to student orthographic correction)

cubanacan2 lo que yo pienso es que no es el sitio que vas a echar de menos pero
la gente que vive con tigo
[What I think is that it isnt the place youll miss but the people that
live with you]
cubanacan2 contigo
[With you]
Example 9 (MFM sample of student-to student orthographic correction)

diego_rivera2 hoy, atacando molinas de viente en un acto de una persona con


muchas problemas mentales
[Today, attacking windmills is an act of a person with many mental
problems]
diego_rivera2 es*
[is]
In contrast, the utterances produced by the students in the MF group were typically characterized by: (a) code switching (e.g., shot, court ruling, communism,
break, concern, yes, mature, so), (b) literal translations (e.g., este ir ser un larga
vez explicar this is going to take a long time to explain), and (c) well stated utterances that were overlooked in subsequent postings by other participants (e.g.,
student 1: el communism es la solucin porque ha sido endosado por frida kahlo
Communism is the solution because it has been supported by frida kahlo; student
2: frida endosado communismo? She *supported communism?) (see Example
10).
Example 10 (MF sample of syntactic maturity)

ojos_verdes2 el communisim es la solucin ciertamente


[Communism is a solution, certainly]
juan_carlos2 communism es uno teoria
[Communism is a theory]
ojos_verdes2 el communisim es la solucin porque ha sido endosado por frida
kahlo
[Communism is the solution because it has been supported by frida
kahlo]
loquito2
frida endosado communismo?
[She *supported communism?]
jose_marti2 !tienen una break de primavera buena!
[Have a good spring break!]
loquito2
Los periodicos no hablan a lecturas no concern EEUU
[The newspapers dont talk about things that dont concern the
US]
juan_carlos2 communism es uno teoria
[Communism is a theory]

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moctezuma2 este ir ser un larga vez explicar


[This is going to take a long time to explain (literal translation)]
margarita2
yes, es muy triste
[Yes, it is very sad]
margarita2
por que Moncho no es Don Gregorio amigo
[Because Moncho is not Don Gregorios friend]
guisante2
moncho es joven pero muy mature
[Moncho is young but very mature]
gato_violeto2 so moncho no entiende
[So moncho doesnt understand]
Twenty ve clarication requests were generated by the MF group. Overall,
their exchanges were lengthy and were typically accompanied by code switching
to English. In Example (11), the students were distressed by the USs decision
to go to war with Iraq and had trouble moving the conversation forward because
they ended up bantering over whether the correct reference for los cadejos was
wolves or dogs.
Example 11 (MF sample of student-to-student clarication requests)

juan_carlos2 !la literatura!


[The literature!]
margarita2 no comprendo nuestra gobierno
[I dont understand our government]
juan_carlos2 por favor
[Please]
los_cadejos2 por que hablar con la literatura mientras una guerra hoy
[Why talk about the literature while theres a war today]
ojos_verdes2 lobos magicos hablamos sobre lobos magicos
[Magic wolves were talking about magic wolves]
inca2
quien los lobos representan??
[What do the wolves represent?]
el_pachuco2 no lobos. perros
[Not wolves. Dogs]
margarita2 que es lobos?
[What is lobos?]
gato_violeto2 los cajotes ayudan la gente
[The coyotes help the people]
inca2
que nos ensenan los perros de la vida?
[What do the dogs teach us about life?]
margarita2 donde esta los perros?
[Where are the dogs?]
habichuela2 lobos signica de perros?
[Lobos means dogs?]
los_cadejos2 los perros son magicos
[The dogs are magic ]

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

ojos_verdes2 lobos estaban en la cuenta


[Wolves are in the story]
el_pachuco2 los cadejos no son lobos. son perros
[Los cadejos arent wolves. Theyre dogs]
ojos_verdes2 oh
[oh]
jose_marti2 ni lobos ni venados
[Not wolves nor deer]
margarita2 si, los lobos/perros es de los vvalcan
[Yes, the wolves/dogs are from the volcanoes]
The impact of grammatical CR evaluated against the lack of it created different
social environments. First, in the classroom environment, all participating groups
were socially comparable. The researcher observed no drastic social differences
among the sections and the instructor rated the social dynamic as consistent across
groups: all students were cooperative and respectful in the face-to-face environment. In the chat environment, however, the FMF group remained serious and
very much on task; the chatscripts contained a low frequency of joking behavior.
On the other hand, the MF group was very likely to joke with and bully each other.
Example (12) exhibits the most demonstrative of language play; the students not
only played on words (Freud/fraud), but also continued the word play through a
rhyme in the next to the last line.
Example 12 (MF sample of joking behavior and word play)
choclo2

freud es fraude?
[Freud is fraude?]
choclo2
no!!!
[No!!!]
bosque_verde2 freud fue loco
[Freud was crazy]
azteca2
si
[Yes]
chaparrastique2 si si
[Yes yes]
desaparecido2 si
[Yes]
choclo2
el es loco un poco, pero no fraude
[He is crazy a bit, but not fraud]
castillo2
si freud es muy intelligente, pero es un fraude
[Yes freud is very intelligent, but he is a fraud]
The students in the MF group were inclined to ridicule each other, likely to
engage in language play, and often worked to display extralinguistic cues such
as those listed in Example (15) below. In as much as the students were jovial,

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579

good humored, and playful, they were also bullies who taunted and mocked one
another, at times generating an atmosphere of interpersonal conict. Furthermore,
they were much more inclined to code switch. A total of 22 instances of joking
or bullying surfaced in the data. Example (13) not only demonstrates language
play, but also shows how the students sometimes assumed the identity of their
pseudonyms. In the short story Los perros mgicos de los volcanes, los Cadejos
are magic dogs. The participant whose nickname is Los_Cadejos realized this
and commented on it. Two other participants followed suit, and language play
ensued.
Example 13 (MF sample of joking behavior and word play)

los_cadejos2 me llamo los cadejos


[My name is los cadejos]
el_pachuco2 te llamas los cadejos??
[Your name is los cadejos??]
ojos_verdes2 hola los_cadejos2, puedes hacer magico ?
[Hello los_cadejos2, can you make magic?]
los_cadejos2 puedo hacer magico
[I can make magic]
los_cadejos2 por que soy un cadejo
[because Im a cadejo]
ojos_verdes2 que magico tienes, los_cadejos2 ?
[What magic do you have, los_cadejos2?]
los_cadejos2 x-ray
[x-ray]
los_cadejos2 puedo volar
[I can y]
los_cadejos2 soy mas fuerte por que soy mas inteligente y tengo mas magico que
los salvadores
[Im very strong because Im more intelligent and I have more
magic than the salvadorans]
los_cadejos2 soldados, perdon
[Soldiers, sorry]
el_pachuco2 los soldados quiere mato los cadejos
[The soldiers want to kil*l the cadejos]
el_pachuco2 mate
[kill]
Example (14) represents the manner in which students bullied each other
through accusations of incompetence made against fellow participants.
Example 14 (MF sample of joking behavior and word play)
loquito2

GRACIAS, INCA!!!
[THANKS, INCA!!]

