The academic discourse socialization of international lawyers at a U.S. law school
Baffy, Marta L.
As increasing numbers of international students pursue graduate degrees in the U.S., universities have developed English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programs and individual courses to foster and accelerate these students’ sociolinguistic development. In this study, I report on an EAP class designed for international lawyers enrolled in a Master of Laws (LL.M.) program at a law school located in the U.S. Using an inductive, data-driven approach grounded in the ethnography of communication (Hymes 1972), I identify and describe various linguistic phenomena which are involved in the students’ language socialization (Schieffelin and Ochs 1986) into the U.S. legal academic community.I draw on the analytic tools of interactional sociolinguistics (Gumperz 1982) to explore how course participants contribute to the process of acculturation through their interactions during key classroom events. First, I examine how professors and students discursively construct a specialized “Legal English” class by laminating the interactive frames (Bateson 1972; Goffman 1986; Tannen and Wallat 1993) of “law class” and “ESL class.” I show that frame layering helps to organize the students’ learning experience in a way that promotes their initiation into legal academia in the U.S. Second, I investigate how two salient features of one professor’s classroom talk—repeated mentions of the characters “writer” and “reader” and constructed dialogue (Tannen 1989) or reported speech—work to support the students’ socialization into written academic discourse. Third, I compare how two students facilitate whole-class discussions and use culturally appropriate communicative practices, particularly in the “feedback” turn of the Initiation-Response-Feedback (Sinclair and Coulthard 1975) sequence of classroom talk. Relying on written comments from professors and other students’ immediate actions and participation in the discussions, I show that the student performing a greater number and variety of actions in the feedback slot orchestrates a more successful discussion.I consider how the analyses of classroom interactions presented in this dissertation may inform pedagogy in this course and similarly situated classes, and contribute to the language socialization, classroom discourse, and EAP literature. I conclude by suggesting future directions for linguistic research within the growing number of EAP courses and academic support programs for international LL.M. students.
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