The title of őLanguage Teaching‚ is given to the educational activity that is intended to produce verbal facility in a language as well as a measure of written literacy. Since first language learning is already at the facility stage by the time an individual goes to an official educa–tional institution, the attempt to produce verbal facility in a language is thus attempted only in the case of a second language (or beyond). Hence őlanguage teaching‚ ordinarily involves ősecond language teaching‚. The teaching of reading and writing is carried on at both the first language and second language stages in the education of the child. In a unilingual curriculum, the teaching of written literacy comes early in the first language and only subsequently in the second; in a bicultural curriculum literacy is taught in both languages right from the start.


The attempt to teach is known as pedagogy and the medium of instruction may be referred to as the instructional register. Language teaching may thus be represented as a pedagogic effort to produce verbal fluency and literacy through the medium of the instructional register. This stands in sharp contrast to the acquisition by a child of verbal fluency in the home; in the latter case, the őlanguage learning‚ does NOT take place within the context of the instructional register. Rather, learning to talk is a natural outcome of the existing sociali–zation process: it need not be őtaught‚.


The educational history of second language teaching in North America since 1950 includes Modem Language Teaching (MLA) or Foreign Language Teaching (FL) and Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (EFL, ESL, TESOL, TOEFL). The ideal goal of these programs at the primary, secondary, and college phases is known as őthe attainment of liberated expression‚. It has been the general experience of language teachers, as echoed in professional settings,


0165-4055/79/0006-OOO5$2.OO Int. J. Psycholing. 6-4 [16]: pp. 5-22

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that liberated expression in conversation and in writing is NOT attained by the average student: only a small minority of őspecialists‚ (students with high talent, high intelligence and high interest) appear to reach that goal (James, 1970).


Of course, it is recognized that language study may be useful even if the individual does NOT attain verbal facility and literacy. Partial knowledge of a second language may be useful, as in reading with a dictionary, or as a preparation for additional study later. Granting the usefulness of language study that does NOT produce verbal fluency and literacy, we may nevertheless inquire into the possibility of a different approach altogether to language teaching, substituting the notion of teaching talk to őlanguage teaching‚.




To begin with, may we assume for a moment the position of a very naive examiner, and pose the following startling question: Where is őLanguage‚? This question is of course not unfamiliar to linguists and psycholinguists in North America. A few years ago, Noam Chomsky startled us, and many of our colleagues in psycholinguistics, by proclaiming that őLinguistics is a branch of Cognitive Psychology‚ (1964, Preface). The study of syntax, cognitive psychology, and Neurophysiological were thus seen as interrelated. In that perspective, a generative transformational rule is a cognitive response, which is put together by neuronal constructions in the cortex of the brain. The contemporary American attitude of a close relationship seen between linguistics, psychology, and neurology originates from the work of Russian and Polish physiologists Bekhterev, Pavlov, Vygot–sky, Luria, Konorski, and others (see Mowrer, 1976). As a result, psycholinguistics in North America was originally an outcome of the study of abnormal verbal behavior: speech hesitations, stuttering, asphasiaųthe study of which gave rise to the Illinois Test of Psycho–linguistic Abilities, an instrument known as ITPA and now widely used in many parts of the world for diagnosing speech development problems (Taraskevopoulos and Kirk, 1969). őCommunication theory‚ was one of the original outcomes of this approach to language (see Osgood and Sebeok, 1954); it subsequently expanded into several disciplines including psychology, psychiatry, aesthetics, and language teaching, where it was known as the Audiolingual Method or Approach. In linguistics, communication theory and cognitive psychology have joined forces as a socio-politically oriented discipline called Sociolinguistics (language planning, government policy, socioeconomic markers in speech, etc.). In anthropology, the pro–fession in the United States is experiencing a vigorous expansion into the community, finding new and socially salient settings for applying anthropological techniques of study and innovation: in education (known as őCAE‚---Committee on Anthropology and Education, Washington, D.C.), in community services, in business enterprises, in government (e.g. the National Historical Survey).


In all of this, the naive observer may see a ritual whereby some mythical notion, capitalized and dubbed őLanguage‚, is treated as in the legendary story of the Emperor‚s New Clothes, as an occasion for acting AS IF it were real, really there. But where? If we look in the brain, we find only őpatterns of Neurophysiological activity‚. If we look in the Dictionary, we find only parts of words, words, defi–nitions, and reports about previous usage. If we look at this printed page, we find lines, paragraphs, and another page next to this one. If we‚re talking, we‚re exchanging transactions and coordinating our rhythm of muscular activity with the other participants. But where is Language?


