The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics
[ Article ]
Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 20, No. 1, pp.257-281
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Mar 2020
Received 09 Jun 2020 Revised 08 Aug 2020 Accepted 31 Aug 2020

Backchannels as a Cooperative Strategy in ELF Communications

Kanghee Lee
University of Seoul

Copyright 2020 KASELL
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study aimed to investigate how backchannels are used in ELF communication and which kinds of backchannels are frequently employed by ELF speakers. The data was based on naturally occurring ELF conversations among the international students in the UK university and analysed with the Conversation Analysis (CA) approach. The results showed that the participants frequently and actively produced backchannel responses, and the types were identified as agreement-oriented, rapport-oriented, and participation-oriented backchannels. The most frequent forms were the short response tokens as in other ELF studies, and the ELF speakers also employed echoing repetition and utterance completion, which are more active forms of backchannels to display participation and support. The findings confirmed that ELF speakers attempt to avoid silence and gap between turns by showing their participatory listenership and the understanding of the interlocutors and participate in active involvement and co-construction of turn-takings through backchannel responses.


backchannel, ELF, cooperation, involvement, listenership, rapport-building


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Lee, Kanghee, ProfessorUniversity of SeoulDivision of General English163 Soeoulsiripdaero, Dongdaemun-guSeoul, KoreaTel: 82-2-6490-5224E-mail: