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Volume 19 Number 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 740-1140   

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How Advanced-level Japanese EFL Learners Manage Disagreements in Group Discussions

    David Shimamoto

During spoken discourse, disagreements and agreements take on discrete turn structures based on preference. A common assumption is that agreement is sought after, while disagreement is to be avoided. This stems from the fact that disagreements are a sign of conflict and, therefore, are deemed to be face-threatening. This study employs conversation analysis to examine how disagreement unfolds during small group discussions among advanced-level language learners at an English-medium university in Japan. It was found that at the turn-level, interactants drew on an abundance of mitigation tactics and positioned them strategically within their turns. An examination of extended sequences of turns revealed that learners could successfully engage in oppositional talk to satisfy both the transactional and interpersonal goals of the task. A pattern emerged in which discussions led off with uncertainty, but through the careful management of disagreement, participants were able to co-construct knowledge. The group interaction presented in this paper evidences the ways in which sociopragmatic competence can influence the quality of cooperative, task-based language learning.

Keywords: disagreement, conversation analysis, task-based learning, group discussion, advanced-level language learners