Is it any wonder, then, that language teaching is such an elusive problem? Are we not fortunate that we‚re not dependent on pedagogy for developing the ability to talk? It has been proposed that second language learning is more difficult than learning how to talk in a natural setting and that is why it is so difficult to teach it with success. Could it not be that language teaching is difficult because language is being taught rather than talk?




The distinction between language and talk is of a different sort than the familiar one of language and speech. The latter, usually attributed to French linguist de Saussure, involves the contrast /SYSTEM/ vs. /PROCESS/, which in turn implies contrastive issues such as /struc–tural descriptions! (of static forms, e.g. ősyntactic theories‚) vs. /statistical or collocational distributions! (of various properties of utterances, e.g. in sociolinguistics and in psycholinguistics). The other distinction, that between language and talk involves the contrast /HYPOTHETICAL CONSTRUCTS/vs./NOTICEABLES ABOUT EX–CHANGES!. In the case of language, we imply such hypothetical constructs (in the brain??) as syntax, transformation, center embedding, deletion rule, underlying structure, etc. In the case of talk, we imply such noticeable about exchanges (in social settings, during transactional episodes) as who began the exchange and how the par–ticipants coordinated each other‚s behaviors in order to achieve the performance we know as talking or being a talker in a social exchange. The contrast /SPEECH/vs./TALK/ involves the distinction /CON–TEXTUALIZED RESPONSE/vs./TRANSACTIONAL EXCHANGE!  In the treatment of records of speech by Sociolinguists, psycho-linguists, anthropologists, and language teachers, the focus is usually on features of a person‚s speech that are lifted from a known frame or context (i.e. de-contextualized); then, holding the frame constant, or varying it in systematic fashion, the investigator records instances of the isolated speech unit over a varying and known context (e.g. social class or physical locale). The results are usually stated in terms of empirically observed co-occurrences between such isolated speech units, or responses, and features of the social setting identified and isolated by a similar methodology (see Cook-Gumperz and Gumperz, 1976).


In contrast to this, the study of records of talk viewed as situa–tionally delimited social episodes yields an ethnomethodological paradigm (see Garfinkel 1967; Sacks 1969; Sudnow 1972; Goffman, 1971). The focus is on identifying the noticeables about transactional exchanges; that is, identifying those features of the behavior of the participants that the participants themselves notice and keep track of. These accounting practices can be catalogued: they represent the őnorms‚ and őordinary expectations‚ of talk on the ődaily round‚ųthe round of places an individual visits in the course of acculturated existence (physical, social, and psychic).


To summarize the argument, we can say that the teaching of talk contrasts with language teaching in two primary ways; one is that the unit of talk is the exchange, while the unit of language is the sentence; the other is that all features of talk are noticeables, while features of language are either noticeables (e.g. bound morphemes and concord) OR abstract underlying ones (e.g. transformations and null elements). It would be expected that an approach to teaching verbal fluency in say, English, which views the pedagogic unit as noticeables about exchanges of talk, would be more successful than one which picks its pedagogic unit as őthe sentence‚, őthe utterance‚, or őthe underlying structural pattern‚. This expectation follows rationally from the observation that talkers learn to talk by being exposed to community practices during talking exchanges. These practices are dependent upon the visibility of the cues that allow participants to coordinate their turn taking and their topicalizing work. They do not depend on hypothetical constructs and underlying structures. They must be noticeables, by definition, as well as by the laws of common sense and practicality. In this view, the pedagogic effort of teaching talk would thus involve bringing the noticeables to the student, i.e. exposing the student to social situations in which he is being treated as a talker or social participant rather than as a learner or inadequate social participant.


