This paper reports on a two-phase study of L2 learner use of listener feedback, particularly their use of clarification questions, in NS-NNS discourse. The initial research questions of interest concerned the degree to which patterns in listener clarification questions could differentiate learners of varying proficiency, the degree to which use of clarification strategies (move types) could be explicitly taught (rather than developed alongside long-term gains in proficiency), and the extent to which strategy use influenced actual understanding of listening passages.
The first phase of the study was designed to formulate a typology of clarification questions associated with learners along a continuum of L2 proficiency. In this phase of the study, four types of clarification questions were identified through discriminant analysis as being related to language proficiency. These move types are defined as global reprise, local reprise, forward inferencing, and continuation signals.
The second phase of the study was an elicitation experiment in which learners listened to a narrative and asked clarification questions. The study examined learner use of clarification questions in two distinct presentation settings (distant, video presentation and live, one-on-one presentation) and with three types of prior training in questioning strategies (global, local, and inferential). The experiment was designed to assess the effects of these presentation settings and of the prior training on learners’ ability to ask clarification questions of the native speakers and to summarize the story that they had heard. The results of this second phase of the study indicate that prior training of learners in specific questioning strategies can exert an effect on their subsequent behavior in interactions and can influence their immediate comprehension of a text as well.