Negotiation of meaning in conversational and information gap activities: A comparative discourse analysis

Yuko Nakahama, Andrea Tyler, Leo Van Lier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)


This article reports an investigation of how meaning is negotiated in two different types of interactions between native speakers (NSs) and nonnative speakers (NNSs): a relatively unstructured conversation and a two-way information-gap task. Three NS-NNS dyads were recorded as they engaged in these two activities, and the data were examined in detail. Negotiation exchanges, lexical and syntactic complexity, and various pragmatic issues were examined and compared qualitatively and quantitatively. The results suggest that conversational interaction has the potential to offer substantial learning opportunities at multiple levels of interaction even though it offered fewer instances of repair negotiation in the traditional sense than did the information gap activity. In addition, the NNS participants stated in subsequent interviews that they found the conversational activity to be more challenging than the information-gap activity because they had to pay attention to the entire discourse in the former but mainly focused on lexical items in the latter. This study thus raises questions about claims that conversational interactions do not provide learners with as much challenging language practice as do more highly structured interactional activities, such as information gap tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-405
Number of pages29
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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