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ABSTRACT

This thesis investigates the potential of e-mail communication between EFL learners and
native speakers for the development of the learners’ speaking ability. The hypothesised
correlation between pedagogic e-mail activity and L2 spoken production takes support from
several lines of research.

First, interactionist and sociocognitive perspectives on second language acquisition may be


seen to have implications for the pedagogic exploitation of e-mail. Secondly, recent literature
on the relationship between writing and speaking, and the relative nature of orality and
literacy, throws doubt upon the distinction traditionally drawn between the two modes.
Thirdly, research into the language of e-mail communication positions it near to the oral node
of the written-oral continuum. Fourthly, studies identifying the benefits of CMC for language
learning have intimated that there may additionally be positive implications for L2 speaking
ability. While the majority of such studies have concentrated on the role of CMC in fostering
writing ability, there would appear a persuasive argument for research into its potential value
for oral competence.

The thesis includes a critical analysis of relevant literature followed by an experimental study.
The study involved the analysis of the spoken English of two groups of EFL learners: one
engaged in e-mail interaction with NSS, and a second group not engaged in e-mail activity.
Data was obtained from interviews conducted at the beginning and end of the spring 2000
semester, together with questionnaire data eliciting learners’ intuitions regarding the
usefulness e-mail interaction for their learning. The study revealed that levels of participation
among the e-mail students improved to a slightly greater degree than among the non-e-mail
students, while qualitative measures of general oral performance proved inconclusive.
Overall findings indicate that e-mail interaction with NSS can contribute to improvements in
L2 learners’ spoken language, and that larger scale studies may yield more conclusive results.