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inca2

no problemo!!
[No problem!!]
el_pachuco2 inca! de nada es youre welcome!!
[Inca! De nada is youre welcome!!]
mar_rojo2 jaja
[haha]
ojos_verdes2 JA
[HA]
loquito2
es muy facil, inca
[Its very easy, inca]
inca2
de nada!
[Youre welcome!]
inca2
muy dicil
[Very difcult]
Finally, the use of emoticons and other extra verbal linguistic cues was a common feature of the language generated by the MF group (see Example 15).
Example 15 (MF sample of joking behavior and word play)

moctezuma2 la espiral siginique venir en conscience porque la espiral comenzar a un punto y hace circulo. el circulo va a la misma punta pero
venir mas cerca cada vez alrededor es similar a la proceso de crecer
(ganar conscience)
[the spiral means to come into consciousness because the spiral begins at one point and makes a circle. The circle is going to the same
point but it comes closer each time around its similar to the process
of growing (to gain consciousness)]
moctezuma2 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
[^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^]
moctezuma2 <--- anarquista
[<--- anarchist]
moctezuma2 que cree la espiral signique?
[What do you think the spiral means?]
ojos_verdes2 la espiral signica un maestro muy loco jajaja
[the spiral means a crazy teacher hahaha]
mar_rojo2 no sabes nada ojos!! Jaja
[you dont know anything ojos!! haha]
In sum, the analysis of the data demonstrates that when the FMF group was
instructed to engage in CR for specic L2 forms, participants did not limit their
focus to por/para and ser/estar alone and, consequently, generated syntactically
complex language overall. The absence of deliberate focus on form in the MF
group led to chat sessions characterized by code switching, literal translation, and
bullying. While students in the MF group paid some attention, their primary focus
was clearly on meaning.

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Melissa L. Fiori
Usage of Por/Para and Ser/Estar

The second step in the data analysis involved examining por/para and ser/estar in
terms of usage and focus. First, the total number of attempts and overall accuracy
rates for por/para, ser/estar were determined. The next step was to document explicit evidence of focused attention on por/para, ser/estar in the FMF group and
to determine whether the MF group paid any attention to form for these items.
The same categories for ser/estar, por/para described by the textbook, categories to which the students were exposed in the course, were used for the quantitative analysis of students utterance in the chat sessions. These categories consisted
of ser/estar, por/para, ser/estar + meaning changing adjectives, and additional
expressions. Each utterance was coded according to the context of use and assigned a category according to intended use. Next, in terms of ser/estar, the transcripts were evaluated for verb choice and correct usage for each category (i.e.,
subject-verb, gender, and number agreement). The total number of correct/incorrect utterances was then tabulated for each section, and the percentage of correct
productions was calculated. Table 3 lists the total number of forms produced for
a given category, the number of incorrectly produced forms within that category,
and the percent correct for both the FMF and the MF groups.
Table 3
Total Incorrect, Total Attempts, and Overall Accuracy Rates for Ser/Estar and
Por/Para
FMF group

MF group

Total
incorrect

Total
produced

% correct

Total
incorrect

Total
produced

% correct

Ser

39

597

93.47

70

486

85.60

Estar

27

85

58.00

34

66

48.48

Ser/estar + meaning
changing adjective

44

81.82

27

42

35.71

Additional
expressions

67

91.04

19

38

50.00

Por

25

175

85.71

28

156

82.05

Para

37

89.19

12

20

40.00

Overall, the FMF group outperformed the MF group in terms of correct usage
of ser, estar and por, para. Analysis revealed that the FMF group distinguished
between the various L2 to be options, while the MF group relied on ser as the
default form. Contexts requiring por or para revealed that errors for both participation sections stemmed from substituting one preposition for the other.
A total of eight examples which clearly demonstrated focused attention on ser
and estar surfaced in the FMF group throughout the semester; six are posted below (Examples 16-21). While there were a number of instances in which it is
likely that participants focused on form, they are not included here because of
the lack of explicit output. It is noteworthy that in Examples (16) and (18) the

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students provided corrective feedback to one another; in Example (18) the student
self-corrected; in Example (19) the learner corrected himself when he realized
that he produced the conditional form (sera) in place of the imperfect form (era),
writing seria = era a few lines after the mistake appeared. Examples (16) and (18)
demonstrate students system of marking corrections with an asterisk for salience,
and Examples (20) and (21) demonstrate students growing awareness of the use
of ser in impersonal expressions.
Example 16 (FMF sample of syntactic maturity)

alambra Soy cansada por que miro la television todas las noche
[Im* tired because I watch television every night]
besazo2 estoy*
alambra estoy si lo siento
[estoy, yes sorry]
Example 17 (FMF sample of syntactic maturity)

diego_rivera2 muchos gigantes en espana?


