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Exchanging Missing Information in Tasks: Old and New Interpretations

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Abstract

Information gap tasks have played a key role in applied linguistics (Pica, 2005). For example, extensive research has been conducted using information gap tasks to elicit second language data. Yet, despite their prominent role in research and pedagogy, there is still much to be investigated with regard to what information gap tasks offer research on second language learning and use. Do both participants in information gap tasks have the same participatory responsibilities and rights? How are these responsibilities and rights managed and co-constructed? This article answers these questions by investigating the issue of information distribution and the interactional roles that manifest during the completion of information gap tasks. Using conversation analysis, the findings show how information gap tasks create specific interactional roles that result in specific interactional constraints. For example, the task design characteristic of exchanging referential information forms the basis of a two-part interaction sequence, where the recipient of missing information is predisposed to expose problematic utterances. It is then argued that these findings can be used to improve the design and implementation of tasks for both pedagogical and empirical purposes.

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