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Emotions in SLA: New Insights

From Collaborative Learning


for an EFL Classroom
YASUHIRO IMAI
Sophia University
Centre for the Teaching of Foreign Languages in
General Education
7-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 102-8554, Japan
Email: yashiroimai@gmail.com
What is the role and meaning of emotions in the second language learning process? To
respond to this question, this article focuses on how learners emotions manifest in their verbal communication over the course of a semester-long joint task. Recognizing interpersonal,
functional, and developmental aspects of emotions, I illustrate how a group of English-as-aforeign-language learners discursively constructed and shared their emotional attitudes toward
their group work and how such emotional intersubjectivity pushed the group, in their knowledge co-construction, to challenge assigned tasks and material. I argue that emotions do not
merely facilitate, filter, or hinder an individuals inner cognitive functioning; rather, they can
in any forms mediate development, especially when learning is embedded in an interpersonal
transaction. I end by considering implications of the study and its limitations.

RESEARCHERS IN THE FIELD OF SECOND


language acquisition (SLA) have acknowledged
affect as a crucial component of individual differences in learning outcomes (Ellis, 1994). The
range of affective variables covered by this term
has expanded to touch not only emotional and
motivational aspects of human behavior (e.g.,
Dornyei, 1998, 2003, 2005; Gardner, 1985, 2001;
Gardner & Lambert, 1972; Horwitz, 1986, 2001)
but also personality characteristics (e.g., Chapelle
& Roberts, 1986; Dewaele & Furnham, 1999;
Ehrman, Leaver, & Oxford, 2003). However, SLA
researchers have hardly brought the integral component of affectemotions in their own rightto
the foreground of their research foci in a holistic manner. In the field of psychology, emotions
and moods are considered to be two essential
constituents of affect (e.g., Forgas, 2000, 2001).
Emotions are intense, short-lived and usually

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C 2010 The Modern Language Journal

have a definite cause and clear cognitive content (e.g., anger, or fear), whereas moods are
low-intensity, diffuse and relatively enduring affective states without a salient antecedent cause
and therefore little cognitive content (e.g., feeling good or feeling bad) (Forgas, 1992, p. 230).
Thus, the meaning of affect primarily lies in its
emotional and mood dimensions. In agreement
with this understanding, SLA researchers often refer to emotions as the principal element of affect,
along with feeling and mood (Arnold & Brown,
1999; Brown, 2000). Nevertheless, they have essentially reduce[d] emotions to a laundry list of
decontextualized and oftentimes poorly defined
sociopsychological constructs, such as attitudes,
motivation, anxiety, self-esteem, empathy, risktaking, and tolerance of ambiguity (Pavlenko,
2005, p. 34) and dealt with these as individual
factors.
It should be fully recognized that the contribution of previous work has advanced our
knowledge on specific affective factors in SLA.
However, I call for more substantial attention to
the wide range of emotions toward the fuller

Yasuhiro Imai
understanding of the role and meaning of affect in SLA. Furthermore, if a learners success
depends on what goes on inside and between
the people in the classroom (Stevick, 1980, p. 4)
rather than on techniques and materials, shedding light on emotions between the peopleor the
social aspects of emotionsis clearly needed to
complement our knowledge base formed by previous SLA research exploring affective factors within
a learner.
This article introduces an exploratory study
that examined the social aspects of emotions in
the context of language learning. In doing so,
first I highlight mainstream assumptions prevalent in SLA research that are individualistic, cognitive, dichotomous, and product-oriented. Second,
I frame the social aspects of emotions by introducing several conceptions from contemporary
thinking on emotions in interpersonal contexts.
Although recognizing wide disagreement among
theorists as to the definition of emotions (e.g.,
Fehr & Russell, 1984), I take a particular view:
Emotions are not just an individuals private inner workings in response to external stimuli but
are socially constructed acts of communication
that can mediate ones thinking, behavior, and
goals. Third, I provide findings from a study (Imai,
2007) informed by these conceptions. According
to the sociocultural theory of mind (Vygotsky,
1978, 1986; Wertsch, 1985), collaborative relationships are consequential to an individuals learning. Thus, emotions are possibly implicated in the
ways that collaboration takes place and ultimately
in ones cognitive development. With this view,
I examine how emotions come into play in the
way a group of Japanese university students jointly
organize tasks and procedures in their collaborative work for an English-as-a-foreign-language
(EFL) class and co-construct new knowledge. The
main analytical concern here is not to identify
causation between emotions and learning outcomes. Rather, it is to understand whether and
how the participants emotions are discursively
manifested, co-constructed, and shared with each
other while being closely interwoven with their
collective thinking process. Finally, I end by considering implications of the study and acknowledging its limitations.
ASSUMPTIONS OF THE MAINSTREAM SLA
RESEARCH ABOUT AFFECTIVE FACTORS
To highlight mainstream assumptions in SLA
research on affective factors, I limit the scope by
adopting Scovels (1978) definition of affective
factors: emotional reactions and motivations of

