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Is It Fun?

Language Play in a Fifth-Grade Spanish Immersion Classroom

Author(s): Maggie A. Broner and Elaine E. Tarone
Source: The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 85, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 363-379
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations
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Is It Fun? Language Play in a
Fifth-GradeSpanish Immersion
Department ofRomanceLanguages ESL and SlavicLanguagesand
St. OlafCollege Literatures
MN 55057
Northfield, ofMinnesota
Email: broner@stolaf MinneapolisMN 55455

In thisarticle,we use an approach to the studyof interlanguagethat challengesprevailing

models of second languageacquisition(SLA) whichassumethatnegotiationofmeaningis the
only causal variablein SLA. Ludic language playmayalso playa role in the developmentof
interlanguage(Tarone,2000a). In thisarticle,we examinetwonotionsoflanguageplayas they
have been presentedin theapplied linguisticsliterature:ludiclanguageplay,as definedin Cook
(2000), and language playas rehearsal inprivatespeech,
as consideredbyLantolf(1997), and its
relationshipto SLA. Throughthe analysisof classroominteractionsamong childrenattending
a full immersionprogram,we show that these two typesof play can be distinguishedin
classroomdiscourse by the presence or absence of fivechannel cues: presence/absenceof
laughter,shiftsin voice qualityand pitchversusshiftsin loudness/whispering, use oflanguage
formsthatare well-known versusformsthatare new; presence/absenceof a fictionalworldof
reference,and presence/absenceof an audience otherthanthe self.It is also argued thatthe
distinctionbetweenthe twotypesof language playin learnerlanguage allowsus to studytheir
distinctroles in the processof SLA.
Child:Do machines everplay?
Data: Yes!I playtheviolinand mychessroutines
Child:No, I mean.Haven'tyoueverplayed... forfun?
Data: Androids do nothavefun.
Child:Look.Ifyouwanttoknowwhatit'sliketobea child,youneedtolearntoplay.
fromStarTrek,theMovie:a conversationbetweenData, a robotthatlooks human,and a human

IN A FIFTH-GRADE SPANISH IMMERSION Leonard's sung discoursein thisexchangeis nei-

classroomin the United States,two studentsare ther transactional(that is, intended to transmit
seated at their desks doing their schoolwork, informationto someone) nor primarilyinterac-
when the followingexchange is recorded: tional (intendedto establishor maintaina social
relationship,cf.Brown& Yule, 1983). Rather,itis
Leonardl(singing): (a) Ricola.Tricola. a discoursetypethathas been referredto as ludic
Dave: (b) No es tricola.
Es ri [cola.]
(Hymes,1972). More recently, Cook (1997, 2000)
(It's not tricola.It's has referredto this sort of discourse simplyas
Leonard: languageplay-language used forenjoyment,for
(c) [I know] but I can say fun.Leonard himselfclaimsabove thatthisbitof
whateverI wantto.
languageplayis an expressionofhis creativefree-
dom. And perhaps the abilityto play with lan-
TheModernLanguageJournal,85, iii, (2001) guage maybe an essentialpartof being human.
0026-7902/01/363-379 $1.50/0 Recent research on second language acquisi-
?2001 TheModernLanguageJournal tion (SLA) has focusedon second language (L2)

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364 TheModernLanguageJournal85 (2001)
learners' participationin negotiationof mean- commonlyaccepted definitionsof the notionsof
ing and on the sorts of comprehensibleinput play and fun. Both terms are very difficultto
and modifiedinteractionpatternsthat occur in define,except perhapsbyostentation("I knowit
such negotiations.But evidence is accumulating when I see it"). The Oxford de-
that suggeststhatnegotiationof meaning is un- votesnine pages of fineprintto the definitionof
likelyto be the sole causal variablein the devel- the termplay(Simpson& Weiner,1989). Perhaps
opment of interlanguage.2We believe,following mostusefulforour purposesis the OED's firsttwo
Cook (1997, 2000) and Tarone (2000a), thatthe definitionsof the verb toplay:the firstdefinition
use of language by L2 learnersfor purposes of is simply"to exercise,"as in "to playone's part,"
amusement and fun, which has been infre- or "toplayan instrument." The second definition
quently described3by language acquisition re- is, "to exerciseoneselfin thewayof amusement."
searchers and applied linguists,deserves more Thus, one can play with language, or exercise
attention.In thisarticlewe presentdata thatsug- language forms,eitherwithor withoutthe inten-
gest thatludic language play-a use of language tion of amusement.The firstdefinitionofplayas
that does not involvethe negotiationof mean- "exercise" without amusement seems close to
ing-may contributeto the developmentof in- Lantolf'sdefinitionof language playas rehearsal
terlanguage. whichis not fun.The second definitionofplayas
To begin with,our attemptsto studythisphe- amusingexercise seems closer to Cook's viewof
nomenon mustdeal withthe factthatthe term language playas entailingfun.
languageplay has come to be used by applied So our keyproblemin sortingout instancesof
linguiststo referto two apparentlydifferentno- play in discoursedata is to distinguishinstances
tions. The firstnotion of language play is best of language exercise that are and are not fun.
articulatedbyCook (1997, 2000), who statesthat What is fun?This, again, is a slipperyconcept. It
language play is language used for purposes of is playas funthatData the robot cannot handle,
self-amusement and fun. The second notion of and we risksounding like Data when we tryto
language play set out byLantolf(1997), and is
is definefunin words.But perhapswe can agree,in
more or less synonymous withVygotsky's "private general terms,thatfun is an experience of posi-
speech."4In thisview,"playis nota meansforthe tiveaffectthatis oftenassociatedwithlaughter.
childtohavefun [italicsadded]" butrather"serves Somethingdone forfunis somethingthatis not
a fundamentalrole in the child's development" meant to be taken seriously--inother words,
(Lantolf,1997, pp. 4-5).5 Thus, in the applied somethingthat is not real, genuine, or sincere.
linguisticsliterature,language play is definedas What is fun can be veryindividuallyand person-
language intendedprimarily to be "fun"byCook, allyexperiencedand is oftennot objectively iden-
and as language intended to be rehearsal-i.e., tifiablebyothers.
not "fun"-by Lantolf.Is language playfun or is Let us now examine in more detail the wayin
it not?Are clearlydistinguishablediscoursephe- whichlanguage playas funand language playas
nomena being referredto by the same term?If rehearsalhave been discussedin the applied lin-
so, shouldn'twe finda wayto keep themseparate guisticsliterature.
in our analysisand interpretation?
In this article,we will reviewboth notions of
language playas theyhave been presentedin the
applied linguisticsliterature:language play as For Cook (1997, 2000), play"has somethingto
fun,and language playas rehearsal.We willshow do with enjoymentand relaxation" (1997, p.
thatthereare utterancesin language learnerdis-
227); it is
course thatcan be clearlydistinguishedfromone
another as eitherfun or rehearsal.We will also behaviour notprimarily motivated byhumanneed
show instanceswhere,due to the multifunction- to manipulate theenvironment (and to shareinfor-
alityof discourse,utterancesappear to function mationforthispurpose)and to formand maintain
as both funand rehearsal.Afterprovidingexam- socialrelationships-though it mayindirectly serve
ples of each sortof language play (fun,rehearsal, bothof thesefunctions. . . . Likefiction, playis a
and both) drawn from the discourse of fifth- kindof carnivalreality(of the kinddescribedby
Bakhtin, 1981),parallelto therealworldbuthaving
grade L2 learnersin a Spanish immersionclass- itsownmeanings. It is also of necessity concerned
room,we willbrieflyconsiderthe possiblerole of withform.... Playis also intelligent...Playis an
language play as fun or rehearsalin the process exuberanceof the mind,something whichoccurs
of second language acquisition.6 naturallyand authentically whenthereis a spaceto
Our firststepwillnecessarilybe to considerthe be filled.(Cook,1997,p. 227)

