Embodied Uses of Electronic Bilingual Dictionaries

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Eric Hauser, University of Electro-Communications and University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Electronic bilingual dictionaries are widely used among university students in East Asia. There is a small body of research, based on questionnaires or experiments or both, on their use and effectiveness, but with one exception, research has not been focussed on the details of actual dictionary use. Drawing on conversation analysis, the current study presents analyses of students’ embodied use of electronic dictionaries during second language English discussions. It is shown that (a) the layout of items on the screen is a resource for recognition, (b) there is an orientation to dictionary ownership, (c) the configuration of objects and bodies is consequential for how dictionaries are used, (d) manipulation of a dictionary can be interactionally significant, and (e) there is not a strong normative element to how dictionaries should be consulted. It is argued that dictionaries are used to accomplish a variety of objectives unlikely to be revealed through questionnaire or experimental research.