We doubt that children would be so quickly socialized if it depen–ded on teaching, i.e. their being treated as learners. Instead, as we all know, children get treated as participants, not as trainees, though we compensate and adjust for their immature performances in the same way that we make adjustments in our treatment of foreigners in contrast to regulars of the community. Individuals learn to talk by being treated as talkers (Slama-Cazacu, 1977) i.e. by allowing the situation and the exchange to count fully as an actual exchange rather than a simulated one (as in training or practicing artificial exchanges). Actual exchanges of talk differ from simulated versions in that, in actual talk, the participants count each others‚ moves as spontaneous, i.e. taken as a sign of relationship between the partici–pants; whereas in simulated talk, the moves of the participants count as role performance or as play acting: e.g. in a classroom, the student‚s move in a practice exchange counts only as his performance as a student who is practicing, not as an individual with an identity acting on his own behalf, i.e. NOT in relationship. This is why all sorts of overlay activity can be noticed during such practicing‚s of simulated exchanges: embarrassment, giggles, hesitations, interrup–tions, rehearsals, repetitions, corrections, flood outs, etc. It is difficult to imagine that under such conditions it is possible for the student to pick up on the ordinary cues of actual talking exchanges, those that spring spontaneously from involvement in relationship.


It should be noted that spontaneous talk designates talk that is occasioned through relationship as its situational frame. It should not be confused with őfluency‚ or őnaturalness‚ in speech. A child of two or three talks spontaneously in involving exchanges with adults; yet the child may hesitate and stutter and use all sorts of apparently őun-natural‚ constructions. Similarly, the adult who is in a foreign community is treated with all due regard to his status as a talker or participant even if he hesitates, stumbles, and is partly incomprehensible and uncomprehending. Neither the child nor the foreigner would learn to talk if we altered the conditions and treated them as learners:  for in that case we would deprive them of relationship, and hence, of the noticeable cues that cause involvement, and evoke talk spon–taneously. So too, in the classroom, by treating students as talkers in relationship with one another and the teacher, an actual social situation is set up and talking develops.


At one time we believed that because the classroom is a restricted setting, it was handicapping to try to talk in such a setting. Quite naturally, we looked for programs of enriching the environment (Arons, Gordon and Stewart, 1969; Gordon, 1962). At this point we realize that the necessary and sufficient condition for developing talk is the occurrence of spontaneous exchanges in relationship. The surrounding environment or frame of these exchanges, whether physical or instructional or topical, separately or all three of them combined, are not relevant for the development of talk per se; the latter may, however, be of importance for other considerations (social, political, ritual, etc.). This argument is supported by the observation that children at home and adult foreigners in our com–munity, all appear to develop talking normally, irrespective of observable systematic variations in physical setting, social milieu, and presumably, topical content. This stands in sharp contrast with the expectation of a difference in learning attributed to method, content and style of presentation in the kind of language teaching that involves syntactic hypothetical constructs and hypotheses about cognitive processes in the mind (Gordon, 1962).




We would like to take up three specific issues for whose awareness we are indebted to the workshop participants of our 1973 JACET (Japanese Association of College English TeachersųHajioji, Japan) seminar on transactional engineering for teachers of English in Japan (James and Gordon, 1978). The three concerns may be phrased from the point of view of the language teachers:


a.  Not many of us know enough English to talk spontaneously with our students.


b.  In Japanese schools, teacher-pupil relationship is formal and does not naturally permit abundant free conversation; also, there is only one teacher for a dozen or two-dozen pupils (if not more), and only a few minutes or hours a week available.


c.   Students are required to pass designated tests and examinations; these are competitive and affect the individual‚s career; if we are to spend a lot of time in the class talking freely, there would be no time for adequately preparing the students for these exami–nations.


These three concerns appear to involve:


a.    assumptions about what is spontaneous talk,

b.    techniques for engineering abundant talking exchanges in the classroom, and

c.    techniques for coaching students on how to do well in language tests.


4A. Spontaneous talk


Systematic observation of one‚s social episodes on the daily round reveals to the observer the nature of spontaneous talk. One would note, for instance, that in all natural social situations in the community, we treat each other as full-fledged participants: we have the right to move, to talk, to make requests of others, to deny requests of us, and so on. These privileges are virtual, and they are connected to one' s socio-legal identity or place in some memberships (e.g. family, nation, neighborhood, experience, etc.). This place of occupation (i.e. a place being occupied by a person) is the sine qua non condition for relationship. Only if an individual is given a recognized position in a social situationųi.e. the objectified individual is now treated as a subjectified personųcan that individual behave spontaneously. Spontaneity of action requires a pre-determined frame: that is, if a bounded frame governs the limits of conduct, the individual can act freely and unchecked within the open space made available by the closed frame.