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MaggieA. Bronerand ElaineE. Tarone 365
The functionof Cook's language play is not greatand diverseworldofverbalforms thatridicule
primarilytransactionalor interactional.It is lan- the straightforward,
seriouswordin all itsgeneric
guage used notfortheprimarypurposesoftrans- guises.Thisworldis veryrich,considerably richer
thanwe are accustomed to believe.The natureand
mittinginformation,solidifyingsocial relation-
methods available
something arehighly
ships, or even furtheringlanguage acquisition;
those are not its primarygoals (though,due to varied,andnotexhausted byparodying and travesty-
ingin a strict
sense.Thesemethods formakingfun
the multifunctionality of language use, those
ofthestraightforwardwordhaveas yetreceivedlittle
things may happen in the course of language scholarlyattention.
1981,p. 52)
play). Rather,its primaryfunctionis ludic: to
amuse oneselfand have fun. Of course,whatis intended by a speakeras fun
Cook (1997) classifiesludic, or fun,language maybe perceivedbya heareras seriousinsultand
playinto twotypes:(a) playwithlanguage form, cause for open conflict(cf. Labov, 1972; Ramp-
such as withthe sounds of language,withrhyme, ton,1995 forexamples). Parodyis onlypossibleif
rhythm, song,alliteration,
puns,grammaticalpar- one is aware thatthereare manylanguage varie-
allelism,and (b) semanticplay,"playwithunitsof ties and can obtain a measure of distancefrom
meaning,combiningthem in wayswhich create one's own variety.As Bakhtin(1981) pointsout,
worlds which do not exist: fictions"(p. 228). one can onlyridiculeone verbalformfromthe
These two typesof language playforfun can be perspectiveof anotherone.
seen as roughlyequivalentto exercisewithlan-
guage formsfor purposes of amusement,and languageor stylethata givenstraightforward
exercisewithunitsof meaningto create a world parodied,travestied, ridiculed.The creatingcon-
of referencethatis not real or genuine,again for sciousnessstands,as itwere,on theboundaryline
purposes of amusement.These two varietiesof between languagesandstyles. (p. 60)
ludic language playare partof the inputgivento
children acquiring their firstlanguage (L1) in Onlypolyglossiafullyfreesconsciousness
tyrannyof its own languageand its own mythof
the form of nurseryrhymes,poems, fairytales
language.Parodic-travestying under
and fables, and other kinds of "pretend"play. theseconditions.(p. 61)
Cook statesthatthe urge to engage in "fun"lan-
guage play does not diminishas the individual Bakhtin'sdiscussionsuggeststhatwhen the lan-
matures;indeed, the more advanced the learner, guagevarietiesofothersare learned,theyare asso-
the more capable the learner is of participating ciatedin themindofthelearnerwiththepersonal
in it. The making of rhymesand puns, teasing characteristics of those otherspeakers.Thus, the
and ridicule, and the creation of imaginary learnerinternalizesand retainsas distinctthelan-
worlds of fictionall become richer and more guage varietiescharacteristicof differentroles
complex as the learnerbecomes more advanced. and registers and can use themas desired.
In discussingthesemore maturetypesof ludic It seems to us thatmanyinstancesof semantic
language play,Cook refersto Bakhtin(1981) who play,includingteasing,insulting,and parodying,
was mostinterestedin whatCook would probably are social as well as ludic.8For example, "sound-
consideronlyone typeofsemanticlanguageplay: ing," or "the dozens," is a kind of competitive
"double voicing"and those "parodic/travestying language play thatis well attestedin the African
Americancommunity;a speaker'sskillwithsuch
language forms"that "ridicule the straightfor-
ward, serious word."7Bakhtin (1929/1984) de- "ritualinsults"can improvehis or her standingin
scribes "double-voicing,"of which parody/trav- the social group.9Whatqualifiesinstancesof lan-
estyis simplyone type,in which a speaker uses guage play like insult,teasing,and parodyas in-
someone else's discourseforhis own purposes, stancesofplay,in our minds,is thattheirprimary
purpose seems to be the havingof fun,and any
insertinga newsemantic intentionintoa discourse impact on social relationshipsfollowsfromthat.
whichalready has,andwhichretains, an intention
of Given the multifunctionality of language use, we
itsown.Such a discourse, in keepingwithitstask, do not find it problematicthat such cases can
mustbe perceived as belongingto someoneelse.In have severalfunctionsand lead to difficulties in
one discourse, twosemantic intentionsappear,two interpretation.
voices.(p. 189) In sum,then,language playas "fun"has been
dividedinto twotypes:playwithlanguage forms,
Parody/travesty is a kind of semanticplayin that and playwithunitsof meaning.It can be identi-
it involvesa speaker'suse of the voices of others, fied in adult input to the youngestof children,
a kind of role-playforcomic effect.It is the and it continues to appear in the discourse,al-

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366 TheModernLanguageJournal85 (2001)

thoughin more complex forms,as speakersma- satisfying (J.P.Lantolf,personalcommunication,

tureand become more proficientin a language. March, 1999); this satisfactionresults from a
The primaryfunctionofthissortoflanguageplay sense of achievement.Because the essentialfunc-
is to amuse oneselfand others. tionofLantolf's(1997) languageplayis rehearsal
for the masteryof new L2 forms,"the need for
advanced learnersto engage in language play...
diminishesor is eliminatedaltogether"(Lantolf,
Lantolf(1997) has used the termlanguageplay 1997, p. 17). That is, because language play in
to referto an apparentlydifferent Lantolf'ssense existsas mental rehearsalof un-
in the discourse of language learners. Where masteredL2 forms,it is a phenomenon thatdi-
Cook emphasizes the essentiallyludic, or self- minisheswhen theL2 learnerhas masteredthem
amusing, characteristicof language play, Lan- and no longerneeds to rehearse.10
tolf'sVygotskyian approach does not: To summarize,then: Both typesof language
playsharecertainsimilarities. Both involveutter-
ForVygotsky, playisnota meansforthechildtohave ances that have no obvious communicativein-
fun.Rather,itservesa fundamental roleinthechild's tent.Both involveexerciseof
language, a use of
development, becauseit createsa zone ofproximal formsand units of meaning without
in whichthechild"always language
development behavesbe-
theirusual straightforward referenceto the real
yondhisaverageage,abovehisdailybehavior" (Vy- world. Both involvelearners in the exercise of
gotsky, 102 as citedin Lantolf,
their linguisticimagination,which cannot be
So, whereas the purpose of language play in controlledby others;the learnercan be encour-
Cook's sense is clearlyfun, the purpose of lan- aged, but cannot be made, to engage in either
guage play in Lantolf's (Vygotskyian)sense is kind of language play.And, both typesof lan-
clearlyexercise, or the rehearsal of target forms. guage playare social,in thattheyoccur as partof
Lantolf focuses on language play as a type of a process in which learners appropriatethe L2
privatespeech thathas the functionof rehearsal speech of othersin interactionand internalizeit.
for some futurepublic performance.In private However,Cook's notion of language play dif-
speech, learners,though publiclysilent,are pri- fersfromLantolf'sin thatitsprimarypurpose is
vatelyverylinguistically active;theyproduce lan- amusementand fun.Examplesare puns,rhymes,
guage sottovoce,subvocallyor silentlyto them- teasing,and parody.It is oftenaccompanied by
selves. Lantolf shows that the utterancesthey laughter.Ludic language play is not serious. It
produce in this way are structurally more ad- typically involvesthe use of language formsthat
vanced than those used in more public social are wellmasteredand oftenwillfully violateswell-
interaction.In otherwords,in rehearsallearners knownlanguage norms.Semanticlanguage play
produce language in the Zone of ProximalDevel- sets up an unreal, fictionalworld of reference.
opment,and in doing so they"alwaysbehave be- Language varietiesappropriatedfromothersre-
yond their. . . average dailybehavior"(Lantolf, tain theirdistinctnessin the mind of the learner
1997, p. 8). According to Lantolf,L2 learners and mayemergein parody.There is a more per-
engage in thissortof rehearsalas a wayto help formance-oriented dimensionto languageplayas
themselvesmasterthe L2; thus,language playfor fun. Language play as fun requiresskill,and as
rehearsaltends to zero in on masteryof correct learnersbecome more proficientin a language,
formsin the L2. Examples of adult L2 learners' theyuse thiskindof playmore and more.
language play thatare givenby Lantolfthus are In contrast,language play as rehearsal is in-
quite differentfromthe sortsof language play tended primarilyto be a seriousexercise.Exam-
givenearlierbyCook: ples are repeatingphrasesto oneself,and having
phrases pop into one's head. Though satisfying,
Someexamples oflanguageplayare:talking outloud it is not fun.As a typeofprivatespeech,rehearsal
to yourselfin Spanish;repeating phrasesto yourself is not a
performancefor others but rather is
makingup sentencesor wordsin Spanish;
imitatingto yourself soundsin Spanish;havingran- addressed to theself,evenifitis a preparationfor
domsnatchesofSpanishpop intoyourhead. (Lan- more public performance.Rehearsal is focused
tolf,1997,p. 11) on imperfectlymastered language forms and
aims at masteryof language norms, not their
Rehearsalin privatespeech seems to have a lot in willfulviolation. Finally,as the L2 learner be-
common withL2 learning strategies:conscious comes more proficientin the L2, instancesof
and unconscious thingsL2 learnersdo in order language playwhichwe would call rehearsalde-
to masterthe L2. Althoughitis not fun,itmaybe crease in frequencyand eventuallydisappear.

