Alignment in Applied Linguistics & Beyond

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In this presentation, I first review how the term alignment" has been used in applied linguistics. Next, I focus on uses of alignment in allied disciplines. Finally, I describe four important concepts which may overlap with alignment, but use other terms: accommodation; attunement; entrainment; and interactional synchrony"
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The term alignment has been used in various ways in applied linguistics from the beginning of the 21st century. I introduce five here: 1) Ohta's (2001) use of the term "aligning expressions" to indicate how Japanese expressions of "empathy...or concurrence" are learned and used in Japanese as a foreign language classrooms; 2) Atkinson, Churchill, Nishino, and Okada's (2007) definition of alignment as "the complex means by which human beings effect coordinated interaction, and maintain that interaction in dynamically adaptive ways;" 3) Trofimovich, Mcdonough, and Foote's (2014) use of the term to describe how "speakers tend to converge in their language use during conversation by reusing each other’s" language; and 4) Dings' (2014) use of Stivers' (2008) distinction between alignment as a structural feature in dialogic story telling versus affiliation, an affective feature.
Next, I review three major uses of the term "alignment" from disciplines allied with applied linguistics. Goffman (1981) used alignment to delineate his concepts of footing and definition of the situation--concepts that have been highly influential in the social sciences. In psycholinguistics, Garrod and Pickering (2004) framed their mechanistic model of dialogue in terms of "interactive alignment," a concept that has established itself in subsequent psycholinguistic research. Conversation analyst Stivers made a conceptual distinction between alignment, which denotes a structural feature of interaction in dialogic story-telling, versus affiliation, which describes an affective phenomenon in the same speech event.
Third and finally, I introduce four important concepts in the social and behavioral sciences which seem to overlap with alignment as described previously but don't use the exact term: accommodation; attunement; entrainment; and interactional synchrony
University of Arizona

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