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the learner; they signal the arousal of the limbic
system and its direct intervention in the task of
learning (p. 131). Specifically, I briefly review relevant work in three major affective domains: Language anxiety, second language (L2) motivation,
and neurobiological factors.
SLA researchers have viewed language anxiety
as the most influential emotional factor in language learning (Oxford, 1999), and many authors
have extensively documented the phenomenon
(e.g., Clement, Gardner, & Smythe, 1977, 1980;
Gardner, 1985; Horwitz, 1986, 2001). Language
anxiety has been considered essentially situationspecific (i.e., apprehension and fear about communication, negative social evaluation, or poor
test or academic performance) and a measurable
individual variable that interfere[s] with the acquisition, retention, and production of the new
language (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991, p. 86).
Accordingly, researchers have principally adopted
quantitative approaches to seek causality between
numerous related variables and language proficiency and/or achievement.1 To this end, various
measurement instruments have been developed,
such as the French Class Anxiety Scale (Gardner &
Smythe, 1975) and Foreign Language Classroom
Anxiety Scale (Horwitz, Horwitz, & Cope, 1986),
most of which rely on scaled self-report questionnaires. Not all anxiety is negative, however. Some
researchers suggest the existence of helpful or facilitating anxiety (e.g., Ehrman & Oxford, 1995;
Young, 1992), whereas others propose a more operational concept, tension, to denote multiple dimensions of anxiety that could be either detrimental or conducive to language learning (Guy &
Radnovsky, 2001).
Another affective domain of SLA that has captured considerable scholarly attention is L2 motivation. L2 motivation research has traditionally
centered on combinations of two motivation dichotomies: Integrative/instrumental and intrin
sic/extrinsic (e.g., Dornyei, 1998; Dornyei & Otto,
1998; Gardner, 2001; Gardner & MacIntyre, 1991,
1993). In this milieu, the integrative and intrinsic constructs are considered the most powerful
predictors of successful language learning. More
recently, researchers have developed alternative
conceptualizations of L2 motivation, such as selfdetermination theory (e.g., Noels, 2001; Noels,
Clement, & Pelletier, 2001), attribution theories
(e.g., Williams, Burden, & Al-Baharna, 2001),
and willingness to communicate (e.g., Clement,
Baker, & MacIntyre, 2003; MacIntyre, Baker, &
Donovan, 2002). Analogous to the language anxiety research tradition, major L2 motivation research has conventionally treated motivation as a

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measurable variable and predominantly adopted
quantitative approaches to see how the sustenance
of motivation, or lack thereof, influences language learning and outcomes (Ushioda, 2003).
Yet, some researchers also call for conducting
qualitative and ethnographic studies that complement the quantitative research paradigm (e.g.,
McGroarty, 2001; Ushioda, 2003).
Finally, based on neurobiological and psychophysiological studies (e.g., Damasio, 1994;
LeDoux, 1986) and the appraisal theory of emotion (e.g., Ellsworth, 1991; Lazarus, 1982, 1984),
Schumann (1998, 2001) claimed that stimulus appraisal (ones evaluation of potential harms or
benefits of external stimuli in any given situation)
forms the basis of motivation, which, in turn, determines the degree of success in language learning. Positive appraisals facilitate success, whereas
negative alternatives hinder it. The generation
of stimulus appraisal is subject to an individuals
neurocerebral mechanism, which is also responsible for motor and somatosensory behavior. As
such, individual differences in motivation and
achievement are ascribed to differences in neurocerebral processing and neurobiological functioning across learners. Inspecting questionnaire
items and texts in memoirs, Schumann (1998)
contended that it is essentially stimulus appraisals
that constitute the rubric of major L2 motivation
research and autobiographical and diary studies
in SLA. His contemplation has recently culminated in the conception of learning as a form
of foraging for knowledge, skills, and information
(Schumann, 2001).
Through this brief overview of the literature
emerge several assumptions intrinsic to the mainstream SLA research on the affective domains.
First, affective factors are viewed as essentially
intrapsychic phenomena; they take place within
an individual in response to external stimuli.
Although there has been a call for incorporating situational or social factors, such as tasks,
learning environments, and social groups (e.g.,
Julkunen, 2001; McGroarty, 2001), they are often
treated as another external measurable variable
that supposedly constitutes or influences an individuals affective state associated with language
learning and outcomes. Second, although mutual interplay between cognition and affect has
been acknowledged (Arnold, 1999), cognition is
prioritized. This priority is particularly implied
in Schumanns (1998) contention that cognitive
appraisals are the sole antecedent of emotion,
motivation, and, accordingly, subsequent actions.
Third, mainstream SLA researchers examine a
given affective phenomenon using dichotomies;

The Modern Language Journal 94 (2010)


they determine whether its characteristics are
positive or negative, beneficial or harmful, or
existent or nonexistent. This dualistic treatment
ultimately feeds affectively sensitive pedagogical
interventions that aim for increasing positive affective variables while decreasing negative ones
(e.g., Moskowitz, 1999; Richard-Amato, 1988). Finally, underlying all these assumptions is a view
that conceives learning as mastering knowledge
and skills or seeking and processing information.
In sum, the mainstream SLA research on the
major affective domains can be characterized
as individualistic, cognitive, dichotomous, and
product-oriented in its assumptions and foci.
Although the mainstream research paradigm
described has certainly advanced the field of SLA,
there are several limitations for a fuller understanding of the complexity of affectemotions
in particularin the learning process. First, the
mainstream SLA investigations have prioritized
a particular type of negative emotion (language
anxiety), whereas other emotions that one may
experience over the course of language learning
and use, such as enjoyment, relief, anger, happiness, hope, gratitude, jealousy, love, and so on,
have been sidelined. Second, the individualistic
view of affect and language learning dismisses the
interpersonal and communicative dimension of
ones emotionality. Some emotion researchers argue that whereas emotions are aroused in peoples adaptation and survival, they are most likely,
if not exclusively, aroused in interpersonal relationships (Berscheid, 1987; Ellis & Harper, 1977;
Simon, 1967) and in sharing emotion-laden experiences with others (Rime, Corsini, & Herbette, 2002). Third, a large majority of researchers
rely on reflective appraisal methods to measure
learners affective states, such as retrospective
self-report questionnaires or reflection in interviews, or memoirs, instead of observing learners
real-time emotional experiences in naturalistic
settings. Accordingly, most research findings are
not so much the respondents real-time emotional experience of the moment but rather an essentially abstracted representation of emotionally
colored past memories. Fourth, stimulus appraisal
researchers argue the cognitive appraisal to be the
sole antecedent of emotion and motivation. However, an array of psychological research provides
empirical evidence that moods can affect ones
judgment and interpretation of a situation. This
reverse causal relationship is known as the moodcongruent effect (Johnson & Tversky, 1983) or affectinfusion (Forgas, 1995). Particularly, Johnson and
Tversky showed that not only is a causal relationship between appraisals and moods or emotions

