South African business-news interview talk : its typicality and implications for materials design in the domain of ESP
Brokensha, Susan Iris
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Drew and Heritage (1992) have focused attention on the influential role Conversation Analysis (CA) has played in the study of interaction in institutional settings. One such setting is the news interview, and a number of researchers (e.g. Clayman, 1991; Heritage and Greatbatch, 1991; Greatbatch, 1992) have noted that interviewers (IRs) regularly adhere to the institutionalised language practices that govern the management of topical agendas within the news interview turn-taking system. In this research study, the researcher postulates that the findings of CA studies of news interview talk may be used by language practitioners in the domain of ESP (English for Specific Purposes) to generate meta-communicative and communicative teaching materials for prospective South African news IRs in the field of business. In order to achieve this applied linguistic aim, the role of the IR in managing news interview talk is described in terms of Clayman's (1991) study of news interview openings as well as within the framework of Heritage and Greatbatch's (1991) analysis of news interview talk. Aspects of Clayman's (1992) study of the strategies IRs employ to maintain a neutralistic stance are also included in the description of the IR's role. The researcher posits that, if the generality of the discourse findings of these CA analysts are verified in an analysis of South African news interview talk, the analysis may be regarded as a target-centred needs analysis (Cf. Jordan, 1997: 25). That is, the analysis specifies the areas of knowledge and skills prospective news IRs need to function effectively in the news interview situation. To establish generality, the principles of qualitative research are adhered to in this study. That is, in a preliminary analysis, a corpus of South African business-news interview talk is scrutinised to determine whether the discourse patterns in it replicate those identified by the CA analysts. An exhaustive analysis of the full corpus of lingual data is then made, and finally, the researcher collects and recycles through the data in order to validate the findings (Seliger and Shohamy, 1989: 121-124). This CA study shows that the patterns of discourse reflected in South African business-news interviews replicate those identified by Clayman (1991; 1992) and Heritage and Greatbatch (1991). Based on the analysis, ESP activities that conform to Van Lier's (1996) Awareness, Authenticity and Autonomy curriculum model are designed for prospective news IRs. Next, one of the activities is implemented in the language classroom and a criticalreflective analysis is made of the activity in order to determine whether it simulates South African news interview discourse. The analysis shows that cycles of critical reflection cannot be omitted by language practitioners if they wish to cross-validate the authenticity and credibility of their teaching materials. Finally, future areas of research are considered. An important justification for this research study is that a review of the literature has revealed that most studies of professional contexts are unrelated to the teaching of ESP (Cf. Gunnarsson, Linell and Nordberg, 1997). Moreover, as this study aims to demonstrate, the discourse features characteristic of the activities devised in the materials design phase reflect most of the specific outcomes of OBE (outcomes-based education).