In the classroom, the teacher might be concerned about the official characteristics of the talk that takes place there, i.e. correctness, intelligibility, timing, and content. Spontaneous talk is not controlled or restricted by such official standards: it is driven, quite literally, by the involvements, emotions, and feelings of the participants. Since immediate involvements take priority over distant ones, the imme–diate concerns in an actual social interaction involves its successful resolution: what does the other person want me to do? What am I to do now? How do I get out of this? How do I get there? Etc. These are the immediate issues that confront the participants in an actual exchange; the individual must engineer his way out of a social spot in which he was just put by another participant (e.g., through a question, an allusion, a display, etc.). This ritualizing is the very basis of spontaneous talk; it is the ethno-dynamics of being a socialized participant; it creates involvement, which is a hook up between the person‚s orientation or focus and his imaginings, i.e. what he believes, knows, and figures about some event, state, or situation.


Understanding the nature of spontaneity in talk liberates the language teacher from restrictive and constrictive compunctions about their own talk with students.


4B. Transactional engineering in the classroom


This is a technical and applied mode of approach to socially occa–sioned problems. Its basic orientation is a persistent focus on frames, i.e. structural set-ups (hence the interest in blueprints, diagrams, models, notations systems, etc.). The term őbehavioral engineering‚ is associated, in North America, with ősocial‚ engineering proposals of psychologist B. F. Skinner (1957, 1938, 1972), who is also known as őthe father of programmed instruction‚ (Skinner, 1968). Trans–action is a common word used in business settings to refer to ex–changes that have a socio-legal status. Educator John Dewey, (1896) known as őthe father of Pragmatism and Functionalism‚ in American education, argued for switching the focus from inter-action to trans–action in recognition of the permeating function of the community environment, i.e. the non-existence of an activity, state of mind or feeling, that is not standardized and catalogued in the practices of the community.


Transactional exchanges are setting occasioned, i.e. the person ordinarily finds himself spontaneously responding. This shows that the setting for the exchange governs the participants‚ involvements; i.e. the particular ways an individual conducts himself in a talking episode (his role type: what he says to what) is governed by the spontaneous involvements the setting occasions. Transactional engineering is a term we use (see James and Gordon, 1974) to designate the systematic concern of a participant in issues about the frames of a particular transactional exchange. In the case of the language teacher, transactional engineering designates the orientation towards teaching talk through strategic manipulation of the frames for particular exchanges (see James and Gordon, 1976ų77, 1978, 1979). The diagram below illustrates this framing approach:


We picture here four embedded frames. Firstly, the socio-cultural frame: it encompasses the classroom exchanges in the specific sense that it sets conditions that affect the transactions there. Examples



include concerns about tests, exams, careers, and attitude toward the usefulness of study, school protocol, and so on. Secondly, the classroom frame encompasses the specific range of activities allowable or possible in such a setting, such as it is. Examples include the teacherųpupil relationship, the instructional curriculum, and the presence of Para-professional aides (to be discussed shortly). Thirdly, the frame of involvements and imaginings, which encompasses the particular exchanges or events: each participant to an exchange has his own personal and subjective view. Though these subjective views are unpredictable on any one particular occasion, nevertheless the pool of alternatives is defined and catalogued in the practices of the community (see ődisplay repertoire‚ in James and Gordon, 1979; 1975ų79). For this reason, we refer to these spontaneous involvements as standardized imaginings. The fourth frame is the transactionalist frame of exchanges, social happenings, and relation–ship events: it encompasses the objectified features of experience.


      It would be tempting to designate the inner box by some such term as őexperience‚. However, the frame approach does not permit a resting point: every designated focusųevery őit‚ųmust have a frame, which relates it to other components. We are inclined therefore to leave the box empty. It is a literal reminder that the technique of teaching talk lies in the art of not teaching language! With the increasing magnification of solid objects we get a cumulative break–down of solidity: first as a breakdown in crystallized and rigid structures (as in melting or dissolving); second, as a breakdown in molecular compounds into distinct atomic and sub-atomic particles; third as a breakdown of distinctness of form into the pure arrangement of patterns, collectivities, and potentialities (e.g. Quantum and Relativity Theories of Space, Matter, and Energy). With the increasing magnification of the frame approach, the content of teaching homes in on the vanishing point, the empty box, or nothing. That attitude is the ideal one, as can be attested by the method of merely witnessing recommended in the Scriptures of Buddha. If we be allowed to put it this way without appearing irreverent to some, we may recommend the chant that we ourselves have used for many years in our profes–sional work language teachers: whatever observation, fact, or state of affairs comes to mind and topic, we add to őit‚ the affir–mation ő... and that is not what I‚m teaching; And that is not what they are learning‚. Instead, that gets added to a frame, and the box of what‚s being taught is left unfilled. To add a notion to a frame means that it is treated as a manipulable: whatever is in the box is outside the reach of manipulation, outside control, outside or inside framing, hence not a pedagogical issue. Therefore, nothing must be left therein!