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Yasuhiro Imai
far from straightforward, but, when mediated by
moods or emotions, the appraisal of a given object or situation may not always have a one-to-one
mapping. As such, the interplay of cognition and
affect is more complex and nonlinear than mainstream SLA research has assumed.
In sum, although mainstream affect studies
in SLA have contributed to increasing knowledge in the field, they illuminate only a small
corner of the complexity of affect in language
learning. To offer a complementary understanding, the field needs holistic, interpersonal
communicative, and nonlinear perspectives to
study emotions in naturalistic settings of language
learning.
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
Definitions of emotion vary greatly in both
commonsense and scholarly understandings. Yet,
all acknowledge either one or more of four
characteristics of emotionnamely, situational
appraisals, action tendencies, bodily sensations,
and expressive or display behaviors (Parkinson,
1995). Conventionally, these characteristics are
seen as ones private, inner experiences. Thus,
I introduce complementary understandings of
emotionones that incorporate more interpersonal and communicative dimensions.

individuals mind into a manageable form, with


the help or mediation of technology or cultural
artifacts); and temporal distribution (i.e., transmitting human discoveries and procedures as cultural
forms from the expert to the novice, or from one
generation to the next) (Hutchins, 1995, 1998).
In Oatleys (2000) explanatory model, emotions are manifested, shaped, and constructed
as people pursue the three fundamental social
goals in conjunction with the three modes of distributed cognition that encompass human activity. These emotions in turn structure relationships
between people as they move within the interactional space that is afforded by the configuration
of the social goals and the different modes of distributed cognition.
Thus, altogether, emotions are not mere
byproducts of human social interaction; they underpin it, ultimately configuring how human activity is organized, operated, and accomplished.
As such, emotions should be given a more central
position in the study of human activity. In doing
so, it is important to understand the synthesis of
an individuals cognition, emotion, and behavior
within social interaction and with their environments, in addition to viewing these phenomena
as discrete components of an individuals inner
properties.
Emotional Intersubjectivity

Emotions in Social Interaction


Oatley (1992, 2000) argued that the essential
function of emotion is to serve specific social
goalsprotection, affiliation, and dominance
that are integral to the establishment of society
and, more fundamentally, to human cooperation.
In achieving these social goals, corresponding
emotions emerge: Attachment on the basis of
fear or anxiety that serves the goal of protection,
affection or warmth based on happiness that is
directed to the goal of affiliation, and assertion
or aggression accompanying anger that feed the
goal of dominance. The emergence of these emotions depends on the extent to which these social goals are achieved in the course of human
activities. In serving the three social goals, over
time these emotions become enduring emotional
states called sentiments. A sentiment commits the
person to a course of action and a certain set of beliefs (Oatley, 2000, p. 86), which are implicated
in three modes of distributed cognition in human activity: Social distribution (i.e., cooperating
with each other to accomplish what one cannot
do individually); externalization (i.e., translating
abstract thoughts or difficult task ideas within an

Emotional intersubjectivity is another concept in


which emotions are seen as a social phenomenon.
According to Denzin (1984), emotional intersubjectivity is an interactional appropriation of anothers emotionality such that one feels ones way
into the feelings and intentional feeling states
of the other (p. 130). It is understood as the
emotional arena of social interaction whereby
people interpret each others expressions of emotions from their own and/or others points of
view. Note, however, that emotional intersubjectivity does not necessarily refer to a static, purely
vicarious exchange of a given emotion or feeling between individuals. Rather, it denotes various levels of joint emotional attention to specific
objects or events, which evolve as the interaction
unfolds. Denzin (1984) categorized six modes of
emotional intersubjectivity by their contents: (a)
Feelings in common (sharing the emotional value
and meaning of a feeling or experience), (b)
fellow feeling (perceiving anothers feelings but
not sharing the emotional value and meaning),
(c) emotional infection (involuntarily spreading
ones emotional state to others), (d) emotional
identification (with the feelings of another), (e)

282
emotional embracement (primary and intimate
emotional and relational bonding), and (f) spurious emotionality (egocentric or erroneous projection of ones own feelings onto another). Each
mode of emotional intersubjectivity is time- and
context-specific; no mode is isolated from another. In fact, people may experience all of these
modes as a sequence with no specific order within
the same interaction.
The notion of intersubjectivity has been discussed predominantly in terms of its cognitive
aspect and considered particularly important
in relation to knowledge construction through
symbolic interactions in dyads or collectives
(Matusov, 1996; Rommetveit, 1985). According
to the sociocultural theory of mind (Vygotsky,
1978, 1986; Wertsch, 1985), social interaction is
the foundation of an individuals learning and
development because it potentially enables intersubjectivity. Through intersubjectivity, new ways of
seeing and understanding are possible, based on
a union of all participants perspectives (Donato,
1988).
This notion that learning takes place through
individuals intersubjective encounters is closely
linked to the concept of the zone of proximal
development (ZPD; Vygotsky, 1978). The ZPD is
explained as the distance between the learners
potential level of development when assistance
from more capable others is available and his
or her actual level of development without such
assistance. Within the ZPD, the learners dialogical interaction (mediated by the use of cultural tools and signs, including language) with
the more capable person during joint activities serves as scaffolding (Donato, 1994; Gibbons,
2002; Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976). It facilitates
the less capable persons knowledge internalization while enabling the more capable person to
reach a higher level and different quality of understanding.2 Thus, being semiotically mediated,
intersubjectivity, which ultimately enables mutual
understanding or shared definition of the situation, is key to the emergence of the ZPD and
knowledge co-construction.
It is important to note that knowledge
co-construction through intersubjectivitywhich
takes place within the ZPDis not just purely
an intellectual and cognitive transaction but very
likely emotional, as well. In fact, Vygotsky (1986)
problematized the separation of cognition and affect as a major weakness of traditional psychology.3 The dialectic relationship between cognition
and affect has been empirically documented by
many current streams of psychological research
(e.g., Damasio, 1994; Forgas, 2001). In relation
to the ZPD, Mahn and John-Steiner (2002) il-