[many giants in Spain?]
cencerro2
si hay muchas gigantes en espana
[Yes there are many giants in Spain]
Example 18 (FMF sample of syntactic maturity)

diego_rivera2 hoy, atacando molinas de viente en un acto de una persona con


mucha s problemas mentales
[today, attacking windmills is* an act of a person with many mental problems]
diego_rivera2 es*
Example 19 (FMF sample of syntactic maturity)
azteca2

Mi reaccion, estaria muy irrita


[my reaction, Id be very irritated]
besazo2
seria muy dicil ir a un otra pais donde no coneces nadia
[it would be very difcult to go to another country where you dont
know anyone]
diego_rivera2 es muy dicil de mover a un otro pais, especialmente cuando seria
un rey
[it is very difcult to move to another country, especially when he
would be* a king]
bandera2
creo que el rey moro se fue del pais con dignidad
[I think the Moorish King left with dignity]
diego_rivera2 seria = era
[would be = was]

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Melissa L. Fiori
Example 20 (FMF sample of syntactic maturity)

derechista2 Es importante que los ninos entiendan el himno proque no deben


cantar cuando no saben que cantan
[Its important that children understand the pledge because they
shouldnt recite it if they dont know what theyre reciting]
bandera2 si, es importante que lo entiendan
[yes, its important that they understand it]
derechista2 porque*
Example 21 (FMF sample of syntactic maturity)
diego_rivera2

pero es necesita a levanta durante el pledge


[its necessary to stand during the pledge]
azucar_moreno2 LevantE
[to stand]
azucar_moreno2 es necesario que levantE
[its necessary to stand]
azucar_moreno2 el subjunctive
[the subjunctive]
There were some instances of attention to form in the MF group even though its
primary focus was on meaning. Three of four form-focused instances are posted
below. In Example (22), Santo_domingo2 inquired about the subjunctive in the
context of the dialogue.
Example 22 (MF sample of attention to form)
velazquez2
santo_domingo2
santo_domingo2
jose_marti2
santo_domingo2
santo_domingo2

hola
[hello]
hola mi professora
[hello my professor]
?como estas?
[how are you?]
bien, ?y tu?
[Im well, and you?]
asi asi, muy cansado
[ok, very tired]
subjunctivo?
[subjunctive?]

In example (23), Ojos_verdes2s production of the phrase que ser, ser what
will be, will be prompted three explanatory responses, one of which provided the
L1 equivalent of the verb form (i.e., maya2 sera = will be). Also, Ojos_verdes2
made an attempt to provide written accents in the chat by writing the accents as a
separate entity alongside his production. The chat client did not contain an accent

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panel, and accent marking was not addressed by the researcher or the instructor.
The question of written accents occasionally attracted students attention, as seen
in Example (24). Maya2 asked Ojos_Verdes2 how to generate them, but Ojos did
not cooperate, stating that its a secret.
Example 23 (MF sample of attention to form)

ojos_verdes2 que sera sera-- S Hawking


[what will be, will be-S. Hawking]
moctezuma2 que es sera?
[what is sera?]
jose_marti2 el cancion famosa
[the famous song]
maya2
sera= will be
ojos_verdes2 Stephen Hawking no escribo la cancion pero, lo amo
[Stephen Hawking didnt write the song but he loved it]
Example 24 (MF sample of attention to form)
maya2

ojos verde, como tu haces los accentos?


[Ojos verde, how do you do the accents?]
ojos_verdes2 es un secretom maya2
[Its a secre*, Maya2]
ojos_verdes2 secreto
[Secret]
maya2
okay
[okay]
In Example (25), Guisante2 switched to English. This prompted Ojos_verdes2
to offer assistance in the L2. Although Ojos_verdes2 provided two options for expressing would be in Spanish, he marked his suggestion interrogatively, which
suggested that while he was providing assistance to Guisante2, he may have also
been soliciting assistance on his own feedback.
Example 25 (MF sample of attention to form)
guisante2

creo que el would be en chatahoochee en el hospital


[I think he would be in Chatahoochee in the hospital]
ojos_verdes2 would be = seria o estaria ... no?
guisante2
that is where the psychiatric hospital is
The examples above reveal that the FMF participants demonstrated sensitivity
to grammar in terms of the production of syntactically complex structures and a
specic focus on the designated L2 forms. The examples also reveal that the MF
group paid a limited amount of attention to form, and that each group engaged in
activities within its expected focus.

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Melissa L. Fiori
Instructor-student Interaction

The third step was to determine the nature of the instructor-to-student interaction.
That is, one instructor taught all participating sections of the study to control for
a myriad of variables that could surface if various instructors had participated.
However, the manner in which she engaged with the students could have threatened internal validity of the study. The instructor had the liberty to focus on form
and meaning in her feedback strategies for the FMF group: recasts, clarication
requests, explicit correction, and metalinguistic feedback. Conversely, she had
two options for MF feedback: recasts and clarication requests. Analysis of the
instructor-to-student interaction reveals equal corrective measures employed for
both groups. Analysis of the FMF data indicates that it is likely that the participants recognized the feedback they received, while that of the MF data demonstrates instances in which feedback clearly went unrecognized. Additionally, recasts were the instructors preferred strategy, followed by clarication requests,
although she corrected little overall. The FMF group did respond to interrogative
recasts, which suggests that when combined with CR, interrogative recasts are
effective. One instance of metalinguistic feedback surfaced in the FMF group, but
the nature of that feedback was not corrective; the instructor praised a students
well stated utterance. The chatscripts contain three instances of explicit correction, all of which revolved around vocabulary rather than form. The instructor
did not limit her corrections to por/para, ser/estar alone. Table 4 summarizes the
instructors corrective practices.
Table 4
Instructor-to-student Feedback Practices
Metalinguistic feedback
Recasts
Direct repetition
Introduced by yes
Salient recast
Interrogative recast
Explicit correction

Clarication request
Total

FMF group
1

MF group
0

2
4
4
4

3
3
1
4

3b
23

0
15

This comment was in response to a well formed student utterance, not a corrective measure
b
All instructor feedback in this category focused on lexical items, not grammatical
items.
a

Since recasting was the preferred strategy, it will be discussed in more detail
here. Of the four recasting strategies listed in Table 4, interrogative recasts gener-