In response to the concern that one teacher cannot provide abundant occasions for talk in the classroom for many of the pupils, we recommend framing this issue by referring to it as őthe use of paraprofessionals in the classroom‚. These are made up of teacher aides, advanced students, visitors, and diadic arrangement of pupils being assigned specific tasks. The creation or engineering of social occasions for talk is accomplished through engaging the participant‚s involvement. The teacher has many available techniques, as provided by the sociocultural and classroom frames; namely: initiate exchanges, create happenings, make declarations and announcements, make requests and assignments, group individuals and direct them to work on a particular activity, invite visitors and volunteers, and so on. In other words, the teacher is in a position to create the hustle and bustle of the classroom social and interactive milieu. It is through these exchanges and engineered happenings that the teacher controls the talk in the classroom: not necessarily its topical content, nor its particular formative features that a trained orientation in grammar may focus on; but instead, it is through engineering the social direct–ives that the teacher thus comes to control the CONTEXT for emerging talk.

4C. Test taking sophistication


The need to coach students in test taking is actual throughout the academic spectrum. Disciplines of knowledge have their own register, thus necessitating a separative approach in education and industry, as may be witnessed by the proliferation of programs for students and trainees in our society today. The function of tests in education, industry, guidance, counseling, and therapy is unitary: test taking practices occasion standardization in training and in on-the-job per–formances. Tests are used by teachers in selecting content. Students prepare for tests, hence the content of their study and practice may be managed. Guidance counselors and therapists use tests to inform their clients of their relative standing in particular normative groups (or őmodels‚); hence their attitudes, self-values, and beliefs may be affected. To understand tests, therefore, we need an Ethnodynamics perspective rather than a psychodynamic one. The őde–ficiency model‚ of tests in education and mental health practices today, de-contextualizes the socio-cultural milieu implied by the term őtransactional exchange‚; that is, a persistent interactional orientation focuses upon the subjective and isolates it, raising it to saliency and prominence. Tests should not be personalized, in our opinion. Instead, tests should be inventories of cataloguing practices in a target community. Tests are genuinely an engineering product of the information industry. That industry has given us libraries, encyclopedias, textbooks, manuals, and computerized abstracting services, as well as surveys and tests.


Language teachers are familiar with the diagnostic and assessment uses of tests. They use test sequences as a pedagogic instrument to guide acquisition of carefully sequenced materials and exercises. Today in the United States, children are coached in test taking starting with pre-school programs in nurseries, on public television, and in instructional-type books for children. As a result of all of this societal emphasis on testing practices, the student in the language course has available an extensive educational service for acquiring the information needed for test taking. In this case, the language teacher‚s role should be that of a coach: the student must be cajoled or persuaded to avail himself of these services: lesson materials, exercises, tapes, films, reports, projects, etc.ųin short, the whole paraphernalia of a modern, adequately equipped audio-lingual language laboratory. A program of regular őtests‚ should be provided for practice purposes. The student should be provided with an atmosphere of service for his information gathering attempts about the abstracted knowledge of a language. In this manner, test-taking sophistication is made to be a matter of individual responsibility. It may even be that the study of a language through this information gathering approach may be in harmony with the ongoing emergence of talk. But the two tasks are not inherently related. Learning to talk is to acquire standardized procedures for performing present–ations in transactional exchanges. This can be achieved only through practice of presentations in actual exchanges. Simulated or play-acting exchanges within a classroom frame cannot succeed in hooking up the individual‚s already available capacity to talk, to new, target practices.


In summary, we recommend that language teachers persuade their students to study the informational features of language largely on their own and to request that the school and the community support this stand since the matter concerns the community. In doing this, the teacher frees his time in the classroom for occasions to engineer social transactions, and insures thereby the development of talk through the art of not teaching language.