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lustrated the emergence of ZPD between the
students and the teacher in English-as-a-secondlanguage (ESL) writing classes as an affectively colored process, which ultimately generated a sense
of confidence among the students. From this perspective, learning can be conceived of not only
as the acquisition of knowledge or skill mastery
but also as a process of both cognitively and affectively participating in such an intersubjectively
established social encounter, one that affords coconstruction of knowledge and, ultimately, its internalization by an individual (see also Sfard,
1998).
Emotions and Language
Berscheid (1987) argued that verbal communication with immediate others is probably the
principal source of ones emotional experiences.
If one takes this view, the relationship between
emotions and language comes to the fore when
considering emotions in ones real-life encounters with others.4 In the following discussion on
emotions and language, I focus particularly on the
notion of linguistic emotivity (Maynard, 2002) because the concept offers important insights into
the ontogenesis of emotion and knowledge construction implicated in social fields intersubjectively achieved through verbal mediation.
Anchored in the Aristotelian notion of rhetoric
(i.e., logos, pathos, and ethos) and a long tradition in European linguistics, such as the Prague
Linguistic Circle, Maynard (2002) argued that
the function of language is not limited to referencing and conveying facts and propositions (a
logos-centered view), but it also expresses and exposes human emotions (a pathos-centered view).
In the latter view, emotions are constructed and
manifested in the space of social interactions
semioticallynot only through emotion words,
metaphors, and metonymies but also through linguistic signs and strategies that are normally considered propositional and even nonemotional. All
linguistic systems are potentially emotional across
varied levels such as the lexicon, syntax, text, and
discourse (see also Ochs & Schieffelin, 1989).
These linguistic signs and strategies are called emotives, and they index the speakers identity as a
feeling self socioculturally and interactionally
situated in the locus of communication. Here,
the concept of topica (or place) becomes significant because it refers to the very place where
emotive meanings are foregrounded, negotiated,
and intersubjectively determined by participants.
The potential meaning of language allows these
actions on the basis of cues and information
afforded by the context. In the conception of

Yasuhiro Imai
linguistic emotivity, language is viewed not just
as representation but as the very experience
of emotion that emerges in the socially and
culturally established, intersubjective worlds between people. Thus, from a linguistic viewpoint,
it plausibly endorses the notion of emotional
intersubjectivity.
Drawing on the described concepts, I argue that
emotions do not solely come from an individuals
inner psyche but are socially constructed through
peoples intersubjective encounters as well, as they
engage in a certain activity to pursue a certain
goal. Here, although language semiotically mediates such an activity, guiding ones thinking and
knowledge construction, it can also be considered
the very experience of creating emotions in certain circumstances. Therefore, studying the emotional speech of participants in a real-life, intersubjective encounter in the context of L2 learning
may offer a new insight into the role and meaning
of affect in SLA.

THE INTERPLAY OF EMOTION AND


COGNITION IN COLLABORATIVE
LEARNING
I conducted two case studies (Imai, 2007) tracking two different groups of Japanese university
EFL students who engaged in a series of outof-class meetings to prepare for an oral group
presentation in English. The studies took place
over a semester (3 months) in a setting of collaborative learning (e.g., Crandall, 1999; Johnson &
Johnson, 1994; McGroarty, 1989; Nunan, 1992;
Olsen & Kagan, 1992).5 Collaborative learning involves social interaction where learners
work together to achieve task goals. Emotions
associated with such distributed cognition are
expected to emerge in the goal achievement
process. In these studies, I used multiple data
collection procedures: Videotaping the students
conversations during their out-of-class group
work, emotion logs (the participants described
any sort of emotional experiences during the
group work), emotional temperature questionnaires (the participants recorded types and intensity of their emotionality at the beginning and
end of each meeting session), and stimulated
recall interviews (I played the videotapes and
checked with the participants to see if my identification and interpretation of the participants
emotionally charged moments were plausible).
Triangulating these data, I examined how these
students discursively constructed and shared their
emotionality and how such emotionality related to

283
their collective thinking process and task organization.
The data presented here are taken from the
fifth meeting of one case study group consisting of three female studentsTomoyo, Naomi,
and Nana (all pseudonyms)who had high English proficiency and extensive international experiences. The students self-formed their group
and held seven meetings in total (comprising
307.3 min, M = 43.9 min) on an almost weekly
basis to discuss their reading assignments and prepare for their group presentation.6 In their previous meetings, the members expressed how boring
their EFL class was while intensifying their anger
and frustration with their native English-speaking
teacher as they verbally co-constructed their negative perception of him. With this emotional
background, at their fifth meeting the members
discussed how to incorporate the teachers feedback into their presentation. Originally, the group
planned to perform a skit based on Nanas English
learning experience in an American high school,
emphasizing the importance of explicit grammar
and vocabulary instruction. However, in his feedback, the teacher requested that the group revise
their proposal by drawing on ideas from an article that he thought would be useful to refine their
argument. However, the members perceived the
assigned article rather irrelevant to the point they
wanted to make, expressing confusion as well as
complaining (see Excerpt 1; transcription conventions can be found in the Appendix).
Despite the groups perceived difficulty in incorporating the assigned article into their presentation, Tomoyo is concerned with grounding
their argument in literature in (1). In (2) and (7),
Naomi maintains that they can somehow embellish the accounts of Nanas learning experience,
if not pure fabrication, without rigorously following the teachers feedback. Naomi justifies her
position that the teacher has given little attention to the groups proposal. Naomi emotionally
strengthens her rationale with a disrespectful use
of a vocative ano hito that man in (2) to refer
to the teacher, who should normally be addressed
sensei, and a derisive remark, sore gurai kizuke yo
He should have noticed something so obvious
in (7). Nana implicitly shows her doubt of the
teachers knowledge in (6) while conforming to
Naomis complaint in (8).
Under predominantly Tomoyos and Naomis
direction, the group eventually reevaluates the
meaning of Nanas English learning experience
from their own theoretical viewpoint. In (11) in
Excerpt 2, Naomi articulates her train of thought
that Nanas socialization in the United States

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The Modern Language Journal 94 (2010)

EXCERPT 1
(1) Tomoyo:

(2) Naomi:

(3) Tomoyo:
(4) Naomi:
(5) Tomoyo:
(6) Nana:
(7) Naomi:

(8) Nana:

Dou shiyou. Nanka dokka ni kore


jyanai yatsu ni, nanka, nan
yattakkena. Sono, eigo no reberu no
takai ko wa bokyaburari: wo
narattari suru no ga taisetsu da
toka kaite atta no atta youna ki ga
suru.
Demo sa, kore sa, sensei sa, zenbu sa:,
chanto mitenai jyan. Dakara
ri:dingu to zenbu terashi awasete
miru tte koto, ano hito tabun
arienai to omou no yo. Kore doko
kara totta kara tte, ri:dingu wo
zenbu yominaoshite koko kara, koko
kara datta mitaina tte tabun nai to
omou.
Demo haaku wa shiteru to omou yo,
kono naiyou wa.
Ma:, haaku wa shiteru to omou
kara//. . .
//Kore senmon nan yaro?
Ichiou ((laugh))
Kokkara chotto toridashite yatte, ato
wa ma: . . . Datte uchira ga sa jibun
tachi de tsukutta tte iu no
kizukanakatta wake jyan. Are jibun
tachi de tsukutta no. Jya kore wa
dokkara totte kita no mitaina koto
itte ta jyan. Futsuu jibun tachi de
tsukutta kedo sore gurai kizuke yo
mitaina kanji datta kara.
Bucchake ne.

provided her with numerous opportunities to develop her English communicative competence
informally, as opposed to learning the language
only in a formal setting that is typical for ordinary Japanese English learners. Although they acknowledge that oral communication is the key
to learning a language, as suggested in an array
of SLA research, the members, however, do not
blindly advocate this commonly accepted idea.
They also credit formal grammar and vocabulary
instruction for Nanas total English proficiency in
(16), (17), and (31). From (37) to (41) they hypothesize that the lack of formal instruction could
have led to fossilization of Nanas errors. At this
point, the members are able to successfully incorporate the knowledge about fossilization that
they have located in their assigned reading, despite their somewhat emotional reaction to the
assigned material at the beginning of the meeting.
In the process of constructing collective knowledge and perspective as the members verbal interaction unfolds, Naomis personal, vague thought

(1) Tomoyo:

(2) Naomi:

(3) Tomoyo:
(4) Naomi:
(5) Tomoyo:
(6) Nana:
(7) Naomi:

(8) Nana:

I wonder what we should do.


Somewhere, not in this article, I
mean, what was it? In my
recollection there was mention
that it is important for a child
with a high level of English
proficiency to learn vocabulary.
But the teacher didnt read all of
this, [our proposal] very well,
right? So I think perhaps that
man is unlikely to check [the
content of the skit] against the
reading material. I think he
probably will not read the
material all the way through
again and locate the source of
our idea.
But I suppose he knows the content
of this [article].
Well, I think he does, so . . .
This is his specialization, isnt it?
Kind of? ((laugh))
We could take some idea from this,
and well, the rest is . . .. But he
didnt notice that we had made
up, as you know, that story [of
the skit] we made up. He asked
something like where we had
taken that from, right? I felt like
he should have noticed
something so obvious.
Frankly speaking, yes.

about the outline of the groups argument is substantiated by Tomoyo, who occasionally attempts
to relate the members emerging thoughts to the
content of the assigned material in (27) and (41).
Additionally, the exchange of positive backchanneling (the use of un, sou, hun, and da ne) among
the members suggests mutual approval on their
commentsin (10), (12), (17), (18), (20), (21),
(23), (24), (25), (28), (30), (32), (33), (34), (38),
and (40)solidifying the groups joint thinking.
Such mutual approval is also indicated nonverbally by Nanas and Naomis gestures (holding a
thumb up and making a V sign) in (19), (35), and
(36).
The formation of collective thinking is also implicated in the way the members jointly search for
the thread of an idea as they attempt to verbalize it. In (37), Tomoyo tries to explain the value
of the grammar and vocabulary lessons Nana had
received by assuming the consequence without
such an opportunity, but her idea is not fully
consolidated yet. Naomi gets Tomoyos point and

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Yasuhiro Imai
EXCERPT 2
(9) Naomi:

(10) Nana:
(11) Naomi:

(12) Tomoyo:
(13) Nana:
(14) Naomi:

(15) Tomoyo:
(16) Naomi:

Hanbun gurai wa ma: tsukutte mo


tabun daijoubu da to omou-n dayo
ne. Dakedo, datte sa, Nana wa sa,
amerika ni zutto sundeta wake
jyan.//
//Un.
De, futsuu no hito no sekando range:ji
ra:ningu to wa chigau wake jyan.
Dakara sugoi omou no wa
komyunike:shon ga daiji datte koto
wa hoka no toko ni mo takusan
kaiteta jyan. Komyunike:shon wa
tabun kono sekando range:ji
akuwizishon no naka de tabun
ichiban daiji mitaina koto ni
natte-n jyan. Demo komyunike:shon
wa Nana wa hoka de tassei suru
bamen ga takusan atta wake desho.
Soko wo bakkuguraundo tte iuka
be:su to shite oite//
//[Un.
[Soide . . .
Tomodachi to komyunike:shon suru
toka, tsune ni komyunike:shon to
shite no eigo no shu:toku tte iu no
wa ikura demo chansu ga
[atta wake dakara
[Chansu ga ne.
Sore wo fumaeta ue de, bokya
[burari: ga sugoku daiji datte.

(9) Naomi:

(10) Nana:
(11) Naomi:

(12) Tomoyo:
(13) Nana:
(14) Naomi:

(15) Tomoyo:
(16) Naomi:

(17) Tomoyo:

[Sono naka de, sou, sou, sou, gurama:


toka mo soudayo ne. Un.

(17) Tomoyo:

(18) Naomi:
(19) Nana:

Un, to omou-n dakedo.


