AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

Finnish and Russian as lingua francas. Joint activity in conversations

by Merja Pikkarainen

Institution: University of Helsinki
Department: Department of Modern Languages, Russian language and literature
Year: 2015
Keywords: kielitieteet
Record ID: 1134166
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/144513


This study analyses the language use of non-native speakers of Finnish and non-native speakers of Russian by exploring the joint activity by two or more participants in authentic conversations. More specifically, the present focus is on word searches, collaborative productions and candidate understandings. Although these structures have been claimed to be similar phenomena, they also have different characteristics. The data of this study consist of approximately 11 hours of naturally occurring conversations in a range of everyday and institutional situations in Finnish and Russian. The methodological framework adopted for this analysis is interactional linguistics, which focusses on analysing the language use in naturally occurring interaction. Interactional linguistics can be defined as a part of linguistics that originates from different types of functional orientations (conversation analysis, functional linguistics, and anthropological linguistics). However, the main analytical tools for this study are provided by the methodology of conversation analysis. A typical collaborative production consists of a preliminary component that is produced without any specific hesitations or perturbations, and of a final component that fits syntactically, prosodically and semantically with the preliminary component. For example, a preliminary component can consist of a subject and verb combination and a final component contains a complement (in a broad sense). A typical word search can be initiated with pauses or hesitations, or with specific questions. In these cases, the co-participant is considered to be a knowledgeable partner. When comparing collaborative productions and word searches, the candidate understandings fall somewhere in the middle. Interactionally, candidate understandings are used to check the recipient s interpretation of the prior and to maintain mutual understanding. All three types of joint activity emphasize the willingness of the participants to cooperate and the fact that although the language used is foreign to all of the participants, the interaction need not be problematic. On the contrary, it would seem that since no native speakers are present, the conversations become relaxed. The data shows that the resources of these two lingua francas are utilised somewhat differently. The Finnish data consist of proportionally more searches that concentrate on grammatical issues than the Russian data. On the other hand, candidate understandings are more common in the Russian data. These differences can be due to the participants different linguistic backgrounds. The lingua franca speakers of Russian may have a more native-speaker relation to the Russian language in that they do not consider the grammatical appropriateness to be as important as the lingua franca users of Finnish. Väitöstutkimuksessa tutkitaan suomea ja venäjää sellaisissa keskustelutilanteissa, joiden osanottajat eivät ole äidinkielisiä suomen tai venäjän puhujia. Tällaista tutkimusta voidaan kutsua lingua franca -tutkimukseksi.…