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

ated responses by the FMF group. While noticing may or may not have resulted
from the other recasting strategies, there are clear examples of noticing in the output of students in this group. However, the data for the MF group includes clear
examples of disregarding recasts.
In example (26), the instructor modeled Castillos statement in an interrogative
recast in order to obtain more information from him. Castillo responded with a
more sophisticated production, provided an example, and demonstrated uptake
with regard to both the structure of the sentence and the instructors feedback on
the term realistas.
Example 26 (FMF sample of instructor-to-student recast)

castillo2

los cuentos no requeren factos ser efectivo


[stories dont have to be factual to be effective]
velazquez2 castillo dices que no necesitan ser realistas los cuentos para ser efectivos? Por que?
[Castillo, you say that stories dont have to be real to be effective?
Why?]
castillo2
no, ser realistas es importante, pero no necesita ser el facto
[No, being real is important, but it doesnt have to be factual]
castillo2
el ejemplo bien es pedro y el lobo
[a good example is peter and the wolf]
In example (27), Alhambra stated that he was tired because he watched TV
every night. The instructor asked, through an interrogative recast, whether he was
tired because he did not get enough sleep. However, before she published her
remark, Besazo published the correct verb form and marked it with an asterisk for
salience. Alhambra responded with a correction and an apology.
Example 27 (FMF sample of instructor-to-student recast)

alhambra

Soy cansada por que miro la television todas las noche


[Im tired because I watch TV every night]
besazo2
estoy*
[I am*]
velazquez2 alhambra estas cansada porque no duermes lo suciente?
[Alhambra, youre tired because you dont get enough sleep?]
Alhambra estoy si lo siento
[I am~ sorry]
Students in the MF group responded differently to interrogative recasts. In Example (28), El Pachuco was so interested in Juan_carloss statement in the rst
line that he and the other participants did not comprehend the nature of the interrogative recast and carried on the conversation without uptake or output.

Melissa L. Fiori

587

Example 28 (MF sample of instructor-to-student interrogative recast)

juan_carlos2 los indigenas de eeuu fueron suerte


[the US indigenous are lucky]
el_pachuco2 porque los indigenas en EEUU fueron suerte?
[why are the US indigenous lucky?]
velazquez2 tuvieron suerte porque pachuco?
[why were they lucky pachuco?]
margarita2 si, no comprede porque los indigenas en EEUU fueron suerte!
[yes, I dont understand why the US indigenous were lucky]
juan_carlos2 las indigenes fueron suerte porque el gobierno quisen la tierra de
indigenes
[the indigenous were lucky because the government wanted their
land]
el_pachuco2 juan_carlos dice los indigenas de EEUU fueron suerte quiero
conocer porque
[juan_carlos says the US indigenous were lucky I want to know
why]
In Example (29), it is unclear as to whether Margarita2 recognized the correction behind Velazquez2s interrogative recast or whether she simply understood
the utterance, answered the question, and continued the conversational ow.
Example 29 (MF sample of instructor-to-student interrogative recast)
margarita2 el gobierno de EEUU nunca son verdad
[the US government is never right]
velazquez2 margarita el gobierno nunca tiene razon? Por que?
[margarita the government is never right? Why?]
margarita2 La rica ayda la rica
[the rich help the rich]
While there are examples in which it is difcult to determine whether or not
recasts went noticed or unnoticed in the FMF group as well, the exchanges that
surfaced in the two groups are distinct. In Example (30), Besazo2 may or may
not have noticed the direct repetition recast, however it is likely that Castillo2 did
because she clearly re-read the exchange before posting her orthographic correction for her misspelling of Jack. In addition, the context was inappropriate for
a repetition because the instructors feedback came after Castillo2 had already
replied.
Example 30 (FMF sample of instructor-to-student direct repetition recast)
besazo2

castillo2

que es tu leyendo favorita?


[What is your favorite legend?]
me gusta Jck and the beanstalk
[I like Jack and the beanstalk]

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

velazquez2 cual es tu leyenda favorita?


[What is your favorite legend?]
castillo2
*Jack
[*Jack (student-generated asterisk)]
Similarly, it is likely that the next exchange was noticed because it concluded a
lengthy conversation which revolved around form.
Example 31 (FMF sample of instructor-to-student recast introduced by yes)
desaparecido2 femeninas es no mascelino
[Feminine is not masculine]
velazquez2
si femeninas es diferente de masculinas, desaparecido
[Yes feminine is different from masculine, desaparecido]

The FMF group established a pattern in which it is likely that the recasts were
recognized. In the MF group, and although not true in every case, there were instances which demonstrated that feedback went unnoticed. In Example (32) for
direct repetition recasts, it is clear that the participant in the MF group did not
notice the instructors correction because he restated the error in a subsequent
posting. Likewise, Loquito2 in Example (33) clearly demonstrated that he did not
recognize the instructors recast, as evident in line three of that exchange.
Example 32 (MF sample of instructor-to-student direct repetition recast)

planeta_azul2 bueno puenta


[good point]
velazquez2
buen punto
[good point]
planeta_azul2 si bueno puenta juan
[yes, good point juan]

Example 33 (MF sample of instructor-to-student recast introduced by yes)


loquito2

La guerra es Hell
[War is hell]
velazquez2 si la guerra es un inerno :)
[Yes, war is hell]
loquito2
como se dice hell en espanol?
[How does one say hell in Spanish?]

Another reason that it is unlikely that the recasts were unnoticed is due to the
time elapsed between the student posting, the recast, and the subsequent student
posting, or lack thereof. Recasts and postings were not generally submitted at the
same time, which means that student responses were not posted before the recast
was published by the instructor.

Melissa L. Fiori

589

The differences that surfaced in the FMF versus MF groups offer evidence that
the students in each group exhibited different behaviors during the sessions according to whether or not their attention was focused on form or both form and
meaning. Given the behavior that surfaced in the groups with regard to interrogative recasts, it is possible that an environment in which CR is made explicit
through specic instructions to focus on form is needed for learners to pay attention to, to comprehend the nature of, and to know how to respond to form-focused
recasts. The fact that participants have the liberty to reread the posted dialogue as
it transpires allows learners to compensate for the large number of chat participants. Whether engaged in CR or not, its presence or absence may determine the
extent to which participants revisit the dialogue to read and reprocess the information and may impact their decision to post corrections. Furthermore, the FMF
group had ve more students than the MF group and 10 minutes less chat time
each week. Under those circumstances, they not only produced more language in
that time, but more syntactically complex language. Also, they had more postings
to tend to because of the larger number of participants but still managed to outperform the MF group when asked to pay attention to both form and meaning. This
is a compelling nding which supports Lees (2000) suggestion that: students
should be advised of the need to write correctly to maintain a balance between
function, content, and uency (p. 7-8). It also supports Blakes claim (2000) that
incidental focus is insufcient for grammatical development. Finally, this nding
addresses the concern that open-ended communicative tasks push grammar to the
side in SCMC.