((Holding a thumb up)) Sore wo
intorodakushon toka de ieba,
intorodakushon to konkuru:jon
de//
//Un.
Un, to omotta-n dakedo, uchi wa
[Tsukaeru, ichiou.
Un, [koremo tsukaeru to wa omou.//
Sou. Dakara, kore ni sou iu fuu ni
kaite atta wake, tatoeba kouiu
ressun mo daiji dakedo,
komyunike:shon ga yappari daiji da
mitaina koto ga kakarete mashita
kedo, Nana ni totte, Nana ni
komyunike:shon toshite no
ingurisshu ra:ningu tte iu no wa,
hoka no bamen de takusan atta
node, de, kanojo no ingurisshu no
reberu wa sugoku hai datta wake
dakara, sono komyunike:shon toka
wo fumaeta ue de, eigo no reberu ga
hai datta kanojo ni hitsuyou datta
kurasu wa kore datta tte.//

(18) Naomi:
(19) Nana:

(20) Tomoyo:
(21) Naomi:
(22) Nana:
(23) Tomoyo:
(24) Naomi:

(20) Tomoyo:
(21) Naomi:
(22) Nana:
(23) Tomoyo:
(24) Naomi:

I think perhaps there shouldnt be


any problem that about half of
the skit would be fiction. But,
Nana lived in the States for quite
a long time, right?
Yeah
And thats different from second
language learning of ordinary
people. So what I really feel is
that many argue communication
is important elsewhere and
people think communication is
perhaps most important in SLA.
But Nana had a lot of other
opportunities to have [English]
communication [outside the
classroom]. Taking advantage of
those opportunities as a
background, or more truthfully,
based on that . . .
Yeah.
And. . .
Like speaking with friends, when it
comes to acquiring English for
communicative purposes, she
had a lot of chances.
Chances, right.
Based on that, [we could argue
that] learning vocabulary is very
important.
In that process, thats right, thats
right. Its the same with things
like grammar, yeah.
Yeah, I think so.
((Holding a thumb up)) We could
mention that in our introduction
. . . introduction and conclusion.
Yeah.
Yeah, thats what I thought
That would work, sort of.
Yeah, I think that would work, too.
Right. So this article said that, it is
important to do a lesson like this,
I mean, the author argued
something, like, communication
is most important after all. But as
far as Nana is concerned, she had
many chances to learn English
[as a medium of]
communication outside school,
and her level of English was
pretty high. While realizing the
importance of communication,
we could argue that this was the
class Nana needed, whose level of
English was already high.

286
(25) Tomoyo:
(26) Nana:
(27) Tomoyo:

The Modern Language Journal 94 (2010)


//Un, sou, sou.
[Ketteiteki dayo ne.
[Koko ni mo nanika kaite atta kedo,
nandakkena, ano, komyunike:shon
no kurasu demo, sono, gurama:
toka, ano, bokya no ressun wo issho
ni kumiawasete yatta hou ga, sono,
komyunike:shon ryoku tte iu no mo
agaru tte iu fuu ni kaite atta-n
yo.//
//Hun, hun, hun, hun.
Dakara komyunike:shon dake de iitte
wake jyanai kara.//
//Un, un, [sore mo hairu ne.
[Gurama: toka
bokyaburari: tte iu no wa sugoku,
komyunike:shon no ue demo sugoku
daijina koto tte iu men wo kyouchou
suru beki dayo ne.
Da ne.//
//Sou, sou. Dakara heikou shite Nana
wa dekita tte koto jyan.//

(25) Tomoyo:
(26) Nana:
(27) Tomoyo:

(34) Nana:
(35) Naomi:

//Da ne.
Komyunike:shon wo tomodachi to
shitsutsu, gurama: toka
bokyaburari: wo XXX heikou shite
benkyou dekita kara, eigoryoku ga
appu shita tte koto jyan. ((Looking
at Nana and making a V sign)).

(34) Nana:
(35) Naomi:

(36) Nana:
(37) Tomoyo:

((Holding a thumb up)) Suge:!//


//Sono bokyaburari: toka, no kurasu
ga nakattara, ma: iu tara//

(36) Nana:
(37) Tomoyo:

(38) Naomi:

//Sou, sou, nante iu no.

(38) Naomi:

(39) Tomoyo:

Nante iu no, dakara machigai wo


zutto onaji machigai shitete,
kurikaeshite//
//Sou, sou. [Ro: reberu na machigai
wo shitete kaiwa ga dekinakatta.

(39) Tomoyo:

(28) Naomi:
(29) Tomoyo:
(30) Nana:
(31) Tomoyo:

(32) Nana:
(33) Naomi:

(40) Naomi:

(41) Tomoyo:

(42) Naomi:

[Sore ga nan datta kke,


fossilization, fossilization of errors
ka, ni tsunagaru to iu fuu ni
natte-n no kana.//
//Kakanakya, sore.

joins in the attempt to articulate the emergent


thought in (38). Tomoyo formulates a plausible
conclusion in (39), to which Naomi conformingly
responds by paraphrasing in (40). Finally, Tomoyo
connects the jointly shaped idea to the concept of
fossilization introduced in the groups assigned
reading in (41).

(28) Naomi:
(29) Tomoyo:
(30) Nana:
(31) Tomoyo:

(32) Nana:
(33) Naomi:

(40) Naomi:

(41) Tomoyo:

(42) Naomi:

Yeah, thats right.


Thats crucial, isnt it?
This also mentions something. I
wonder what it was. Well, even in
a communication-oriented class,
I mean, it said that the
combination of grammar and
vocabulary lessons develops a
learners communicative
competence.
Okay.
So communication doesnt take
care of everything, and . . .
Yeah, yeah, that should count.
I guess we should emphasize the
point that things like grammar
and vocabulary are very crucial in
communication.
Thats right.
Thats right. So Nana had
opportunities for both studying
grammar and vocabulary and
speaking English with friends,
right?
Thats right.
Her English skills were developed
because she had an opportunity
to formally study grammar and
vocabulary, while practicing the
skills in communication with her
friends. ((Looking at Nana and
making a V sign)).
((Holding a thumb up)) Cool!
If she hadnt had that class to learn
things like vocabulary, I should
say.
Thats right, thats right. How do I
put it?
How should I put it? She might
have made the same mistake
repeatedly all the time . . .
Thats right. She wouldnt have
been able to manage a
conversation because of basic
errors.
And I guess that might lead to,
what was it called? Fossilization,
fossilization of errors.
I have to write that down.

