Date of Award

8-6-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Michael M. Williamson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study examined the interaction between eleven pairs of adult Thai speakers and fluent English speakers over the course of an extended series of up to twelve online chat sessions. The study analyzed negotiation for meaning as well as the nature of the relationships that formed between the pairs and their effects on the Thai speakers’ perceptions about their experience participating in the Internet chat exchange program. The study implemented a triangulation approach for data analysis; data was drawn from chat scripts, interviews with both the Thai and English speakers, and reflective notes written by the Thai speakers after each chat session. The chat scripts were analyzed for (a) triggers that caused comprehension difficulties, (b) strategies used by the Thai speakers to solve communication problems, (c) expressions of target language expert and novice roles, (d) topic initiations, and (e) conversational strategies and linguistic devices used by the participants. The pairs were required to synchronously chat with each other for twelve chat sessions on open topics for at least twenty minutes at their own convenience. The findings on negotiation for meaning suggested the potential benefit of reflective note writing for morphosyntactic improvement. The morphosyntactic errors were often ignored in the original conversations because they had less effect than lexical triggers on comprehension. However, the Thai speakers reflected on their own interlanguage forms in the saved written conversations while writing their notes and tried to correct them or requested help from other sources. The Thai speakers viewed their experience from the chat exchange as an opportunity to use the L2 in a socially meaningful context and build a friendship with a person from another culture. The friendly relationship the Thai speakers developed with their English chat partners and the positive comments from the English chat partners about their English performance, helped enhance the Thai speakers’ self-confidence in using English and encouraged them to improve their L2 skills.

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