We have already traced, in what we wrote above, the series of paradigm distinctions between such contrastive pairs as talk vs. language, transaction vs. interaction, exchange vs. action, situated display vs. response, coach vs. counselor, ethno dynamic vs. psychodynamic, etc. In each instance, the first element of the pair implies a relocation of focus in the philosophy of the language teacher. In this final section, we would like to discuss an additional contrastive pair that belongs to the same series in this őNewer Key‚ in language teaching. The additional pair is that of /PRESENTATION/vs./EXPRESSION/, and is of central significance to the all-important issue of literacy.


Given such qualifications of literacy as are implied in the ex–pressions őfunctional illiteracy‚ and őlow level literacy‚, it is necessary to look at what we imply in this notion. Literacy in its widest sense designates the various functions of published and anecdotal records of talk. We recognize two modalities of literacy: oral and written. The view that literacy implies only the written modality of reading and writing is a specialized usage in education, though it has now been widely adopted in the contemporary world of newspapers. Oral literacy is now gearing itself to make a full comeback in the United States of America under the aegis of Black American Ethnicity.


Old age is characterized in the popular view by both wisdom and senility: the first implies a distillation of cultural knowledge; in the second, one sees rambling anecdotes (see őanecdotage‚ in the diction–ary). Anecdotes, when not used exclusively in the sense of őenter–taining stories‚ designates őlittle known facts of history and bio–graphy‚, as well as an őaccount of some happening‚ (Webster‚s New World Dictionary). Cultural transmission of tradition is essentially an oral literacy maintained through the presentation of anecdotes in transactional exchanges. Since the Guttenberg Revolution, printing out-classed the oral modality and, /published/ now came to contrast with /un-published/ i.e. anecdotal [an = not, ec-dotal = published, given out].


The socio-cultural function of literacy, whether oral or written, is to standardize references to experience. To refer, in the context of the daily round of a person, involves the transactional engineering of a presentation; that is, in each instance where a person has the occasion of referring to an experience, it always involves some episode of talk, either with another person or with oneself. Referring always occurs as a segment of talk, and therefore, implicates a trans–actional exchange in one or another modality.


Literacy standardizes the referring procedures or rituals for making accounts, reporting, and describing. These are presentational features of references to experience: they are catalogued in the practices of the community and are visible to individuals in the forms of style and variation. Stylistic variations in the presentational features of reference to experience is known as topic or topicalizing. Whether in legend or in imagination, topicalizing units of presentation provide the medium for personal or experiential reference. We use the term topic nominal to designate the smallest noticeable unit of present–ations.


Presentation units are framed topic nominal; that is, a trans–actional exchange frames the presentation of a description or report. Literacy involves being familiar with presentation units found in usage in the community: how individuals report their experiences and observations. Literacy is thus the primary tool of standardization:  it delimits interpretations, classifies noticeables, and catalogues the known. It is the ground for standardized imaginings, i.e. what allows us to agree in common sense on suppositions and expectations.


őSituational knowledge‚, őbackground understandings‚, őcultural premises‚, őethnic characteristics‚, and őcross-cultural differences and similarities‚ are additional references to the available modalities in presentation within socio-culturally framed transactional exchanges.


The subject matter of literacy as an academic or educational concern thus involves an ethno dynamic perspective rather than psychodynamic. The latter orientation is better suited for assimilation programs, whereas the former concerns socialization issues. Compo–sitional devices (e.g. writing őtools‚) are abstract (legendary) hypo–thetical constructs and mark group membership within a community. They are surface polish or show rather than inner feeling. They are instruments of assimilation to a particular normative (i.e. socio–political) view, and that is more a matter of conformity than stan–dardization. Standardization is neutral concerning the selection of alternative norms; it represents the objectified catalogue of all possible norms in the community.


Thus, the standardization of display repertoireųi.e. the available topic nominal for referring to personal experience and observationsų has the essential function of occasioning ethnic consciousness. This is effectively accomplished through oral and written literacy: shared customs, views, rituals, legends, and imaginings. To refer, is a constant activity on a person‚s daily round; it involves formulating a present–ation in the context of a transactional exchange. To refer, therefore, is not primarily an activity of őexpressing one‚s ideas or feelings‚, but of executing a presentation within a standardized frame for reporting and describing. Presentation units are transactional, bound to exchanges, and derive from ethno dynamic forces operational in the community. Expression units, on the other hand, are psycho–logical, unbound or decontextualized (őtools‚), and derive from psychodynamic forces operational as normative traits of a person‚s conduct.


