Conversational Style and Early Academic Language Skills in CLIL and Non-CLIL Settings: A Multilingual Sociopragmatic Perspective

  •  Richard Nightingale    
  •  Pilar Safont    


As academic language skills develop, young learners are able to rise to the challenge of increasingly complex communication in increasingly formal settings (Snow, 2014; Uccelli et al., 2015). Studies suggest that CLIL contexts may favour the development of academic language skills (Dalton-Puffer, 2007; Nikula, 2007; Marsh, 2008; Pasqual Peña, 2010) to a greater extent than non-CLIL contexts. However, research that attempts to test this assumption has so far tended to do so from a pragmalinguistic perspective (Lorenzo & Rodríguez, 2014; Lorenzo, 2017). This paper takes a sociopragmatic approach to exploring the differences between CLIL and non-CLIL contexts regarding how they facilitate the development of early academic language skills. That is, how the communicative intentions that underlie CLIL and non-CLIL classroom discourse may help or hinder the development of such skills. The data were collected by observing classroom discourse in CLIL and EFL primary-school lessons, in Spanish-based and Catalan-based linguistic models. The method followed was to apply a taxonomy of the sociopragmatic level of academic language (Henrichs, 2010) to determine the quality of the conversational style and intersubjective cooperation found in the discourse. The results indicate that CLIL classroom discourse is characterised by the sort of conversational style that facilitates the development of academic language skills. However, in terms of intersubjective cooperation the results are somewhat inconclusive. Based on these results, the study suggests raising awareness of the role of conversational style in classroom discourse so as to boost the quality of teacher-student interactions in primary-school CLIL contexts and, thus, contribute to an identified need for continuous improvement of CLIL pedagogies and teacher training (Lorenzo, 2007; de Graaff et al., 2007).

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