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MaggieA. Bronerand ElaineE. Tarone 367
Our analysisin thisarticleis predicatedon the as fun typically:(a) is accompanied by smilesor
assumptionthatin manycases we can distinguish laughter,(b) is accompanied bymarkedshiftsin
objectivelybetween the two typesof language pitch or voice qualityor both, (c) uses language
play when we see them in a piece of discourse. forms known to be mastered by the speaker,
Althoughwe do not have directaccess to speak- (d) creates a fictionalworld of reference,and
ers' intentions(to have fun or to rehearse), we (e) appears to be addressed to an audience.
assume we can achieve some measure of success A piece of discoursethatis language playas re-
by using the followingcriteriato help us decide hearsaltypically: (a) is markedprimarily bya shift
whetherany given utteranceis language play as in volume (sottovoce)ratherthan in voice quality
funor rehearsal.These criteriaare to be takenas or pitch,(b) is not markedbylaughter,(c) uses
guidelines for our interpretationof the data language formsknownto be new to the speaker,
withinthe contextof interaction,and not as ab- (d) does not createa fictionalworldof reference,
solutes,but we feel thatthey,like Labov's (1972) and (e) appearstobe addressedto theself.
"channel cues" of vernacularstyle,can be very Given that language use can be multifunc-
helpfulto the language analyst. tional, it is possible that any given piece of dis-
First,is the discoursephenomenon markedby coursecould exhibitconflicting channelcues and
smilesor laughter?Language play as fun is typi- in factcould functionas both playand rehearsal.
callymarkedbylaughter,whereasrehearsalis less Indeed, thereare in principlemanykindsof lan-
likelyto be accompanied by smilesand laughter. guage play,notjust the twobroad categorieswe
Second, is the discoursephenomenon accom- considerhere. We would like to have theflexibil-
panied bychanges in voice quality(e.g., nasality) ityto assignmore than one functionto the same
or pitch (falsetto,bass voice or even song), or by bit of discourse,because we knowthatdiscourse
a reductionin volumewitha possible shiftinto a oftenexhibitsthatsortof flexibility. (For exam-
whisper?Shiftsin voice qualityand pitchare fre- ple, a learnerofSpanishwho is rehearsingthe [r]
quentlymarkersof language play as fun,in that by recitingErrecon errecigarroto herselfmight
speakerstend to use shiftsin pitch or qualityto begin to produce the poem in thevoice of a little
designateimaginaryshiftsin identity, both in our girlor old womanand even mentallyconstructan
data and in examples we have culled fromthe imaginarysocial contextto go along. Such an in-
literature.On the other hand, a reduction in stance would exhibitchannel cues of both play
volume or shiftto whisperis knownto be typical and rehearsal,and we believewould in factfunc-
of privatespeech, or rehearsal. tionas both.) It is of course also possiblethatany
Third, is there reason to believe the speaker piece of discoursewillbe ambiguousas to itsin-
has not yet masteredthe language formsbeing tended function-thatthe channel cues will not
produced in the piece of discourseand needs to help us decide. But our experiencesuggeststhat
rehearse them?If not-if there is evidence the there should also be manycases thatare clearly
formsare alreadywell known-it is more likely distinguishable,withfour or more criteriasup-
that it is fun language play; thereis no need to portingour categorizationof thatcase as either
rehearsewhatone has learned and knowswell."I rehearsalor funlanguageplay.We further believe
Fourth,does the languageuse createa worldof thatwhen thesedifferent discoursefunctionsare
fictionin which language formsdo not referto performed,the role in the discourse and ulti-
the actual worldof referencebut ratherrelateto matelythe impacton L2 acquisitionwillbe quite
an unreal,fictionalworldof reference?If so, we different.
willassume it is probablyfunlanguage play.
Finally,is the utteranceapparentlyintendedto EXAMPLES OF TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE
be heardbyothersor not?Althoughthislastcrite-
rionappears to us to be theleasthelpfulin disam- IMMERSION CLASSROOM
biguatingthe twokindsof play,particularly given
the ambiguityof attributing intention,it mayadd Previousstudies,such as those byPeck (1978)
helpfulinformation.If the utteranceseems ad- and Blanco-Iglesias,Broner,and Tarone (1995),
dressed to the self,withno speakerawarenessof have shownthatchildrenacquiringa L2 engage
overhearers, itis likelytobe an instanceofrehears- extensivelyin ludic language play outside the
al or privatespeech. Iftheutteranceappears to be classroom; similarly,Saville-Troike(1988) has
public, that is, a kind of performancefor the shownthatsuch childrenalso engage regularlyin
amusementof others,the utteranceis probably Vygotskyian language play,or privatespeech, in
languageplayin thesenseoffun. theirinteractions.Butwe need more documenta-
Thus, a piece of discoursethatis language play tion of children'suse of both kindsof language

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368 TheModernLanguageJournal85 (2001)

play,particularly as theseoccur in similarL2 class- call Leonard, Marvin,and Carolina,duringtheir

room contexts. deskworkover the 5-monthperiod. During this
Both typesof language play-the fun and the period, each child worked for an hour once a
rehearsal-can be shown to exist in data drawn week witha lapel microphoneattachedto his or
from the corpus used in a larger longitudinal her shirtand connectedwitha wirelesstransmit-
studythatexploredpatternsof L1 and L2 use in a terthatcould be clipped to a belt or laid on the
fullimmersionclassroom(see Broner2000, 2001 table. This transmittersent the audio signals
for a full report). The studywas a response to pickedup bythethreemicrophonesto threetape
Nunan's (1992) call to carryout moreresearchin recordersin an adjoining room. Although the
actualclassrooms(classesnotsetup forresearch), childrenwere certainlyaware of the presence of
to documentwhatactuallygoes on in such class- themicrophonesat times,theirdiscourseseemed
rooms,and so shed lighton theprocessofSLA (p. to be littleaffectedby the tapingprocess.Great
102). The Bronerstudy'sfocuson L1 and L2 use care had been taken to ensure that the re-
in immersionclassroomsstemmedin part from searchersbe viewedby everyoneat the school as
Tarone and Swain's (1995, p. 170) observation accepted membersof the regularschool commu-
thatimmersionclassroomsmaybecome diglossic nity (cf. Blanco-Iglesias& Broner, 1997). The
over time,withthe L2 being used foracademic teachersin theclassroomconductedtheirlessons
contextsand L1 forsocial contexts.Earlierobser- as they normallydid, withoutany adaptations
vations had suggested that older children who made for the researchproject being conducted
had been in immersionprogramslongeractually duringthe year.The lessons thatwere taped fo-
seemed to use less L2 than theiryoungerpeers cused on such subjectsas creativewriting(poetry
(Blanco-Iglesiaset al., 1995). Broner'sstudypos- writing,scriptwriting),geometry(the volume of
tulatedthatthe factthatolder childrenare pre- prisms,or area and perimeter),grammar(com-
adolescentsmayaccount in partforincreasedL1 pound words), arts and crafts,and statistics
use in the classroom,because the L2 does not (mean, median,and mode).
sufficeas an effectivemediumforadolescent so- The L1 of all the childrentaped in thisstudy
cial communication.Finally,Broner'sstudyexam- was American English,and none had had any
ined content-basedL2 learningin action, docu- exposureto anyotherL2 thanSpanish.The chil-
menting the impact of different academic drenwho were taped can be describedas follows:
contentson L2 use. Leonard was the mostpopular,talkative,and ex-
The studyanalyzed13 hoursofnaturallyoccur- trovertedof the children.He seemed to preferto
ring classroom interactionsover 5 monthsin a stayactive at all times,creatinginterestingsitu-
fifth-grade Spanish immersionclassroom,focus- ationsforhimselfand others.He talked,sang,or
ing on 3 children as theycarried out different created noise almostconstantly, even producing
classroom tasks with differentinterlocutors. "voice-over"narrationsof ongoing activityinto
Standard orthographictranscription12 was used the microphone for the researchers' benefit.
to recordL1 and L2 use interactions, and a VAR- Marvinwas less interestedin pleasing the other
BRUL analysisidentifiedfactorsthatfavoredor childrenthan in pleasing the teacher.He stayed
disfavoredthe use of L1 or L2. The studyfound on task and followed the classroom rules. For
thatthecontentof the taskand theidentity ofthe example,itwas Marvinwho adhered mostclosely
interlocutorhad a significant impacton the rela- to the class rule thatthe childrenshould always
tiveamount of L1 and L2 produced by these 3 speak in Spanish; even when the other children
children.For example,when the teacherwas the had switchedto English, Marvin continued to
interlocutor, the childrenalwaysused the L2, but speak Spanish.Carolinahad manyfriendsbutwas
when the interlocutorwas another peer, addi- not the mostpopular girlin the class. She played
tionalvariablescame intoplay:thecontentof the soccer and talkedabout it oftenin class. She had
activity,social relationships,
and whetherthechil- a good sense of humor and was alwaysreadyto
drenwereon-or off-task. The typeoftaskwasalso join in the fun (jokes, teasing, bothering the
found to have a measurableeffecton L1 and L2 boys) when the situationrequired it but was not
use, such thatwhen the goal of the taskincluded necessarilythe initiatorof these situations.She
focusingon the L2, as in creativewriting,the seemed to feel mostcomfortablewithothergirls
children used the L2 to a much greaterextent butworkedwellwithboys.In group or deskwork,
than in taskswithotherfoci. she would take the initiativein gettingthe task
In the presentstudy,we analyzed these same done. The 3 childrenappeared to get along rela-
data in order to identifyinstancesof language tivelywell in classwork,though none was best
play engaged in by the 3 children,whomwe will friendswithanyof the others.