Presentations are framed topic nominal constructions that a person displays spontaneously through involvement in some setting features: we talk, we think, we display, we edit, we show. These engineering procedures yield the visible products of literacy: echoing within oneself traditional sentiments bound to social occasions. Imagining, topicalizing, listening, talking, writing, reading, annotating, and commentingųthese are some of the modalities of literacy. Writing and reading are standardized presentation channels for edited topic nominal and őgiven out‚ or published in familiar units (books, letters, posters, catalogues, directories, annotations, encyclopedias, instruc–tion booklets or labels, recipes, magazines, diaries, name cards, maps, glossaries, schedules, want-ads, signs, etc., to mention familiar ones on the daily round).


In education, today, oral literacy is a recognized concern in language arts programs involving the student‚s first language. It is often dis–cussed under such topics as őcommunicative ability‚, őcreative expres–sion‚, and őstory telling‚ (Moffet, 1968). In second language teaching, literacy has a different place in the two modalities. Concern for oral literacy is found under the notions of liberated expression, verbal fluency, and communicative ability. As well, oral literacy is seen as composed of discrete skills which can be taught separately and tested for knowledge: hence, the practice of testing achievement and assessing performance. Of course, as we all know, these tests of őoral ability‚ and őcommunicative competence‚ are far from adequate in giving us a reliable estimate of an individual‚s conduct in actual exchanges of talk.


Written literacy in second language teaching is similarly conceived as composed of discrete skills in reading and in writing. Compositional skills are taught in the most ingenious ways through de-contextualizes exercises that require the student to play-act his presentations about his experiences (thoughts, ideas, feelings). The results of such efforts, however, are fairly modest given that they bring about a polished conformity rather than authentic or truthful representations of personal and subjective experience. The latter achievement is the objectified presentation of the subjective through the standardized procedures or rituals of accounting in talk; that is, the individual on the daily round uses the available topic nominal he can construct to refer to his experience: a display or show, a nod, an assertion, a predication, an argument, an explanation, a paragraph, a note, letter, book, play, story, or dream. These are the catalogued units of known modes of making presentations that an individual has available at his disposal from the pool of practices in the community.




1. This article was written in 1977. Requests for reprints and comments should go to the authors, do Transactional Engineering Corporation, 107 Kailuana Place, Kailua, Hawaii, USA, 96734.


2. We discovered this in an English version of the őBuddhists‚ Bible‚ found in a drawer in a Kiyoto Hotel in 1973, while guests of the Japanese Association of College English Teachers, JACET.


3. A few years ago, one of us (James, 1970) wrote a book summarizing the series of elements in the second position of these contrastive pairs: there, the őNew Key‚ of audiolingualism corresponds to the old paradigm in this discussion a decade later.


4. A recent nationally broadcast television program in the USA was noted by newspapers as having had the largest audience in history ų over one hundred million viewers. The film was called Roots and was the dramatized story of writer anthropologist Alex Haley‚s biographical investigations on the African birthplace of his ancestral family, and hence, symbolically implicative of the families of all Black Americans. The most striking feature of this new popular interest is the new look it opens up towards oral literacy. See also the Oral history review ų a new journal which also indicates the resurgence of interest in the oral modality of literacy among academicians and educators.


5. See our Notes on Ethnosemantics, in James and Gordon, 1975-79. We borrow the term partially from Aristotelian logic; the minimal presentation is an /argument/ which is made up of a [topic nominal + a topic complement].




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Received:       July 1979

Department of Psychology

University of Hawaii







őLanguage‚ is an abstraction engendered by the concrete and visible antecedents in talk. Talking turns are abstracted into ősentences‚ (or őutterances‚), contextual–ized reference to personal experience is abstracted into őtopic‚, and making a transactional move within a relationship channel is abstracted into őspeech act‚. As a result of these abstractions, the teaching of language has been employing such abstract pedagogical concepts as ősequence of content lessons‚, őimagined situations and role acting‚s‚, őlevel of achievement based on summative tests‚, őfluency and naturalness of speech based on a form of scale rating‚, and many others. The results of this abstracted approach to language teaching have remained quite modest, as is generally accepted.


The alternative approach, which attempts to concretize the learning‚s, focuses in its pedagogy on the frame of spontaneous talk. Talk is spontaneously occas–ioned when participants relate to one another in any social situation. To teach talk concretely there must be present: relationship, a social setting, a social circum–stance, frame-control, presentation or display channels and units, and several others, as detailed in the paper and other references by the authors cited in the article.