Chat Transcripts: Syntactic Maturity and Lexical Density


Syntactic Maturity

Minimal terminal units, or t-units (a main clause with all subordinate clauses and
modiers attached to it), were calculated in order to determine the degree of syntactic maturity of the students utterances. The t-units were tracked line by line
in the chatscript to account for publishing styles in which the participants held
the oor by posting thoughts in bits and pieces over a number of lines rather than
posting a larger chunk of information in one posting. For example, lines 12 and 23
below constitute 1 t-unit in which there are a total of 18 words.
Line 12: the large, rather strong
Line 15: animal with a limp
Line 19: who had made an offering
Line 23: nally returned to the pride.
Each participants utterances were tracked, t-units were determined, and the
number of words per t-unit was established in order to calculate the syntactic maturity of each groups participants as a whole. The results are displayed in Table
5.

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

Table 5
Median t-units by Group by Chat Session
Chat number

FMF group

MF group

9.24

7.58

7.44

7.30

7.08

7.08

10.48

7.59

9.41

7.06

8.27

7.83

10.57

8.96

A Mann-Whitney nonparametric test was run on the data to investigate differences between the two groups. The nonparametric test was chosen because no
assumptions were made about the distribution of the levels of syntactic maturity.
The results of the Mann-Whitney test (1-tailed test) are displayed in Table 6. The
results indicate that the FMF group outperformed MF group.
Table 6
Mann-Whitney U Test
Group

MFM (n = 7)
MF (n = 7)

Mean rank
9.50
5.50

Mann-Whitney
10.50

.037

Lexical Density
In addition to establishing syntactic maturity levels for the chat groups, lexical density, the proportion of novel to repeated lexical items in a text (excluding
articles, prepositions, conjunctions, etc.) was also calculated. Novel words were
calculated as nonrepeated forms; verb forms with varying tense and aspect markers were counted only once regardless of their ending, and gender and number
markers were not counted as novel items. Table 7 summarizes the results of the
range of lexical densities for each chat session. A Mann-Whitney test did not reveal any signicant differences between the groups.

Table 7
Lexical Density
Chat number

FMF group

MF group

29.41

23.07

25.28

21.36

24.20

29.17

26.99

29.89

34.70

29.54

30.66

39.62

24.67

30.20

Melissa L. Fiori

591

Units for Data Analysis

The SCMC environment is a unique environment in that it is a social domain in


which friends, family, and colleagues may communicate with one another. The
social aspect tied to chat may generate an air of informality among its participants. However, the means by which chatters communicate is text based, and
written conventions may apply as well. This informality of the chattiness of
SCMC coupled with the formality of the classroom and the written medium has
consequences for the choice of analytical measures applied to the data. The choice
amounted to applying either utterance units (c-units) (used for oral discourse) or
minimal terminal units (t-units) (used for written discourse). T-units were chosen for a variety of reasons. First, utterance units have been broadly dened and
have assumed a number of denitions. Second, c-units are the primary unit of
analysis in the study of spoken dialogue. The SCMC environment is discursive,
but it is not a clone of spoken dialogue. Third, utterance units may be identied
by shifts in speakers, but turn taking in SCMC does not adhere to the turn-taking
shifts typical of oral discourse and would require a re-dening of the c-unit to accommodate this new medium. Stresses, silence markings, and/or marking single
speech acts as c-units works well for spoken discourse but does not reect written
real-time discourse. Furthermore, analysis of utterances in SCMC environments
cannot address questions of prosody because the patterns of stress and intonation
cannot be monitored in SCMC, and speech acts such as turn taking or rhetorical
relations in SCMC do not adhere to the norms of spoken dialogue either. Fourth,
a c-unit may be dened as a syntactic measure such as the sentence or the clause,
but it does not indicate syntactic maturity as the t-unit does. Fifth, while sentences
are the primary object of study in written dialogue, the SCMC environment is not
the typical written environment either. The selection of a unit of analysis which
respects the nature of SCMC was imperative, and, given that t-units overcome
the problem of determining what is or is not a sentence, they provided a strong
unit of analysis from which the chatscripts could be systematically investigated.
The use of t-units reveals the underlying grammatical complexity of the learners
productions, is a consistent measure that eliminates the subjectivity in dening utterance units, and establishes a base unit to systematically and reliably investigate
the learners productions. SCMC is text based, and the productions in this environment are permanent, not transient like the spoken utterance. The permanency
of the dialogue changes the nature of the communication and could be a sound
environment for communicative and syntactic growth. Finally, grammatical development and the impact of CR in SCMC was the object of study in this project,
making the t-unit a better unit of measurement.

Summary

Pretest results revealed that the students were from the same population at the outset of the study. Analysis of the posttest scores revealed no statistically signicant
difference for the oral exam posttest, but did show statistically signicant differences in favor of the FMF group for the EI/SRT posttest and the GPC posttest.