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MaggieA. Bronerand ElaineE. Tarone 369
The data were transcribedin standardorthog- There is also a good deal of language play as
raphy and coded for VARBRUL13analysis,the fun in these data-in fact,ludic play is much
resultsof which are discussed in Broner (2000, more frequent than an adult might have ex-
2001). In thisarticle,we willdescribeand analyze pected. Adultstend to thinkof immersionclass-
in a more qualitativemannerthe extentto which rooms in fairlygoal-oriented,seriousterms.The
these childrenplayedwithlanguage,both in En- reason parents send theirchildren to language
glishand in Spanish. immersionprogramsis so that theywill learn a
The children produced some clear examples L2. Immersionteachersare speciallytrainedto
of rehearsal,or privatespeech, that seemed to teach contentthrougha L2. Researchersare in-
functionas a learning strategyfor new L2 vo- terestedin languageimmersionprogramsas sites
cabularyor new contentor both. In the follow- forsuccessfulL2 acquisition.However,we would
ing example, as the children study geometry, be greatlymistakenif we confused these adult
Carolina repeats a new vocabularytermto her-
perspectiveswiththe perspectiveof the children
self.Note that there is no laughterand there is who are actuallyin language immersionclass-
a loweringin volume-in facta shiftinto a whis- rooms. From the point ofviewof thesechildren,
per.The teacherhasjust introducedand defined thereis a lot more happeningthanjust L2 acqui-
a new term,volumen,in line (a), and it is this sition:The social lifeof childrenis going on. As
termthatCaroline repeatsto herselfin line (c). in all classrooms,the childrenare certainlylearn-
There is no apparent fictionalworld of refer-
ing academic subject matterand language, but
ence, and the speaker'sinterlocutoris apparently
theyare also becoming socialized into the wider
herself.This is thusa fairlyunambiguouscase of
rehearsal. societyand, by the age of 10 or 11, into preado-
lescentsocietyas well.And,fromthepointofview
of children,a major objective in all that they
EXAMPLE 1 do-whether theyare learning or being social-
ized-is to have fun and play. In any given
Teacher: (a) volumen, volumen se llamael teacher'smanagementof a class,thereare times
espacioque haydentro de algo,(vol- when such play is possible, eitherwhile school-
ume, the space that'sinside workis being done or duringperiods when the
somethingis called volume) children are off-task. Obviously,such times are
(b) y dc6mose mideel volumen ?
viewedwithdifferent degreesof tolerancebydif-
(waitsforresponse) (and how is ferentteachers,but theycertainlyoccur in all
volume measured?)
Carolina: (c) volume:n(whispering
There were a number of ways in which
to herself)(volume)14
Leonard, Caroline,Marvin,and theirclassmates
A fewminuteslater,Marvinand Carolina repeat used language,not forprimarilytransactionalor
another L2 termto themselves.The termmetros social purposes,but primarilyforfun-for their
hasjust been introducedbythe teacherin own amusement.As predictedbyCook, the chil-
line (a) as a new term,one assumed to be un- dren indulgedin twokindsoffunlanguage play:
known to the students,and it is this term the They playedwithlanguage formsin Englishand
children produce in lines (b) and (c). Here Spanish (sounds, rhythms, structures)and they
again, thereis no laughteror shiftin voice quality created imaginary situations using language,
and pitch. (However this time there is also no both in Englishand in Spanish. But sometimes,
indicationin the transcriptof loweredvolume.) interwovenin theirludic language playwere bits
There is no fictionalworldof referenceinvolved, of rehearsalas well.
and the childrendo not appear to be producing The childrenplayedwiththe sounds of Span-
the language for others, but rather for them- ish duringan activity in whichtheywere writing
selves.Thus, fourout offivechannel cues (all but poems for In
valentines. Example 3, the children
volume/whispering)suggestthatExample 2 is a do more thanjust writevalentinepoems in Span-
case of rehearsal. ish;Leonard and Ben makejokes withtherhymes
thatmake them laugh. Thus, fourchannel cues
EXAMPLE 2 in Example 3 are laughter,use of familiarinter-
language and L1 forms(Me gusta,ti coraz6n, "pee
Teacher: (a) metros (cubic meters)
czibicos. pee") particularlytowards the end where the
Marvin: (b) metros (cubic meters)
czibicos. laughter occurs, a fictionalworld of reference
Carolina: (c) ciibicos.(cubic)'5 (you do not reallywant to be myvalentine,and

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370 TheModernLanguageJournal85 (2001)
heartsdo not pee), all targetedat an audience of (c)
peers: Child: (d) dieciocho! (eighteen!)
Child: (e) dieciocho! (eighteen!)
Leonard: (f) dieciocho,dieciocho.
the same tune) dieciocho! (realizes
Dan: (a) Me gusta16tt y tu valentin.(I like it is wrong)
you and yourvalentine) Child: (g) no sabemos.(we don't know.)
Ben: (b) Oh! Leonard: (h) doce!(twelve)
Leonard: (c) y quieressermivalentin.Jaja. Child: (i) no sabemos, diciocho,20
(and you wantto be myvalen- dieciocho (we don't know,eigh-
tine.Ha ha) teen,eighteen,eighteen)
Ben: (d) Me gustaa ti.17Y micorazonva (I (singingto the same tune as
like to you. And myheartgoes) Leonard)
Leonard: (e) un coraz6n(a heart) Leonard: (j) es doce,doce,doce,doce,doce,doce,
Ben: (f) pee pee doce(it's twelve,twelve,twelve,
Leonard: (g) (laughs reallyhard) oh god!Is twelve.. .) (all reallyfastto
the tune)21
In Example 4, Leonard calls out the answerto
a mathproblemoverand over.His utterancesare The childrenparticularly enjoyedpuns and in-
multifunctional: he is both answeringthe ques- sults,in Englishas well as in theirL2. In Example
tionand playing.He playswiththe sounds of the 5, Child A makes a pun, whichis also an insult,
wordsdoce(twelve)and dieciocho related to Leonard's confusionof the Spanish
wordscerebro (brain) and celebro (I celebrate).The
ing the pronunciationand pitch,speakingwith
differentvoice qualities (multiple voices), and incidentbeginswhen Leonard questionsthe dif-
even singing his answer to a tune.19Doce and ferencebetween the two wordsin lines (a) and
dieciochoare not new lexical items;quite the con- (c). Even afterCarolina tellshim the difference
trary,theyare some of the firstSpanish words twice,in lines (b) and (d), Leonard uses the
learned in anyformalclassroom,and it is safeto wrongword,celebro, in line (e). So Child A makes
assume that the need for Leonard to rehearse a pun/insultin English in line (f), referringto
them is long gone. Leonard's performanceis, Leonard's lack of a cerebro, presumablyin failing
withthe exceptionof one iterationof docein line to attend to Carolina's input. Afterthe pun,
(b), clearly targeted at an audience; another Caroline giggles:
child even joins in. Channel cues of pitch and
rate,thefamiliarity of thelanguageform,and the EXAMPLE 5
audience-orientednature of the performance
Leonard: (a) [Cerebro: (brain:I cele-
suggestthatthisis language playas fun.However,
the one iterationof docein a softervoice in line brate)
Carolina: (b) [Cerebro] (brain)
(b) could be privatespeech witha possible pur-
Leonard: (c) Cerebro? (brain?)
pose to rehearse the content,not the language
Carolina: (d) Cerebro.(Brain.) You knowthe
form;possiblyLeonard is not sure whetherthe
answer is 12 or 18 and reviewsthat in private thingin yourheads.
Leonard: (e) Si yono tengo/selebro/ (ifI don't
speech. Channel cues suggestingthisinterpreta-
tion include the loweredvolumeand the change have I celebrate)
in apparent interlocutorto the self in line (b). Child A: (f) You don't have one.
But Leonard's utterances(a), (c), (f) and (j) in Carolina: (g) (giggles)22
Example 4 seem to be clear examplesoflanguage We should note thatwhen these children pre-
play as fun,layeredover the more obviousfunc- sented theirplay later on, theyused the wrong
tion of answeringthe teacher'squestion: in theirpresentation.Here is a case
where language play as fun mayhave interfered
EXAMPLE 4 withthe children'sacquisitionof the correctL2
formand fosteredtheiracquisitionof an incor-
Leonard: (a) doce . . doce!doce!(twelve... rectone.
twelve!twelve!)(withdifferent Insultsand puns are clearlyexamplesofCook's
voices,apparentlytryingto playwithlanguage forms.Of course,froma Vy-
get the teacher'sattention) gotskyianperspective,Carolina was co-construct-
(b) doce(softly,to himself) ing Leonard's utterance,substitutingthe correct

