Interaction: Activity 4

Co-construction in making inferences

In the Comparison Task, the learners are asked to find differences between two pictures of houses and make inferences about who lives in each house, their social class, and what the differences in houses say about American culture. Watch the episode below as Jiulin and AnnaLi co-construct the inferences they make together about the economic status of people living in one of the two houses. How do they scaffold each other’s efforts to give evidence for their inferences?

Comparison: Jiulin and AnnaLi

Transcript (PDF)

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Both learners are engaged in finding evidence for the economic status of people living in the house. In lines 1-3, they co-construct the statement that if the house has a car, it means the occupants must have money. In line 4, Jiulin qualifies this conclusion and cites some facts suggesting they might not have a large amount of money (the size of the house and proximity of the neighbors). In lines 5-10, they repeat each other’s sentence components, like “近 (close)”, “车 (car)”, “老 (old)”, and incorporate them into their own utterances, together forming the statement that the car is an older model or used, which they think would not be the case if the family had a large amount of money. The use of “老 (old)” by AnnaLi in line 7 is ambiguous to native speakers and it is unclear what she meant to express using “老 (old)”, be it old in model or used. Interestingly, however, Jiulin seems to understand and agrees with her repeating the part ““很老 (very old)”. In lines 9-12, they add their inferences that the car is also neither fast nor pretty, adding support for their inference that the family has only a modest amount of money. In uttering these words in overlap with each other, they collaborate in inferring that the family living in the house is only moderately well off and justifying the inference by alternating in their observations in a co-construction of meaning.


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