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

Analysis of the chatscripts revealed greater levels of syntactic maturity in the


FMF group but statistically comparable levels of lexical density in both groups.
The FMF group attempted to employ por/para, ser/estar more often than the MF
group and was more accurate in its production. The FMF group distinguished between ser/estar, while the MF group used ser as a default form. The FMF group
stayed on task, assumed responsibility for self- and peer-corrective feedback, and
recognized the instructors feedback in a number of cases. Conversely, the MF
group did not seem to recognize the nature of the instructors feedback; it was
more likely to incorporate the L1 into its conversations and more likely to engage
in joking and bullying. While the MF group did not ignore form, it did not produce language as qualitatively sound as its FMF counterpart.
QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Regarding whether CR assists in the emergence of por/para and ser/estar distinctions in SCMC, analysis of the data revealed that when students were instructed
to focus on both form and meaning, they not only focused on ser/estar but on
grammar as a whole. Although the cognitive demands were high for this group, it
performed as well as the MF group in terms of lexical density and better than the
MF group in terms of syntactic maturity. It is concluded that CR had a positive
impact on grammatical development in SCMC.
In terms of whether the lack of CR on por/para, ser/estar hinders the emergence of these structures for the group that does not focus on form in SCMC, the
MF students did not completely ignore form in SCMC and did manipulate the
text-based medium for creative expression. Therefore, it cannot be concluded that
the absence of CR hindered grammatical development. However, the participants
produced less language, and the language they did produce was less accurate and
less syntactically complex on qualitative and quantitative measures. Furthermore,
they relied on ser as the default to be form. This environment was also characterized by conversational strategies (emoticons, clarication requests, and code
switching), self-correction (orthographic errors), interpersonal conict (bullying,
name calling, and belittling) where participants ignored each others errorsespecially morphosyntactic errorsin favor of communication, and lack of cooperation (ignored requests for help and information sharing). It is concluded that
while the absence of focusing on por/para, ser/estar did not hinder the emergence
of these structures over the course of the semester, nondeliberate focus on form
was insufcient to facilitate development to the same degree as CR.
The role CR played in development of por/para, ser/estar in SCMC yielded
positive results for this data set. The impact that it had on the instructor and the
participants is noteworthy. The instructor did not adjust her interaction with the
students according to group focus. Rather, she adopted feedback strategies and
applied them equally to both groups. The FMF students responded to CR through
corroboration and by engaging in self- and peer correction.
In sum, it is concluded that the role of CR in grammatical development served
to raise students awareness of grammatical form; it resulted in self-correction and
constructive peer-to-peer correction, positively impacted the peer-to-peer dynam-

Melissa L. Fiori

593

ic as collaborators in the SCMC environment, encouraged learners to stay on task,


and discouraged reliance on the L1. Overall, it served as a tool which facilitated
grammatical development in the SCMC forum. In the case of the FMF group, the
SCMC environment was fundamental to grammatical CR. In the case of the MF
group, the SCMC environment played a positive role in calling attention to grammatical features and structures, but this role was minimal when the FMF and MF
environments were compared.
IMPLICATIONS

The results of this project have demonstrated the potential that SCMC holds for
grammatical development when combined with CR. Implementing SCMC with
CR at an early stage may prove to accelerate grammatical development such that
learners could work to rene conversational and communicative skills at more advanced levels. Furthermore, CR in this highly communicative environment may
be the key to maintaining a solid focus on grammatical structures. It is possible
that the demands placed on participants in the FMF group proved to be benecial
because they managed to stay on task and assist one another. On the other hand,
it is possible that a meaning-only focus may have lightened the cognitive load to
the extent that participants channeled their energy into teasing, playing around,
and casual exchanges. This possibility is important because the potential to inhibit
development was present because the presence of negative social relations could
have inhibited the recognition of constructive, corrective, peer-to-peer feedback
(see Morris & Tarone, 2003). The MF group recognized and responded to peer aggression, and the stress that it caused was evident in subsequent postings. The impact of the lack of grammatical CR is such that in its absence learners channeled
their energy unconstructively when compared to the FMF group. In addition, the
combination of SCMC and CR speaks to task orientation (full-class chat, openended topics, meaning vs. form-meaning focus), participation, and evaluation.
Two very different outcomes surfaced in the FMF and MF groups, and SCMC
must be implemented with end goals in mind. Since it is unclear whether or not
CR can be switched off once students are asked to focus on form and meaning,
careful consideration and planning must go into task design and determining the
level that SCMC with CR will be introduced to learners. Furthermore, expectations of participation must be considered for evaluation. Not only will assessment
need to reect the various roles that may emerge through the different options in
SCMC, but it will need to reect the participatory possibilities that also emerge
in these environments.
FUTURE WORK

A limitation of the study can be found in the results of one of the pretests. The
difference between the group means on EI/SRT pretest was close to signicance
(p = 0.052). The argument could be made against homogeneity with the idea that
preexisting differences in prociency in favor of the FMF group were present.
If this were the case, the GPC and oral exam pretests should have reected this

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

prociency difference since the GPC examined the same features in written form
and the oral exam reected overall spoken prociency. Furthermore, one student
of Hispanic background (although still qualifying as a level three learner) was
matriculated in the FMF group and did score well on the EI/SRT. Given that
this individual was exposed to the L2 outside the classroom, it is not surprising
that this listening exercise did not present him with the same challenges as his
peers. Whereas his higher score may have brought the EI/SRT scores debatably
close statistically, he alone does not account for the syntactic maturity and lexical
density levels demonstrated in the chatscripts. Future work must track individual
contributions in order to be able to account for specic individual cases. Technical difculties prevented such tracking for this study, except in general terms,
because participants relied on a pool of reserve log-on names whenever they were
unable to log on with their assigned pseudonym.
Another limitation of this study was the lack of data on the third group. Bearing
this in mind, future work should gather data on a third group which engages in CR
in the traditional classroom so as to scrutinize the instructor-to-student, studentto-student, and form-focused results compared to the FMF and MF chat groups.
Establishing quantity and quality of the language produced and the dynamic and
group focus would serve as a basis of comparison for evaluating the utility of
CR in the various environments. Furthermore, knowing the social make up that
resulted from CR in the face-to-face group would have provided valuable insight
for analysis and pedagogical consideration. Future studies should include personality tests in order to make a statement about the impact chat may have on how the
participants engaged socially. Developing a questionnaire to evaluate students
perceptions about their social engagement in chat versus face-to-face discussions
would also be informative. Data analysis revealed that the MF students played
with their identities in the chat room (Example 33), and this social behavior in
chat merits future research in and of itself.
Another limitation of the study is the chat clients time stamp. This particular
software did not log the time that elapsed between postings. The ability to calculate the pauses and response time would permit more ne-grained analysis.
Future oral exams should be based upon spontaneous production so that a comparison between the spontaneity in chatting versus spoken dialogue may be examined. Finally, future work will need to compare the work of a third (face-to-face,
form-focused) and a fourth (face-to-face, meaning-focused) non-SCMC group in
order to investigate whether CR in face-to-face interaction in the traditional classroom is comparable to the awareness that was evident in both SCMC environments.
REFERENCES
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the repertoire of participant roles. System, 29, 489-503.

