English 905 : Seminar in Discursive Practice

Syllabus for Spring 2009

Mondays, 4:00 - 6:30 p.m. in 7105 Helen C. White Hall

bullet Instructor bullet Assignments
bullet Required Materials bullet Assessment and Grading
bullet Aims of the Seminar bullet Seminar Outline
bullet Readings in the Course Packet bullet Instructor's Home Page

Portrait of Professor Young Professor Richard F Young
7163 Helen C White Hall
Office hours: Mondays, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m., or by appointment

E-mail: rfyoung at wisc dot edu
Home Page: www.wisc.edu/english/rfyoung
Phone: 263-2679

Class E-mail List

Use the class e-mail list as a public bulletin board for discussions about the class.  Send your messages to english905-1-s09 at lists dot wisc dot edu.  In order for you to receive messages from the e-mail list, your e-mail address must be in the Registrar's database.  If you do not receive messages from the list, you should activate a NetID account (wisc.edu e-mail) or register an existing e-mail account.

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Required Materials

bullet Young, R. F. (2009). Discursive practice in language learning and teaching. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-1-405-18444-1.
The textbook will be available in March from Wiley-Blackwell and orders may be placed on the publisher's web site.
bullet A packet of readings is available from Bob's Copy Shop, 1401 University Avenue.


Duranti, A. (Ed.). (2001). Key terms in language and culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Call number: P35 K49 2001
Duranti, A. (Ed.). (2004). A companion to linguistic anthropology. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Call number: P35 C59 2004.

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Aims of the Seminar

This is a graduate seminar for students in the English language and linguistics program, students pursuing the Ph.D. in second language acquisition, and interested doctoral students from other departments. The topic of the seminar is discursive practice in language teaching and learning.

In the sense used in this seminar, the word practice means the construction and reflection of social realities through actions which invoke identity, ideology, belief, and power. This is a very different sense from the way the word is used in second language studies. What are the differences? First of all, practice as used in this seminar is not a term of art in second language studies and it can be applied to all human activities. Second, although practice is goal-oriented, the goal of people who participate in practice is not necessarily second language learning; in fact, participants’ orientation to some goal in a practice may not be deliberate at all, often because the goal is not available to their conscious introspection. And third, yes, the term practice does involve repetition, but what participants do in a practice is not necessarily to repeat their own performance; instead, a person may perform a practice for the first time in their life but, through direct or indirect observation, the person has knowledge of the history of a practice in their community, and it is that history that is extended in practice.

Practice, then, is performance in context. By context, I mean the network of physical, spatial, temporal, social, interactional, institutional, political, and historical circumstances in which participants do a practice. This sense derives from vigorous recent scholarship by anthropologists, philosophers, social theorists, and French poststructuralists. In this tradition, we will use the term Practice Theory as an overarching term to include work in closely related fields, including community of practice, literacy practice, social practice, and communicative practice.

Research in Practice Theory has focused on what people do in practice and we will focus on that part of what people do that involves language—discursive practice. The word discursive needs some explanation because discourse has accumulated many senses in recent years. In its original sense in applied linguistics, discourse refers to stretches of language above the level of the sentence in conversations or written texts. More recently, discourse has also taken on an extended meaning which differs from its use in applied linguistics in at least two ways. First, in the extended meaning of the word, language is not the only system of signs to be studied as discourse; other semiotic systems are included such as habits of dress, the built environment and, of course, gesture. Second, the meaning of discourse has been further extended to include societal meaning-making systems such as institutional power, social differentiation of groups, and cultural beliefs that create identities for individuals and position them in social relationships. Studying discursive practices involves paying attention not only to the production of meanings by participants as they employ in local actions the verbal, nonverbal, and interactional resources that they command, but it also requires attention to how employment of such resources reflects and creates the processes and meanings of the community in which the local action occurs.

Although the conduct of talk in local social interaction is unique and crafted by local social actors for the specific situation of its use at the moment of its uttering, it is at the same time profoundly influenced by processes that occur beyond the temporal and spatial horizon of the immediate occasion of interaction. The aim of discursive practice is to describe both the global context of action and the communicative resources that participants employ in local action. When the context of a practice is known and the configuration of communicative resources is described, the ultimate aim of Practice Theory is to explain the ways in which the global context affects the local employment of resources and vice versa.

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This is a seminar. One definition of a seminar is "A small group of advanced students in a college or graduate school engaged in original research or intensive study under the guidance of a professor who meets regularly with them to discuss their reports and findings" (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition). The word’s meaning is historically derived from a place where seeds are planted. And this is the spirit in which I plan to lead this seminar.

