Locusts, snowflakes and recasts: complexity theory and spoken interaction (2010)

Author(s): Seedhouse P

    Abstract: Complexity theory is becoming established as a conceptual framework which is relevant to many areas of applied linguistics (Larsen-Freeman and Cameron 2008) as well as to many other academic disciplines. This article examines the extent to which spoken interaction has the characteristics of a complex adaptive system. The study commences by introducing complexity theory and its importance in understanding how nonlinear systems of all kinds function. The typical characteristics of complex adaptive systems in the human and natural world are identified. L2 classroom interaction is chosen for study as an example of a variety of spoken interaction since it has certain distinctive characteristics and because a description of its architecture already exists (Seedhouse 2004). Interaction in this setting is shown to display some characteristic features of a complex adaptive system, which are illustrated through the use of classroom data. The IRF pattern is selected for particular examination as it is the best-known pattern in this setting. It is concluded that the study of spoken interaction as a system may benefit from the insights of complexity theory.

      • Date: 01-05-2010
      • Journal: Classroom Discourse
      • Volume: 1
      • Issue: 1
      • Pages: 4-24
      • Publisher: Routledge
      • Publication type: Article
      • Bibliographic status: Published

      Keywords: complexity; conversation analysis; spoken interaction


      Professor Paul Seedhouse
      Professor of Educational and Applied Linguistics