Melissa L. Fiori

595

Beauvois, M. H. (1992). Computer-assisted classroom discussion in the foreign language


classroom: Conversation in slow motion. Foreign Language Annals, 25 (5), 455464.
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Kern, R. (1995). Restructuring classroom interaction with networked computers: Effects


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Kern, R. (1998). Technology, social interaction and FL literacy. In J. A. Muyskens (Ed.),
New ways of learning and teaching: Focus on technology and foreign language
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Kern, R. (2000). Computers, language, and literacy. In R. Kern (Ed.), Literacy and language teaching (pp. 223-266). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kern, R., & Warschauer, M. (2000). Theory and practice of network-based language teaching. In M. Warschauer & R. Kern (Eds.), Network-based language teaching:
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Pellettieri, J. (2000). Negotiation in cyberspace: The role of chatting in the development of


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Pratt, E., & Sullivan, N. (1996). A comparative study of two ESL writing environments: A
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Salaberry, M. R. (2000). L2 morphosyntactic development in text based computer mediated communication. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 13 (1), 5-27.

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Sotillo, S. (2000). Discourse functions and syntactic complexity in synchronous and asynchronous communication. Language Learning & Technology, 4 (1), 82-119. Retrieved April 26, 2005, from http://llt.msu.edu/vol4num1/sotillo/default.html

Vinther, T. (2002). Elicited imitation: A brief overview. International Journal of Applied


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Warschauer, M. (1996). Comparing face-to-face and electronic discussion in the second


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Modern Language Journal, 81 (3), 470-481.

APPENDIX A

Elicited Imitation/Sentence Repetition Testing: Experimental


INSTRUCTIONS
Thank you for your participation in this research.

For this component of the study you will be asked to listen to a number of
phrases in Spanish. After each phrase please repeat the phrase out loud, as you just
heard it, to the best of your ability in Spanish. Some sentences are easy, some are
difcult.
The phrases you will hear are downloaded on the masterboard. When you are
given the signal please activate the recording device at your desk. Once you have
set the tape deck to record your responses at your desk, the masterboard will be
activated.
Once the masterboard and the recording device at your desk are activated please
do not stop, rewind or forward the recording. Please let the recording run without
interruption. You will have 3 seconds between recordings to repeat the phrase as
you heard it.
Practice

a. Su libro es de fama internacional.


b. Esas manzanas son verdes pero no estn para comer.
c. Esos poemas fueron escritos por Octavio Paz.
d. Mis amigos no estn en casa este n de semana.
e. Creo que van a viajar por tren.
EI/SRT
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

Miami es una ciudad muy rica y moderna.


Lo admiran por su carcter.
La esta es en el centro estudiantil.
La mayora de los Mexicanos son mestizos.
La historia y la cultura de Mxico son muy variadas.
Las composiciones son para el viernes.
Salgo para Madrid el mes prximo.

Melissa L. Fiori
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.
26.
27.
28.
29.
30.

597

Principalmente est relacionada con el petrleo.


Muchos turistas visitan por curiosidad.
La reunin es el viernes a las diez.
Us el oro para nanciar las guerras.
Esos muebles antiguos son de mi abuela.
Pedro rompi la taza y ahora est rota.
Hay mucho turismo para un pas tan pequeo.
Miles de Cubanos lucharon por la independencia.
Compr las ores para mis amigas.
Caminamos para el parque por la calle principal.
Por ms que intento dejarlo, no puedo.
Estoy atrasada y ya son las ocho de la maana.
Ese estudiante es listo pero no est preparado para el examen.
Los Cubanoamericanos son los que lograron mayor prosperidad.
Mis padres estn en Texas pero son de California.
Fue a la conferencia para apoyar a sus colegas.
Fue el fanatismo que caus tantos problemas.
Las tierras estaban habitadas por sociedades complejas.
En este pas hay un mdico por cada dos mil habitantes.
Para cualquier visitante Mxico es una tierra de contrastes.
Marn fue el primer gobernador elegido por los puertorriqueos.
La mam est furiosa porque los quehaceres no estn terminados.
Llmale a Carlos por telfono para decirle que vamos esta noche.

APPENDIX B

Grammaticality Preferences Component


Thank you for your participation in this research.

For this component of the study you will be asked to review a number of phrases
in Spanish. For each phrase determine your preference by choosing among the
following options: a if you prefer sentence a, b if you prefer sentence b, c if you
prefer neither of the two phrases, d if you prefer both, and e if you are not sure
about which you prefer.
There are a total of fty-ve questions and you will have twenty-ve minutes to
review the phrases and mark your preferences.
Name:
Section:
Professor:
Date:

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

1. a.

El libro est en la cabeza del hombre.

Neither

Both

Not sure

2. a.

Estn dos personas en la reunion.

Neither

Both

Not sure

3. a.

Jugu al ftbol por tres aos.

Neither

Both

Not sure

4. a.

Tiene esperanza para el futuro.

Neither

Both

Not sure

5. a.

Si une persona est sufriendo es una


buena idea para elle usar marihuana.

Neither

Both

Not sure

b.. El libro est en la cabeza del hombre.


b.
b.
b.

b.

Son dos personas en la reunion.


Jugu al ftbol para tres aos.
Tiene esperanza por el futuro.

Si une persona est sufriendo es una


buena idea que use marihuana.

6.

a.

Es mucho calor en Florida.

Neither

Both

Not sure

7.

a.

Elles son nios.

Neither

Both

Not sure

8.

a.

Cuando yo era 16 obtuve mi licencia


de conducir.

Neither

Both

Not sure

Los gatos estn rodeados por un grupo


de perros.

Neither

Both

Not sure

Los estereotipos son diciles de


entender.

Neither

Both

Not sure

El mdico traen los libros.

Neither

Both

Not sure

Es importante decir la verdad a tus


seres queridos.

Neither

Both

Not sure

b.
b.

b.
9.

a.
b.

10. a.
b.
11.

a.

b.

12. a.
b.

Hace mucho calor en Florida.


Ellas son nios.

Cuando yo estuve 16 obtuve mi


licencia de conducir.

Los gatos estn rodeados para un


grupo de perros.

Los estereotipos son diciles para


entender.
El mdico traemos los libros.

Es importante para decir la verdad a


tus seres queridos.

599

Melissa L. Fiori
13. a.

La taza es rota.