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MaggieA. Bronerand ElaineE. Tarone 371

cerebro However,Leonard did

forhisearliercelebro. ogy.In Example 6, Leonard is havingfunwiththe
not seem to take up Carolina's input but rather sounds of Englishand Spanish in creatingcello-
produced the opposite. In Example 5, then,the female-embryo-/ambral/ in line (e), and in using
channel cues of laughter,Child A's creationof a it as a creativeinsult he is also using semantic
fictionalworldwhereLeonard has no brain,and language play.Here the language formsare not
all the above performedforone anotheras audi- unknownto the children (except for Leonard's
ence suggest that this is language play as fun. made-up term which he immediatelydefines),
Leonard's non-useofa formhe'd been told twice thereis creationofa fictionalworldof reference,
was correct,ifitwas deliberate,would also fitthe and all is done foran audience (each other). The
interpretationthat this is an instanceof having channel cues of laughterand voice qualityare
fun,but we can't tell ifitwas deliberate. absent here, but the factthat the passage is de-
Although the children engaged in ludic play voted to mutualinsultand ridiculesuggeststhat
during class, they also worked. Play and work thisis not language playas rehearsal,but rather
oftenseemed interwovento such an extentthat playas fun.
these childrenmightbe said to be multitasking: We see thatLeonard singsin Spanishin Exam-
They were doing severalthingsat once, playing ple 4. In general,the childrenspenta lot of time
and doing schoolwork.Yonge and Stables (1998) singing,both alone and together.They sang a
have shownhow verydifficult it is to distinguish Budweisercommercialand a MountainDew com-
on-taskfromoff-task behaviorwhen childrenen- mercial,a verse froma Boyz II Men rock song,
gage in ludic language play while doing their and the "Awimaway" chorus fromTheLion King.
schoolwork.23 The examples given so far are all All these episodes can be viewedas examples of
examples of ludic language play that occurred playingwith the sounds of language. Unfortu-
while the childrenwere doing theirschoolwork; natelyfor L2 learning,none of these particular
in other words,theyplayed while theywere on- songswasperformedin Spanishor witha Spanish
task.In such situations,obviously,rehearsaltypes accent.
of language playare also expected to occur. In Example 7 below (also seen at the startof
Some of the time,however,the children'sludic this article), Dave is singing a Ricola26cough
language play was clearlyoff-task. Sometimesit drops commercial (line a) when Leonard starts
was not even in the L2. For example, we found singingas well,alteringthe lyricsbyplayingwith
examples of sound play using both Englishand the sounds (line b). When Dave triesto correct
Spanish phonologyto create nonsensewords,as him in Spanish (line c), Leonard insistsin En-
in Example 6 whereLeonard andJohnare insult- glish that rules of accuracydon't apply to him
ing each otherand startplayingwithEnglishlexis (line d). In line (d), Leonard is explicitlyassert-
and Spanish sounds in the process of creatinga ing his rightto use language play: to play with
new insultingword: language soundsforself-amusement withoutcon-
sideringadherence to anyone else's norms.27In
EXAMPLE 6 Example 7, then, we have the cues of altered
pitch, use of formsknown to the singers,and
Leonard: (a) John'sa dink. performanceforan audience. In thiscase we also
(b) Hey! (insultsLeonard) have an unsolicitedcommentaryby the speaker
Leonard: (c) celloinfant.cello-female-infant. himself:an unusuallyexplicitdeclarationofinde-
John: (d) cello-embryo? pendence from language norms, all of which
Leonard: markthisas fun,and not rehearsal.
(e) cello-female-embryo-/ambral/.
(f) That means thatyou are inside
an embryothat'sinside the EXAMPLE 7
Dave: (a) Ricola(singingto the same tune
In this example, even though language play is as the Ricola cough drops
off-taskand does not occur in the L2, theremay
stillbe opportunitiesforL2 acquisition,because Len: (b) Ricola... tricola
Leonard's playwithEnglishand Spanish sounds Dave: (c) No es tricola, es [ni] (It's not
in creatingnonsense wordsmaystillexercisehis tricola,it's [ri-])
knowledge of the phonological constraintsof Len: (d) [I know] but I can saywhateverI
Spanish.Z"Although "cello," "female,""infant," wantto.28
and "embryo"are English words, /ambral/ is a
nonsense word consistentwithSpanish phonol- Finally,the childrenengaged in semanticlan-

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372 TheModernLanguageJournal85 (2001)

guage play in creatingimaginarysituationsand (He was on the computer,he did

dramatizations,using both languages and their "look at this"and and and)
actions as well to create imaginaryworldsof fic- Marvin: (c) Si. un monticulo. (Yes. A mound.)
tion. In such episodes theyoftentook on differ- Leonard: (d) I was like 'Brandon?' and he's no
ent roles and spoke withdifferent voices,both in es miculpaqueuso mz31 dedo
English and Spanish. In thisway,theyseemed to mediopara mi(it's not myfault
engage in the sort of parody/travesty of which I use mymiddlefingerfor
Bakhtin (1981) writes.Sometimes the children myself)32
acted out parts in a drama, takingthe part of
someone else: a villain,a narrator,a rock star.In In theirre-creationof Brandon'swordsin lines
Example 8, when the teacherannounces in line (b) and (d), Leonard and Carolina are engaging
(a) thattherewillbe no recess,Leonard repeats in Cook's semanticlanguage play,the creationof
the announcementin line (d) using the voice of fiction.As Mathis and Yule (1994) and Yule
a villainand laughingin a stereotypically villain- (1995) rightly pointout in theirdiscussionof this
ous way.Channel cues signalinglanguage playas sort of direct speech, this is fiction.It is not a
"fun"here include laughter,a shiftin voice qual- verbatimfactual replay of the words Brandon
ity,creation of a fictionalworld of referencein uses; it is a dramatizationfor effect,with the
whichLeonard becomes a villain,use ofL2 forms speakers'point ofviewclearlyattached.Carolina
well knownby the speakers,and discourse per- in line (b) and Leonard in line (d) are in fact
formedfora wideraudience. engaging in the sort of parody that Bakhtin
(1981) discussesat length,in whichone speaks
EXAMPLE 8 withthevoice ofanotherwhilemaintaininghisor
her ownvoice as commentary. Whatis interesting
Teacher: (a) no hayrecreo.(There's no recess.) here is thatthe (zero) quotativeframeand com-
Leonard: (b) no hayrecreo.(There's no recess.) mentaryare in English,and thevoice of Brandon
Girl: (c) no hayrecreoahora.(There's no is Spanish.This is ludic interlanguageplay:there
recessnow.) are shiftsof voice quality,use of interlanguage
Leonard: (d) ahora? ... ahorano hayrecreoheh, formsthatare veryfamiliarto the speakers,crea-
heh,heh. tionof fiction,and performanceforan audience
(Now? ... now there'sno recess otherthanoneself.
heh heh heh) (villainousvoice) In contrastto hispeers,Marvinis not engaging
in ludic language playin line (c) at all. He is not
Example 9 below providesgood examples of creatingan imaginaryworldof fiction,speaking
both kinds of language play--funand rehears- in others'voices,or addressinganyoneelse. He is
al-occurring in the same conversation. focused, on task,doing his Spanish vocabulary
Leonard, Caroline, and Marvin are workingat work.He is engagingin a bitof privatespeech,or
theirdesk on a geographyassignment.Leonard rehearsal,softlyrepeatingto himselfthe vocabu-
and Caroline get distractedfromtheirworkand
laryitem the group will need to complete their
engage in some gossipin lines (a) and (b), using assignment.This utteranceis apparentlydirected
Spanish and English quotativesto frame their to himself,not to others,is produced at a lower
re-creationof Spanish dialogue and gesture. volume,is unaccompanied bylaughter,and con-
Marvinignoresthemand talksquietlyto himself tainsa new lexical item monticulo, whichis appar-
about the assignmentin line (c), and Leonard
entlybeing rehearsed for later public presenta-
providesthe punch line in Englishin line (d). tion. Marvin is thereforeproducing language
Leonard begins the conversation,recounting
play as rehearsal,or privatespeech. Our analysis
thatwhen he was botheringBrandon earlierdur- of Example 9 shows how effectivethe channel
ing computer time,Brandon made an obscene cues we have identifiedcan be in helping us dis-
gestureat Leonard usinghis middle finger. tinguishthese two typesof language play even
when theyoccur in the same conversation.We
EXAMPLE 9 would argue thatthe two typesof interlanguage
playthatappear in the learners'discoursein Ex-
Leonard: (a) Este29es queBrandonhizo. ample 9 are identifiably different in function.
[obscene gesture] (This is However,as mentionedearlier,thereare times
whatBrandon did). when the same piece of language play could be
Carolina: (b) El estabaen el computador
hicid30 both funand rehearsalat the same time;in such
'miracomoeste'and and and cases,thatdiscoursemaybe multifunctional. The

