'You' and 'I' in university seminars and spoken learner discourse

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You and I may be little words but they do a great deal. In spoken discourse they reference shared knowledge and mark stance. In pedagogical contexts, they maintain relations in teacher-student discourse. However, language classrooms may rarely explore this array of pragmatic meanings. A lack of awareness of the variety of these functions may be problematic for learners when seeking to construct interpersonal relations and operate successfully in particular spoken contexts. This paper presents a study of you and I in two spoken corpora: a corpus of English language learner task talk and a corpus of university seminar talk. Findings illustrate different patterns of I and you between the two corpora: I and you have a higher rate of occurrence in learner discourse, and pronoun repetition is more frequent in learner discourse, though it does not account for the higher rate of you and I. These findings suggest that language learner task talk displays more features tied to speech production and self-regulation and fewer features associated with attempting to point to the informational space of others, a key feature of university classroom talk. This paper concludes by outlining pedagogical applications to overcome features perceived as disfluent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-56
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of English for Academic Purposes
Early online date15 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • spoken academic discourse
  • learner discourse
  • corpus linguistics
  • English Language Education
  • ELT
  • EAP
  • English for Academic Purposes


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