In short, throughout Excerpt 2, one members


personal, vague idea, verbally presented almost in
the form of monologue at the outset, is occasionally guided and complemented by other members
in the course of collaborative dialogue and, by the
end, has taken shape as a collectively formulated
thought.

287

Yasuhiro Imai
EXCERPT 3
(43) Tomoyo:

Sore de itte miyou. Aa:, darui kono


kurasu. A::: tte kanji.//

(43) Tomoyo:

(44) Naomi:

//Hontou ni shippai shita. Hontou ni


shippai shita.

(44) Naomi:

(45) Nana:
(46) Tomoyo:

[Ne.
[Ne.

(45) Nana:
(46) Tomoyo:

Finally, having accomplished what they had intended for the meeting, signaled by Tomoyos utterance sorede itte miyou Lets go ahead with that
idea in (43) in Excerpt 3, the members release
their pent-up frustration about the class. Naomis
repetition of the same utterance hontou ni shippai shita I really made a mistake in (44) reveals
her intense regret that she took the class. The
interactional particle ne in (45) and (46), which
conveys the sense of empathy and intimacy (Maynard, 2005), signals that the members are on the
same emotional plane, as wellnamely, establishing emotional intersubjectivity.
Noticeably, despite its negativity, the members
emotionality toward the joint task and the class
pushed the group to organize task procedures
and design their presentation to critically challenge the content of the assigned reading. This
point is implied in the members accounts during
their exit interviews. When asked whether certain
emotions, such as boredom, affected the groups
orientation toward the group work as well as designing the presentation, Tomoyo responded:
Well, I guess perhaps that was the case with us. Something like . . . how do I put it? I dont think that we were
very conscious of other groups and tried to make our
presentation lively. But no matter what, we were tired
of sitting in that class. Like, if you dont enjoy the class,
you can learn little, right? But rather than resigning
ourselves to the low motivation for learning, like, I
mean, you get bored and give it up by saying Ahhh,
I cant do it. Instead, perhaps, we also sought a possibility to improve the situation on our own, I think.
So that speaks to our attitude that we wanted to make
our meetings something enjoyable, while staying focused on what we ought to do. And based on that,
I guess we were somehow convinced that we should
improve our task and situation so that we can enjoy
them. Not just wasting time simply because we are
getting bored, yeah. (Tomoyo, exit interview, July 30,
2005, my translation)

Nana suggested that by taking a completely different position, her group would be able to impress

Lets go ahead with that idea. Gee,


this class is so draggy. I have a
feeling like Oh, my.
I really made a mistake [in
choosing the class]. I really made
a mistake.
Indeed.
Indeed.

others in the class. When asked whether any emotions, particularly boredom, affected the groups
position in the presentation, she replied:
Well, not that seriously, I mean, I think probably we
didnt give it that much thought. But it could be the
case to some extent. Like, maybe we felt that this
way we could make our presentation interesting, you
know. (Nana, exit interview, July 19, 2005, my translation)

Naomi denied any possibility of emotion affecting her thinking or the content of the groups
product. Yet, she also implied that she wanted
to differentiate her group from other student
groups. She questioned the general tendency
to advocate the communicative approach, which
permeated the class and was endorsed by the
teacher. At one point in the group discussion carried out in English, Naomi was observed to be the
one who suggested that their presentation should
be entertaining, saying, We should have some
points that, you know, to get people to laugh. Ill
bet no laugh [sic]. It will be like [inaudible]. Were
supposed to laugh here (group discussion, third
meeting). Naomi later explained this point as follows:
I wanted to do something different [from other student groups]. That was because everybodys presentation was so similar to each other that it was boring
. . . If we have to do it anyway, I thought that, while acknowledging the importance of communication, we
would take some counter-position to argue its not
just communication. By doing so, I thought we could
make our presentation something positive. (Naomi,
exit interview, July 15, 2005, my translation)

Thus, considering the members accounts, the


groups joint activity and goal setting were not
solely cognitive transactions to accomplish the assigned task but considerably emotional as well,
whereby the members acted toward bringing the
change in their affective climate in the immediate
learning environment.

288
The data show that various emotions, such as
confusion, boredom, frustration, regret, and empathy, were verbally manifested, shaped, and constructed as the members pursued their task goal
in the immediate learning setting. In doing so,
their cognition was distributed, most evidently
through social distribution and externalization.
Each of the manifested emotions was not simply a reaction to the members perceived objects and events, but the members communicated to each other and formed emotional intersubjectivities. The level of those emotional
intersubjectivities is considered to be feelings in
common (Denzin, 1984); that is, the members felt
the same way about the same object or topic,
sharing the same emotional value and meaning.
Such emotional value and meaning were not indicated by the use of specific emotion words or
a meta-emotional reference to a certain feeling
state, such as saying Im getting mad. Rather,
they were embedded in linguistic cues, such as a
vocative and a sentence-final particle, and in references to concrete objects and events in the groups
learning context. In short, the value and meaning
of the members emotionality were not predetermined but locally situated and intersubjectively
negotiated by the individuals participating in the
collaborative learning activity.
Meanwhile, the members conversations
prompted their collective thinking, which allowed the group to reach a new understanding of
an unfamiliar SLA concept (fossilization) as well
as one members L2 learning history. Here, the
members emotionality did not simply emerge as
a psychological byproduct of the joint activity and
filter the groups goal accomplishment. Rather, it
mediated the groups collective thinking in a way
that transformed the content of the goal, from
simply revoicing the idea of the assigned reading
material and the teachers implicit expectation to
critically challenging the contents of the text. In
other words, intersubjectively foregrounded and
negotiated in the group, the members emotions
ultimately led them to exercise their agency as
readers and regulators of the information in the
wider instructional context in setting a new goal
in their activity. This point implies that, at least in
the case of the observed group, the relationship
between the emergent emotions and the goal of
the joint activity was not straightforward; they
were not mapped one-to-one, as postulated in
the Oatley (2000) model mentioned earlier (i.e.,
types of goals and the degree of their achievement determine emotions). Instead, they were
more complex, in the sense that the emotions