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MaggieA. Bronerand ElaineE. Tarone 373
studentsslipped in and out of all kinds of roles discoursecontainsa new L2 lexical itemsuggests
and dramatizations,using different language va- thathe mightalso be rehearsing.
rietiesas theydid theirwork,and in the process
it is possible that theywere simultaneouslyre-
hearsingnewlanguageitems.In Examples 10 and
11 below,as Leonard workson electricalcircuits, Leon. (a) /you: Leonard.("not me"
he creates dialogues with himselfand with the nou:/,6dijo
said Leonard)
littlelightbulbs he is workingwith.Indeed, he
(b) yono, (high pitchedvoice) dijo
creates two new words: the word coinages Leonard(regularpitch) ("not
semiecuerioand bombiria. chan-
Here, identifying me" said Leonard)
nel cues include a fictionalworld of reference
(c) /you:nou:/. . . yotengoalambre:
(light bulbs are becoming animate interlocu- (in authoritativevoice) (not me ...
tors),shiftsin voice qualityand pitch,and use of I have a wire)37
well-knownL2 formsforthe mostpart.All these
cues suggest that this is language play as fun. Leonard creates a fictionalworld of reference,
However,there is no performancefor a wider dramaticallyproducing three utterancesusing
audience for this piece of discourse (unless we verywell-known words,yoand no,produced alter-
count the lightbulbs as an audience), and the nately with different voice qualitiesand accents.
twonewlycoined lexicalitemsmaybe being prac- He quotes himselfsaying"yono,"firstwithvery
ticed; these cues suggestthatthe discoursemay Anglodiphthongizedvowels,nextwithquite high
also functionas rehearsal. pitch,and the lastwithboth the Anglo pronun-
ciation and an authoritative intonationcontour.
Here, Leonard speakswiththreevoices,one right
afterthe other,framingthesevoices withquota-
Leonard: (a) Son semiecuerio . .. si o no. no o si. tivesin his normal Spanish pronunciationand
estees e133pregunta. si es el pitch. Channel cues here include a fictional
world, shiftsin voice quality,use ofwell-known L2
cuerios ... yesor no, no or forms: all markers of play as fun.However, other
cues suggestthe simultaneouspresenceofplayas
yes,thatis the question,yes
it's the question) rehearsal:the lack of anyaudience and the pres-
(b) entonces.. . ti vas a caminarhasta ence of a new lexicalitemalambre.38 Thus, Exam-
ples 10 and 11 could be interpretednot onlyin
luego.Adios,bombiria. (then...
to so ludic terms(as dramatizationforfun) but also as
you're going go. long.
Good bye,bombiria.)34 self-directedprivate speech for rehearsal. It
seems to us thatanalyzingLeonard's productions
In line (a) a dramaticsoliloquyparodyingfamous in Examples 10 and 11 onlyas one or the other
linesfromHamletis performed;thisdiscoursehas would missout on some veryimportantfunctions
the characteristics of playas fun.Leonard's term being performedby theseutterances.
semiecueria is not a L2 word,but appears to be a It is usefulto examinetherelationshipbetween
word coinage35and thus a creativebyproductof the type of classroom activitythe children en-
playas fun.But thereis no apparentaudience for gaged in and the occurrence of ludic language
thisperformance.In line (b), Leonard addresses playand L2 use in each of theseclassroomactivi-
the littlelightbulb as an imaginaryinterlocutor, ties. We have mentioned that over the school
which indicates language play as fun. But the year,the childrenwere taped as theyparticipated
teacher had introducedthe term bombilla(light in the studyof differentsubject areas, such as
bulb) earlier,along withtwo alternatives:bombi- science,mathematics,geography,artsand crafts,
lita (little light bulb) and bulbilla(light bulb). and creativelanguage.In creativelanguageactivi-
The lack of a real audience forlines (a) and (b), ties,the children'sschoolworkrequiredthatthey
and the similarity of the newlycreatedword bom- create fiction-poems and dramaticdialogue-
biriato the recentlyintroducednew termsbom- usingtheirL2. Creationoffictionis not the same
billa,bombillita, and bulbilla,suggestthatlines (a) as havingfun in language play,of course. Crea-
and (b) mayfunctionas rehearsalas well as fun. tionofa fictionalworldofreferenceis simplyone
In Example 11, Leonard speakswithdifferent channel cue we are using to decide whethera
pitches, accents, and intonationsin a way that piece of discourse is language play as fun. But
mightcharacterizelanguage playas fun,but the when theyare requiredto createfiction,the chil-
factthatthereis no wideraudience and thathis dren also have the opportunityto have funwith

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374 TheModernLanguageJournal85 (2001)

theirclassroomtask,if theychoose to do so, by ifwe wantto build connectionsbetweenlearners'

really enteringinto the world theycreate. We opportunitiesforludic languageplayin anygiven
should see this if additional channel cues are classroomactivityand theirwillingnessto use the
present,such as laughter and a shiftin voice L2, providingopportunitiesforL2 acquisitionin
qualityor pitchto indicaterole-playing. The chil- the process. Creativelanguage activitiesin this
dren have to use theL2 in itspoetic (Cook, 2000) Spanish immersionclassroom,which required
functionin order to complete theirassignment, thatstudentscreatefiction,providednaturalop-
withall the possibilitiesthispresentsforparody, portunitiesand supportfor ludic L2 play; they
satire,and ridicule-though it is entirelyup to permittedthe studentsto enjoyand amuse them-
the studentswhethertheytakeup thoseopportu- selves using the L2 to parody and ridicule the
nitiesforludic language playor not. assignmentwhilecarryingitout at thesame time.
In Example 12, the creativewritingactivity re- It is encouragingto identifyat least one wayin
quires thattheywritea fictitiousstoryin Spanish whichteachersmightuse learners'naturalincli-
("I knewit would be a horribledaywhen ... "). nation to engage in ludic language play in the
In thiscase, the childrendo seem to have some serviceof L2 teachingin the classroom:Theycan
fun with the activity.We see this in Leonard's provide more creativelanguage activities,espe-
laughter and use of well-knownL2 formsin a cially those involvingthe creation of fiction.
role-playeddramatization. Boner and Tarone (in press) suggestotherimpli-
cationsforL2 teachersto consider.
Leon: (a) encon-encontr,39 gracias,que no tenia LANGUAGE PLAYIN L2 ACQUISITION
pantalones.(I rea-realized,
thanks,thatI didn't have pants.) Lantolf (1997) outlinesin veryspecificterms
Girl 1: (b) si, que mi,ningunode mispares the role thatlanguage playas privatespeech may
depantalonesestabaahm, performin the process of L2 acquisition.He fo-
cuses on studiesdocumentingthe contributions
(yes,cause my,none of mypairs
of pantswere ahm) to the L2 learningof such behaviorsas subvocal
(c) hm, c6mose dice?(hm, how do rehearsal,mentallyansweringquestions,mentally
you sayit?) correctingerrorsof others,note-taking,or loudly
Leon: (d) no,que miperrocomi6los40 ... (no, rehearsingwhilestudyingalone. Lantolfsuggests
thatthe functionof thissortof language playin
mydog ate them)
(e) (later) las comio.Las41 comiOmis L2 acquisitionis to providelearnerswiththe op-
pantalones.comiotodos,todos portunityto compare their existing interlan-
(laughs) (he ate them.He ate my guage (IL) systemsto recentlyacquired linguistic
pants.He ate all, all)42 informationin an off-lineway,thatis,when they
are not under immediate pressure to perform
The childrencreate an imaginaryfictionthatis publicly.
simultaneously ridiculousand meetsthe require-
ments of the assignment.Leonard's laughterat LanguageplayinthecaseofadultL2 learners should
allowforcomparison oftheold system withthenew
"comiotodos,todos"in line (e) signals the occur- as represented
rence of ludic language play.Their storyis a par-
evidence, bywhattranspired duringa
conversation (eitherin comprehension or produc-
ody,but it is a parodywrittenin theirinterlan- tion),whilewritingorduringreadingactivity....As
guage, and so it increases theiruse of the L2. learnersbecomemoreadvanced,thepotential con-
Increaseduse of L2 should make itmore possible flictbetweentheirsystem and the targetlanguage
forL2 acquisitionto takeplace. system decreases,thereby reducingthe chancesof
The studentsdid classroomassignmentson ge- thelearnerbeingthrown intoa stateof disequilib-
ometry,grammar,arts and crafts,statistics, and rium.Consequently, theneedforadvancedlearners
creativewriting.Broner (2000, 2001) providesa to engagein languageplay,as wehavealreadyseen,
diminishesor is eliminatedaltogether. (Lantolf,
quantitativeanalysisofhowmuchL2 thechildren
used in each of these differentclassroomactivi- 1997,p. 17)
ties.She findsthattheseimmersionstudentsused Lantolfs work and the work of others,such as
theirL2 significantlymorewhenengaged in crea- Ohta (1998), provide excellent supportfor this
tivelanguage activitiessuch as thatin Example 12 of the role of rehearsalin L2 ac-
above thanwhenworkingon anyotherclassroom quisition.
subjectmatter.This is an importantobservation However,the role of language play in Cook's

