A conversation analytic study of gestures that engender repair in ESL conversational tutoring

Mi Suk Seo, Irene Koshik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reports on results of a conversation analytic study of gestures used to initiate repair in ESL conversational tutoring sessions. These gestures function in similar ways to verbal " open class" (Drew, 1997) repair initiators such as " huh?" They are unaccompanied by verbal initiations, i.e., the nonverbal behavior alone is understood to be initiating repair. One gesture consists of a sharp head turn or head tilt to the side, with continued eyegaze on the recipient, sometimes accompanied by a widening of the eyes. The other is a head poke forward, accompanied with a movement of the upper body forward toward the recipient. The gestures are used by both the native speaker (NS) tutor and the non-native speaker (NNS) tutee, and they are most often understood by the recipients to involve problems in understanding the prior talk. At least one of the gestures can also be used in a pedagogically specific way to prompt self-correction. The gestures are initiated in the turn transition space after the trouble source, and they are held through the following turn(s) of talk until the problem is resolved. This paper adds to our understanding of both conversational repair and the use of gesture in native/non-native talk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2219-2239
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Conversation analysis
  • Gesture
  • Repair
  • Second language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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