Facilitating seminar discussions

For ten weeks, we will study intensively discursive practice and Practice Theory. In those ten weeks, all of us should read the relevant readings assigned for each week. Each week, two or more people will be responsible for facilitating our discussion. In preparing to facilitate the discussion, you should...


Read all the assigned readings.


Read any additional readings that are necessary.


Prepare an oral presentation that summarizes and critiques for the rest of us the theoretical questions involved. If a research study is involved, you should also describe and critique the methods used in the study and its results.


Prepare examples of interactions that exemplify the topics of the readings.


Prepare discussions points that will elicit commentary on the readings from all seminar participants.


Write up your presentation as a seminar paper and hand it to me for comments and grading.

Conducting and reporting a research project

Each of you will conduct an original research project. Your project should be either (a) an in-depth analysis of one or more interactional aspects of a particular discursive practice or (b) a theoretical paper in which you investigate in depth one or more topics introduced in the seminar. You should report your research in a research paper. Your research paper should be 25-35-pages long, not including transcripts. Written proposals for papers are due by March 23. You should present your research proposals to us all on March 23, and be prepared to modify your research plan on the basis of reactions from me and your colleagues. You should give a short report on your completed or in-progress research at one of our final two meetings. Your final written research papers are due by Friday, May 15.

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Assessment and Grading

The written seminar paper is worth 25% of the final grade. I encourage you to write this papers as a group assignment. The research paper, which should normally be an individual assignment, is worth 75%.

Extra Credit. You may earn an extra 10% credit for the seminar by attending the 2009 conference of the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) held March 21-24 in Denver, Colorado. To earn the extra credit, you must show me a photocopy of your registration certificate and one-page reaction papers to each of three papers you attended at the conference.

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Seminar Outline





January 26

What is Discursive Practice?

Chapter 1 in the textbook


February 2
February 9

Foundations for the Study of Practice

Two Theories of Semiotics
Language Games and Activity Types
Context of Situation
The Ethnography of Speaking
Hymes’s SPEAKING Model
Practice Theory and Discursive Practice

Chapter 2 in the textbook

Saussure et al. (1966)
Short (2004)
Wittgenstein (1963)
Malinowski (1923)
Hymes (1974)
Block (2007)

Veronika, Jessica, & Karen

February 16
February 23

Investigating Context

Sentences and Utterances
An Applied Linguistic Perspective on Language in Context
An Ethnographic Perspective on the Context of Second Language Learning
Emotional Perspectives on the Contexts of Learning
The Local and the Global: Political Perspectives on Language in Context

Chapter 3 in the textbook

Pomerantz & Fehr (1997)
Morson & Emerson (1990)
Tarone & Liu (1995)
Toohey (1998)
Garrett & Young (2009)
Gebhard (2002/2004)

Margaret, Terry, Alice, & Betsy

March 2
March 9

Discursive Resources

Participation Framework
Systemic Functional Grammar
Interactional Resources
Nonverbal Resources

Chapter 4 in the textbook

Goffman (1979/1981)
Butt et al. (2000)
Garfinkel (1967)
Goodwin (1979)

Erin, Trina, & Alyssa

Spring student on vacation Break

March 23

Seminar participants present their research proposals

March 30
April 6

Language Learning and Discursive Practice

Language Socialization
Situated Learning
Metaphors for Learning

Chapter 5 in the textbook

Duff (1996)
Siegal (1996)
Wenger (1998)
Lave & Wenger (1991)
Sfard (1998)

Sophia, Carolina, Gabriel, & Jae

April 13
April 20

Contexts of Teaching and Testing

The Pedagogy of Practice
Practicing Speaking
Practices outside the Classroom
Concept-based Instruction
Critical Pedagogy
Power and Resistance
Contexts of Testing
Test Constructs
Critical Language Testing

Chapter 6 in the textbook

Negueruela & Lantolf (2006)
Kasper & Rose (2002)
Nelson (2004)
Canagarajah (2004)
Chalhoub-Deville (2003)
McNamara & Roever (2006)

Yang & Fatemeh

April 27

Karen, Veronika, Sophia, Gabriel, Alyssa, & Trini report on their research projects.

May 4

Carolina, Erin, Yang, Margaret, Fatemeh, & Jae report on their research projects.