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MaggieA. Bronerand ElaineE. Tarone 375

(1997) sense, ludic language play,obviouslycan- achievevarioussocial goals;forexample,a formal

not be the same.Justas it functionsdifferentlyin registermaybe needed forsituationsin whichthe
discourse,so mustitsimpacton L2 acquisitionbe learner'spowerand authority in a particularcom-
different.Tarone (2000a) pointsout thatso many munitymustbe expressed,but an informalregis-
people learn L2s withoutengaging in language ter is essentialfor situationsin which solidarity
playas funthatitis obviousthatitis not necessary mustbe expressed.Thus,ludic languageplaymay
forL2 acquisition.Someone like Marvin,forex- facilitateL2 acquisitionby enabling the learner
ample,who almostneverplayedwithlanguage in to internalizemanydifferent voices appropriate
this way,can clearlybe a successfulL2 learner. to manydifferent roles.
Nevertheless,Tarone has argued that ludic lan- Tarone (2000a) argues thatperhaps the most
guage play may be helpfulforL2 acquisitionin importantcontributionof ludic language play
severalways. with IL formsto L2 acquisition is that it may
First,language play as fun is always,by defini- fosterthe developmentof the permeable (Ad-
tion,affectivelycharged.It is,bydefinition,amus- j6mian, 1976) partsofthelearner'sinterlanguage
ing: One plays with language because it gives IL rule system.We have seen thatin ludic lan-
pleasureor some otherkindof emotionalexcite- guage play,the learner may produce utterances
ment;language playcan be competitive, and one in IL thatdo not conformto his or her own rule
can imaginethisnotjust beingamusing,but caus- system,thus stretchingit beyond its own limits.
ing an adrenalinerush.Whetheramusingor ad- Indeed, whenwe look at Examples6 and 7, we see
renaline producing,ludic language playis affec- thatthesespeakers,in theirplay,produced utter-
tivelycharged.As such,theemotionalexcitement ances thatdeliberately variedfromtheirown and
thatcomes withlanguage play maysimplymake otheraccepted languagenorms.The whole point
the L2 discoursemore noticeable,and thusmore of producingtricolaor ambral,apparently, is that
memorable,as it increases what Stevick(1976) it is creative;it is notthe norm. It departsfrom
called "depth" (pp. 41-44) of memoryfor all normal,everydayusage. We have also seen that
thingsassociatedwithaffective responses. creativewordcoinageslike bombiria and semicuerio
A second way in which semantic language occurredin language play.Such data suggestthat
play--the creation of worlds that do not ex- ludic language play can be a destabilizingforce
ist-may help L2 learnersis in helping them to thatprovidesa productiveand dynamicbalance
mastermore thanone registerof the L2 through to the stable forceof adherence to standardized
role-playand "double voicing."Language change language norms and even to fossilization.Cook
in the speaker occurs when the double-voiced (2000) makesa similarpoint,claimingthatludic
language variety,or some aspect of it, becomes language play destabilizesthe language system,
the learner's own, appropriatedto the learner's thus opening it to development. Cook and
own semanticand expressiveintentions.Here is Tarone both cite the work of Larsen-Freeman
Bakhtin's(1981) descriptionof how double voic- (1997), who conceptualizesILs as complex non-
ing maylead to acquisition: linear systemsthatalwayshave counterbalanced
forces of normalizationand destabilization.In
Language,fortheindividual consciousness,lies on
such systems,ludic language play may serve to
theborderline betweenoneselfand theother.The
wordin languageis halfsomeoneelse's.It becomes destabilizethe system, makingpossibleitsgrowth
"one'sown"onlywhenthespeakerpopulatesitwith and change.43
hisownintention, hisownaccent,whenhe appropri-
atestheword,adaptingit to his ownsemantic and SUMMARY
expressive intention.Priorto thismoment ofappro-
priation, theworddoes notexistin a neutraland We have examined two notions of language
impersonal language(it is not,afterall, out of a playand noted theirdifferences.Ludic language
dictionary thatthe speakergets his words!),but
play (Cook 1997, 2000) is used for purposes of
ratherit existsin otherpeople'smouths,in other
enjoyment,self-amusement, and fun. It includes
people's contexts,servingotherpeople's intentions:
It is fromtherethatone musttakethewordand make playwithlanguage formsand sounds and seman-
itone'sown.(Bakhtin, 1981,pp. 288-289) tic play:ridicule,and the creationof fictionand
parody,as well as double-voicing.Language play
The advanced L2 learner must masternot just as rehearsal in private speech (Lantolf, 1997)
one registeror language variety,but several:all typicallyinvolvesthe privateproduction of L2
thosevoicesor varietiesappropriateto thespeech formsforlaterpublic use; it includes talkingout
communitiesto which the learner belongs, or loud to oneself,repeatingsounds of the L2 to
wishesto belong. The learner mustuse these to oneself,having involuntarysnatches of L2 pop

