Topic continuity in informal conversations between native and non-native speakers of English

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Topic management by non-native speakers (NNSs) during informal conversations has received comparatively little attention from researchers, and receives surprisingly little attention in second language learning and teaching. This article reports on one of the topic management strategies employed by international students during informal, social interactions with native-speaker peers, exploring the process of maintaining topic continuity following temporary suspensions of topics. The concept of side sequences is employed to illustrate the nature of different types of topic suspension, as well as the process of jointly negotiating a return to the topic. Extracts from the conversations show that such sequences were not exclusively occasioned by language difficulties, and that the non-native speaker participants were able to effect successful returns to the main topic of the conversations.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-342
Number of pages22
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographic note

© 2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston. Multilingua, Volume 32, Issue 3, Pages 321–342, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI:


  • informal conversations, NS-NNS interactions, side sequences, topic management


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