May 15

Final research papers due

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Block, D. (2007). Socialising second language acquisition. In Z. Hua, P. Seedhouse, L. Wei & V. Cook (Eds.), Language learning and teaching as social inter-action (pp. 89-102). Basingstoke, UK & New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Butt, D., Fahey, R., Feez, S., Spinks, S., & Yallop, C. (2000). Using functional grammar: An explorer's guide (2nd ed.). Sydney: National Centre for English Language Teaching & Research, Macquarie University. Pages 22-40.

Canagarajah, S. (2004). Subversive identities, pedagogical safe houses, and critical learning. In B. Norton & K. Toohey (Eds.), Critical pedagogies and language learning (pp. 116-137). Cambridge, UK & New York: Cambridge University Press.

Chalhoub-Deville, M. (2003). Second language interaction: Current perspectives and future trends. Language Testing, 20(4), 369-383.

Duff, P. A. (1996). Different languages, different practices: Socialization of discourse competence in dual-language school classrooms in Hungary. In K. M. Bailey & D. Nunan (Eds.), Voices from the classroom: Qualitative research in second language education (pp. 407-733). New York and Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Pages 1-34.

Garrett, P., & Young, R. F. (2009). Theorizing affect in foreign language learning: An analysis of one learner's responses to a communicative-based Portuguese course. The Modern Language Journal, 93(2).

Gebhard, M. (2002/2004). Fast capitalism, school reform, and second language literacy practices. The Canadian Modern Language Review/La Revue canadienne des langues vivantes, 59(1), 15-52. Reprinted in The Modern Language Journal, 88(2), 245-264.

Goffman, E. (1979/1981). Footing. Semiotica, 25(1), 1-29. Reprinted in E. Goffman. Forms of talk (pp. 124-150). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Goodwin, C. (1979). The interactive construction of a sentence in natural conversation. In G. Psathas (Ed.), Everyday language: Studies in ethnomethodology (pp. 97-121). New York: Irvington Publishers distributed by Halsted Press.

Hymes, D. (1974). Foundations in sociolinguistics: An ethnographic approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Pages 45-65.

Kasper, G., & Rose, K. R. (2002). Pragmatic development in a second language. Malden, MA and Oxford, UK: Blackwell. Pages 191-235.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press. Pages 27-58.

Malinowski, B. (1923). The problem of meaning in primitive languages. In C. K. Ogden, I. A. Richards, B. Malinowski, F. G. Crookshank & J. P. Postgate (Eds.), The meaning of meaning: A study of the influence of language upon thought and of the science of symbolism (pp. 296-336). London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.

McNamara, T. F., & Roever, C. (2006). Language testing: The social dimension. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Pages 203-245.

Morson, G. S., & Emerson, C. (1990). Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a prosaics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Pages 123-145.

Negueruela, E., & Lantolf, J. P. (2006). Concept-based instruction and the acquisition of L2 Spanish. In R. A. Salaberry & B. A. Lafford (Eds.), The art of teaching Spanish: Second language acquisition from research to praxis (pp. 79-102). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Nelson, C. D. (2004). Beyond straight grammar: Using lesbian/gay themes to explore cultural meanings. In B. Norton & A. Pavlenko (Eds.), Gender and English language learners (pp. 15-28). Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Pomerantz, A., & Fehr, B. J. (1997). Conversation analysis: An approach to the study of social action as sense making practices. In T. A. van Dijk (Ed.), Discourse studies: A multidisciplinary introduction (Vol. 2: Discourse as social interaction, pp. 64-91). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Saussure, F. d., Bally, C., Sechehaye, A., Riedlinger, A., & Baskin, W. (1966). Course in general linguistics (1st McGraw-Hill paperback ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co.

Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and on the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4-13.

Short, T. L. (2004). The development of Peirce's theory of signs. In C. Misak (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Peirce (pp. 214-240). Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Siegal, M. (1996). The role of learner subjectivity in second language sociolinguistic competency: Western women learning Japanese. Applied Linguistics, 17(3), 356-382.

Tarone, E., & Liu, G.-q. (1995). Situational context, variation, and second language acquisition theory. In G. Cook & B. Seidlhofer (Eds.), Principle and practice in applied linguistics: Studies in honour of H. G. Widdowson (pp. 107-124). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Toohey, K. (1998). "Breaking them up, taking them away": ESL students in grade 1. TESOL Quarterly, 32(1), 61-84.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, UK & New York: Cambridge University Press. Pages 72-85.

Wittgenstein, L. (1963). Philosophical investigations (G. E. M. Anscombe, Trans. 2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell. Paragraphs 1-46.

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