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376 TheModernLanguageJournal85 (2001)
intoone's head. Althoughbothkindsoflanguage tionson the topic of language play,thoughnone
playare definedin termsof theintentionsof the of thesecolleagues can be assumed to agree with
speakers,we have shown thatthese two typesof us or be held responsibleforthepositionswe take
playcan be distinguishedin classroomdiscourse in thisarticle.
bypresenceor absence offivechannel cues: pres-
ence/absence of laughter;shiftsin voice quality
and pitch versus shiftsin loudness/whispering; NOTES
use of language formsthatare well-known versus
formsthat are new; presence/absence of a fic-
tionalworldof reference;and presence/absence 1These are pseudonyms,introducedto protectthe
anonymity of our participants.
of an audience otherthan the self. 2 An anonymousreviewerpointed out thatexamples
It is importantforus to maintaina clear distinc-
of learner utterancetypesthat lack communicativein-
tion between the two typesof language play in tentare accumulatingin recentsocioculturally-oriented
learner language in order to studytheirdistinct studies. For referenceson these studies,see Robbins
roles in the processof L2 acquisition.These two (2000).
kindsof playmayhave different roles in the pro- 3Weir (1962) was apparentlythefirstlanguage acqui-
cess of internalizingthe speech of others. We sitionresearcherto use the termlanguageplay,to refer
have seen, fromworkbyLantolf(1997) and oth- to the way infantsseem to play withnativelanguage
ers in the Vygotskyiantraditionof SLA research, sounds even when alone. Since then,othershave docu-
thatlanguage playin the sense of privatespeech mented instancesof language play in L1 acquisition
(e.g., Keenan, 1974; Garvey,1977) and L2 acquisition
appears to playa veryimportantrole in enabling
(e.g., Peck, 1978).
L2 learners to rehearse and internalize new
4 Lantolfbases his worksquarelyupon thatof Vygot-
formsin a safe manner.We have provided evi-
sky,whereasCook referssomewhatmore looselyto the
dence to support Cook's (2000) and Tarone's workof Bakhtin.Lantolfhas made Vygotsky's perspec-
(2000a) contentionthatludic language playmay tiveverywell knownin SLA research;because Bakhtin
be helpfulforSLA. has not been so well discussedin our field,we include
We urge more studies on language play. We in thisarticlea numberofdirectcitationsfromhiswork.
believe thatthe bestwayto investigatethe role of However,it mustbe stressedthatneitherVygotsky nor
BakhtindirectlystudiedL2 discourse,and theirviewson
language playin the process of L2 acquisitionis
fun and play were articulatedin other contexts.This
throughcase studies of learners interactingin
naturalsocial contextsovertime,because experi- being the case, we must recognize that Vygotsky and
Bakhtinthemselvesmighthave held different viewsof
mentalstudiesare unlikelyto capturethisinher-
fun and play than those thatseem relevantin the con-
ently spontaneous phenomenon (see Tarone, text of research on L2 discourse. In this article,we
2000b). Withlongitudinaldescriptionsof learner attemptto definethose notionsusing criteriathatcan
interactionsin natural communicativecontexts, help us workwiththemin L2 discourse,and we do not
we should be betterable to evaluate the role of claim thatthe solutionwe reach would accord exactly
both kindsof language playin L2 acquisition. withthose thateitherBakhtinor Vygotsky would have
5 Clearly,language play could serve both functions;
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS the childmightintendto havefun,but at thesame time
the play mightfurtherthe child's development.(Peck,
Earlierversionsof thispaper werepresentedat personalcommunication,May 1999)
6 This discussionof implicationsforSLA willbe nec-
a graduateseminarin Educational Linguisticsat
essarilybrief.For a detailedconsiderationof the role of
the Ontario InstituteforStudiesin Education at funlanguageplayin L2 acquisition,see Tarone (2000a).
the Universityof Torontoon November13, 1998; 7 One recentstudythatfocuseson such parodic/trav-
at a CARLA Seminarat the University of Minne- estyinglanguage forms,althoughit does not cite Bakh-
sota; at the 1999 conference of the American tin at all, is byRundquist(1990), who exploredtheway
AssociationforApplied Linguisticsin Stamford, in whichone speakerdeliberatelyfloutedGrice's max-
Connecticut;and in a lectureforthe EnglishLin- ims,apparentlyforludic purposes.Rundquistanalyzed
guisticsprogramat the University of Wisconsin, familydinner table conversationsamong nativespeak-
Madison on April 6, 1999. We are particularly ers of English,showinghow one speaker consistently
floutedGricean maximsin teasinghis children.We be-
gratefulto Dick Allwright,MartinBygate,Usman lieve manyof his commentscould be analyzed as in-
Erdosy,BillJohnston,JimLantolf,Helen Moore, stancesof language playin Cook's sense.
Tim Murphey,Sabrina Peck, MerrillSwain,Rich- 8 We are gratefulto an anonymousreviewerforpoint-
ard Young, and George Yule, and to our anony- ing thisout,in referenceto our Example5, in whichthe
mous reviewersforvaluable insightsand sugges- childreninsultone anotherusingpuns.

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MaggieA. Bronerand ElaineE. Tarone 377
9 See, forexample,Labov (1972), on "RulesforRitual larlyskilledat mixingon- and off-task
talk; Liam pro-
Insults"(pp. 297-353). vides manygood examples of ludic language play,in-
10It is interestingthat two of the examples of lan- cludingthismemorablecomment:
guage playin child SLA citedin Lantolf(1997, pp. 6-7) N: Shut up,Justcos you thinkyou'reit,butyou're
come from Peck's (1978) analysisof the interaction
not. Shut up ( ... )
betweenJoe and Angel,yetthe examples givendo not
L: I'm ... I'm It... I'm, I'm It the Clown.
seem to fitLantolf'sdefinitionoflanguageplayas much
as Cook's. They are examples of the boys havingfun And later,theyalljoke about Liam's new haircut:
interactively,imitatingone another'sspeech, engaging B: Shut up Baldilocks.
in playwithsounds,hurlinginsults,and playingridicu-
L: That's mynew nickname.(giggling)
lous roles. The boys were focused on amusing them-
selvesand one anotherwiththe language and werenot
involvedin privatespeech at all. Their behavior (as in Note thatfourofthechannelcues we recommendiden-
the "crazydaisy"routine) seems quite differentfrom tifythis discourse as language play in the fun sense:
thatof the childrenin Saville-Troike's(1988) study,also laughter,use of language formswell known by the
cited by Lantolfin thissectionof his paper,who softly speakers,creationof a fictionalworld of referenceby
repeated the teacher's or other children'sL2 expres- means of a new nickname,and performancefor an
sionsto themselves. We thinkitis valuableto distinguish audience beyondthe self.
these two typesof play and to determineempirically 24RecordedApril24, 1995.
how theyrelateto one another. 25We are gratefulto an anonymous reviewerfor
11It is less clear when the forms are new to the pointingout thispossibility.
learner; in thiscase, eitherkind of language play may 26 Because Ricolawas
originallyproduced in Switzer-
occur.Of courseone mightbe expectedto rehearsenew land, we assume the name is eitherItalianor French.
forms,but an anonymousrevieweralso pointedout that 27 Leonard's declarationis an
unusuallyclear state-
it "seemslikelythatstudentsmightplaywithlanguage mentshowinghowlanguage playcan act as a destabiliz-
formstheyhave just heard, don't knowwell, but that ing forcethatchallengeslanguage norms;such a desta-
sound funnyto them." Thus, learners mightbe able bilizingforce mighthelp to make an IL systemmore
both to rehearse and to have fun with new forms, permeable,and lead to itsdevelopment,as claimed by
whereas learners' play withwell-knownformsis more Tarone (2000a).
likelysimplyto be playforfun. 28Recorded
February13, 1995.
12Transcriptionconventionsused in this studyin- 29Esteshould be esto.
clude the following: 30Hicishould be hizo;miracomoeste(looks like
a literaltranslation, also a non-target
: lengtheningof a sound 31 Mi should be el.
[] overlappingturns;twospeakerstalkat once 32RecordedApril18, 1995.
/ approximatephonetictranscriptionof
33Esteshould be esta,and elshould be la.
34Recorded May 27, 1995.
13VARBRUL is a computerizedstatisticalprogram 35Tarone (2000a) cites Liu's (1991) study(summa-
thatprovides"a principledwayofdeterminingtheprob- rized in Tarone & Liu, 1995), in which a young L2
abilisticweighteach constraint(or factor)contributes learner'suse oflanguageplayoccurredin thosesessions
to the operationof a [linguistic]rule" (Preston,1996,p. in whichhe also produced the mostcreativewordcoin-
9). Essentiallyusing logisticregression,VARBRUL cre- ages and grammaticalconstructions. It is interestingto
ates a model showingthe degree to which a range of note that these were also the sessions in which he
variablesmay inhibitor promotethe operationof the seemed actuallyto acquire new formsfastest.
variablerule. For a detaileddescriptionof thewayVAR- 36 Leonard's pronunciationof the Spanish wordsyo
BRUL worksand for informationon obtainingMAC nois anglicized,but the quotativedijoLeonardis not.
and PC versionsofthisshareware,see Youngand Bayley, 37Recorded March 27, 1995.
1996. 38 Compare Leonard's confidentrenditionof alambre
14Recorded May 16, 1995. here withhis previousattemptat bombilla. The factthat
15Recorded May 16, 1995. he mispronouncedthe latteras /bombiria/ mightsug-
16Me gustashould be me
gustan. gest an earlier stage of acquisitionof bombilla than of
Non-targetform. alambre.Alambreis produced in a more authoritative
18 Recorded February6, 1995. voice because he has masteredthe word.The ultimate
19An anonymousreviewernoted thatmanyexamples acquisitionstage,in thissortof analysis,mightbe the
of language playin thisarticleinvolverepetition.Other case of doce,where the learnercan even create a song
researchershave discussedthe role of repetitionin in- withit.
teraction(e.g., Tannen, 1989). is a falsecognatefor"I realized";it should
39 Encontrme
20 Mispronounced,apparentlydeliberately. be Me di cuenta.
21 Recorded May 16, 1995. 40 Comi6losshould be loscomi6.
22 RecordedJanuary30, 1995. 41Las should be los.
23 In theYonge& Stables (1998) data,Liam is particu- 42 RecordedJanuary18, 1995.

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378 The Modern Language Journal 85 (2001)

43These issues are furtherdeveloped in Tarone Larsen-Freeman,D. (1997). Chaos/complexity science

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Liu, G.-q. (1991). Interactionand secondlanguageacquisi-
tion:A case studyofa Chinesechild'sacquisitionof
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