The Modern Language Journal 94 (2010)


also adjusted the groups goal as the collaborative
group work proceeded.
CONCLUSION
The findings of my study are primarily interpretive although they are grounded on the triangulation of the multiple data obtained. Yet,
they broaden the discussion of emotions in SLA
from viewing them as intrapsychological workings simply filtering an individuals cognition
and behavior to recognizing the aspect of emotions as socially and discursively constructed acts
of communication that mediate learning and
development.
The participants demonstrated that even emotions supposedly detrimental to an individuals
learning, such as boredom and frustration, could
become a psychological resource for development, depending on how individuals participating in a given learning activity make sense of
and appropriate (or ignore) these emotions interactionally (i.e., whether and of what quality
the learners achieve emotional intersubjectivity).
Here, what gives real significance to a language
learners own learning is not just a particular meaning that the researcher assigns to a specific type of
emotion a priori, such as language anxiety and
willingness to communicate, but the sense that
each language learner interactively constructs,
negotiates, and appropriates regarding an emotional experience within a goal-directed activity.
If so, investigations of the role and meaning of
emotions in SLA should go beyond examining
whether a specific emotion, positive or negative,
facilitates or hinders language learning, especially
when learning is considered a fundamentally interpersonal transaction.
In my study, the participants knowledge coconstruction took place as they were confronted
with the need to reconfigure their affective level
of participation in the immediate joint learning task. In doing so, they attempted to employ
their own emotionality to their advantage rather
than succumbing to it. This point suggests that
emotions can be considered not just as simple
reactions to the cognitive demands of acquiring a
language but as mediators between such demands
and subsequent learning behavior that allows or
inhibits a learner to participate in a given language learning activity. Thus, the interplay of emotion, cognition, and action is far more complex
and nonlinear than mainstream SLA research has
assumed. As such, the dynamics of emotions may
not be amenable to investigations solely relying on

289

Yasuhiro Imai
decontextualized laboratory experiments designed to identify causal relations among relevant
variables that elicit specific emotions. We need
a more holistic approachone that brings back
into consideration the whole range of emotions
associated with learning to examine the nonlinear dynamics of learners emotionality, thinking,
and action and their interplay in naturalistic settings of L2 learning and use.
Finally, limitations need to be acknowledged.
First, the data for the case study were collected from the particular participating individuals; therefore, the focal students emotions and
verbal behavior cannot be generalized to those of
other student populations or collaborative learning situations. Second, the analysis is predominantly monomodal ; that is, I deliberately limited my
focus on the participants linguistic utterances in
interaction to explore the discursive construction
of emotionality in the collective thinking process.
However, this traditional text-oriented discourse
analysis has recently been criticized in the light of
multimodal discourse analysis (e.g., Kress & Van
Leeuwen, 2001; Norris, 2004). This new line of
conception calls for expanding analytical focus
not just on speech and written text but also on
multiple modes of communication and semiotic
means, such as gestures, gaze, head movement,
posture, layout of a setting where interaction takes
place, and so on. Thus, by incorporating this new
perspective, there is a need for a more fine-tuned
analysis of emotions manifested, constructed, and
shared between people in the context of language
learning.
This article is an initial attempt to explore emotions between people in the context of SLA. Despite its interpretive nature and limitations, I hope
the study presented here will become a catalyst to
invite further discussions on the affective universe
underlying the complexity of SLA.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I would like to thank Merrill Swain for her mentorship
throughout the evolution of my study and her valuable
comments on a previous draft of this article. I would also
like to thank the editor and three anonymous reviewers
of The Modern Language Journal , whose insightful feedback helped shape this article. My gratitude also goes
to Richard Donato and Penny Kinnear, who generously
offered their top-notch comments on the earlier draft,
and Mitsuyo Sakamoto, whose constant encouragement
allowed this article to be completed.

NOTES
1 There are a few studies that are qualitatively oriented. See Price (1991) and Guy and Radnovsky (2001)
for examples.
2 Donato (1994) pointed out that scaffolding is not
limited to a typical expertnovice or teacherstudent
interaction but can also take place between learners with
a similar level of ability.
3 Vygotsky (1987) clearly recognized the integral role
affect plays in ones cognitive development. He claimed,

Thought has its origins in the motivating sphere


of consciousness, a sphere that includes our inclinations and needs, our interests and impulses,
and our affect and emotions. The affective and
volitional tendency stands behind thought. Only
here do we find the answer to the final why in
the analysis of thinking. (Vygotsky, 1987, p. 282)
Vygotskys thinking on emotions and the interplay between affect and intellect can also be found in his Lecture 4: Emotions and Their Development in Childhood
(Vygotsky, 1987) and The Teaching About Emotions
(Vygotsky, 1999).
4 I am fully aware that emotions can be expressed and
communicated through nonverbal and paralinguistic
channels as well, such as facial expressions, gaze, gestures, body posture, voice characteristics, and speech
rate (e.g., Ekman, 1980, 1992, 2003; Williams & Stevens,
1972, 1981). However, in this article I particularly focus on the verbal mode because the goal of my initial
exploration is to document how learners linguistically
manifest, co-construct, and share their emotions in their
collective thinking process, which has not received sufficient attention in SLA literature.
5 Some of these authors use another expression
cooperative learning . I treat the terms collaborative and
cooperative as interchangeable, although some practitioners view that these labels index distinct theoretical
or philosophical backgrounds and, therefore, different
pedagogical orientations and goals (see Oxford, 1997,
for further discussion).
6 The students scheduled their meetings solely on
their own. At the beginning of each meeting, I set a
video camera on a tripod in the corner of a conference
room in a university building where the students held
the meetings. Once the meeting started, I left the room
so as not to affect the students discussion and spontaneous interaction.

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APPENDIX
Transcription Conventions
[ ]
(( ))
[
//
XXX
?
:
word

words, phrases or descriptions inserted by the transcriber for clarification purposes


nonverbal behavior
overlap
latched utterances
inaudible utterances
rising intonation
vowel lengthening
emphasis by loudness or high-pitched sound