Neither

Both

Not sure

14. a.

El nio gordo no puede toca la mesa.

Neither

Both

Not sure

15. a.

La tierra originaria de los Marcianos


es Marte.

Neither

Both

Not sure

16. a.

No cambia porque de esa razn.

Neither

Both

Not sure

17. a.

Son las seis de la maana.

Neither

Both

Not sure

18. a.

Para un pas tan pequeo tiene muchos


habitantes.

Neither

Both

Not sure

19. a.

Los nios tienen sueo.

Neither

Both

Not sure

20. a.

Salgo para Madrid el mes prximo.

Neither

Both

Not sure

21. a.

San Augustin estuvo fundada en 1565.

Neither

Both

Not sure

22. a.

Los zapatos son para mo.

Neither

Both

Not sure

23. a.

Tengo algo por ti.

Neither

Both

Not sure

24. a.

La leche es caliente, no la tomes


ahora!

Neither

Both

Not sure

Eres tarde.

Neither

Both

Not sure

b.
b.

b.

b.
b.
b.

b.
b.
b.
b.
b.

b.
25. a.

b.

La taza est rota.


El nio gordo no puede toca la mesa.

La tierra originaria de los Marcianos


es Marte.
No cambia por esa razn.

Estn las seis de la maana.

Por un pas tan pequeo tiene muchos


habitantes.
Los nios son sueos.

Salgo por Madrid el mes prximo.

San Augustin fue fundada en 1565.


Los zapatos son para m.
Tengo algo para ti.

La leche es caliente, no la tomes


ahora!
Llegas tarde.

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

26. a.

Alejandro Sanz es un cantante muy


famoso.

Neither

Both

Not sure

Un hombre y una seora son


enfermos.

Neither

Both

Not sure

Quera matricularme en esta clase para


aprender espaol.

Neither

Both

Not sure

29. a.

Hay tres perros en la calle.

Neither

Both

Not sure

30. a.

Puede no ir al cine.

Neither

Both

Not sure

31. a.

Est mucho fro en Pennsylvania.

Neither

Both

Not sure

32. a.

Las composiciones estn terminadas.

Neither

Both

Not sure

33. a.

El hombre est el padre de los nios.

Neither

Both

Not sure

34. a.

La prxima reunin estaba el viernes.

Neither

Both

Not sure

35. a.

Lo har por ti.

Neither

Both

Not sure

36. a.

Cambio este disco compacto por ese


disco compacto.

Neither

Both

Not sure

La reunin es en la sala de profesores.

Neither

Both

Not sure

b.

27. a.
b.
28. a.

b.

b.
b.
b.
b.
b.
b.
b.

b.
37. a.

b.

Alejandro Sanz est un cantante muy


famoso.

Un hombre y una seora estn


enfermos.

Quera matricularme en esta clase por


aprender espaol.
Son tres perros en la calle.
Puede no ir al cine.
Es mucho fro en Pennsylvania.

Las composiciones son terminadas.


El hombre es el padre de los nios.
La prxima reunin era el viernes.
Lo har para ti.

Cambio este disco compacto para ese


disco compacto.
La reunin est en la sala de
profesores.

601

Melissa L. Fiori
38. a.

Busco para mi amigo.

Neither

Both

Not sure

39. a.

Est tarde, ya son las once de la noche.

Neither

Both

Not sure

40. a.

El beb est comiendo el pan.

Neither

Both

Not sure

41. a.

Es muy guapa.

Neither

Both

Not sure

42. a.

La poblacin de hispanohablantes en
los estados unidos est aumentando
rpidamente.

Neither

Both

Not sure

43. a.

Vota por el candidato ms honesto.

Neither

Both

Not sure

44. a.

Estaba mucha gente en la esta.

Neither

Both

Not sure

45. a.

El hombre le besa a la seora.

Neither

Both

Not sure

46. a.

Fidel Castro es de Cuba.

Neither

Both

Not sure

47. a.

Espero a mis amigos y luego vamos


a cenar.

Neither

Both

Not sure

48. a.

Madrid est al norte de Toledo.

Neither

Both

Not sure

49. a.

Ella est cocinando carne.

Neither

Both

Not sure

50. a.

Es una persona muy inteligente.

Neither

Both

Not sure

b.
b.
b.
b.

b.

b.
b.
b.
b.

b.

b.
b.
b.

Busco a mi amigo.

Es tarde, ya son las once de la noche.


El beb est comiendo la pan.
Est muy guapa.

La poblacin de hispanohablantes
en los estados unidos es aumentando
rpidamente.
Vota para el candidato ms honesto.
Haba mucha gente en la esta.
El hombre besa a la seora.
Fidel Castro est de Cuba.

Espero para mis amigos y luego


vamos a cenar.

Madrid es al norte de Toledo.


Ella cocina carne.

Es una muy inteligente persona.

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CALICO Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3

51. a.

Vinieron a casa para ayudar a las tas.

Neither

Both

Not sure

52. a.

Cuando era 5 aos me gustaba jugar


con muecas.

Neither

Both

Not sure

Para m, la pelcula tiene un mensaje


muy fuerte.

Neither

Both

Not sure

54. a.

El beb es hambre.

Neither

Both

Not sure

55. a.

Mi generacin est rodeada por


tecnologa.

Neither

Both

Not sure

b.

b.
53. a.
b.

b.

b.

Vinieron a casa a ayudar a las tas.

Cuando tena 5 aos me gustaba jugar


con muecas.

Por m, la pelcula tiene un mensaje


muy fuerte.
El beb tiene hambre.

Mi generacin est rodeada de


tecnologa.

AUTHORS BIODATA

Melissa L. Fiori received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and Second Language
Acquisition from The Pennsylvania State University in 2004 with the Department
of Spanish, Italian & Portuguese. She obtained her MA in Spanish Literature,
Language and Culture of the Spanish Speaking World from Middlebury College
in 1998 (Vermont and Madrid) and completed her undergraduate work at Bucknell University in 1997. She has teaching experience in the United States, Spain,
and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in Spanish, ESL, and Linguistics.
AUTHORS ADDRESS

Melissa L. Fiori
4380 Main Street
Amherst, NY 14226-3952
Email: melissa_ori@yahoo.com