learners failed to provide the correct form. Once provided, the learners were required to repeat the teachers’ reformulation. In contrast, Leeman’s (2003) Recast only contained a reformulation of the erroneous part, and was followed by the question Qué más? (What else?) to avoid learner repetition. For example:
(2) L: I think that the worm will go under the soil.
T: I think that the worm will go under the soil?
L: (no response)
T: I thought that the worm would go under the soil.
L: I thought that the worm would go under the soil. (Douhty & Varela, 2006: 124)
(3) L: En la mesa hay una taza *rojo.
“On the table there’s a *red cup.”
T: Um hmm, una taza roja. Qué más?
“Um hmm, a red cup. What else?” (Leeman, 2003: 48)
A comparison of these two examples would be enough for us to wonder whether these studies were really looking at the same thing.
Considering all the definitional differences across studies, it is no wonder they arrive at different conclusions even given the same research question. Ellis and Sheen (2006) suggested it is better to work with a very general definition of Recasts, and then subcategorize Recasts into distinct types depending on clearly distinguishable formal characteristics.
• What is a Recast?
Researchers operate with a general definition of Recasts, though with a few exceptions, they have made no attempt to investigate categories of Recasts in accordance with their differentiating characteristics (Ellis & Sheen, 2006). Lyster and Ranta (1997) simply counted Recasts, while Lyster (1998), in a further analysis of the same data, distinguished four types of Recasts. Even when researchers acknowledge that Recasts are variegated, they are likely to generalize their role in the acquisition of an L2 as if they possess a homogeneous identity.
Here are some definitions of Recasts by a number of researchers:
• Long (1996, p. 434): Recasts are utterances that rephrase a child’s utterance by changing one or more components (subject, verb, object) while still referring to its central meaning.
• Lyster and Ranta (1997, p. 46): Recasts involve the teacher’s reformulation of all or part of a learner’s utterance minus the error.
• Braidi (2002, p. 20): A response was coded as a Recast if it incorporated the content words of the immediately preceding incorrect learner utterance and also changed and corrected the utterance in some way (e.g. phonological, syntactic, morphological, or lexical).
• Long (2006): A corrective Recast may be defined as a reformulation of all or part of a learner’s immediately preceding utterance in which one or more non-targetlike (lexical, grammatical, etc.) items are replaced by the corresponding target language form(s), and where, throughout the exchange, the focus of the interlocutors is on meaning not language as an object.
• Sheen (2006): A Recast consists of the teacher’s reformulation of all or part of a learner’s utterance that contains at least one error within the context of a communicative in the classroom.
These definitions are subtly but significantly different. Neither Lyster and Ranta’s (1997) nor Braidi’s (2002) definitions made reference to the teachers’ and learners’ orientation to the discourse-that is, whether the primary focus of attention is on language as an object or on message-conveyance. Given the context in which their studies were carried out (immersion classrooms and task-based interaction), it can be assumed that the primary focus was on the message, although it would seem likely that, even in these contexts, some repair sequences occurred that were motivated by form rather than message. Indeed, their definitions of Recasts would permit the inclusion of reformulated utterances from interactions that arise in traditional, form-focused lessons.
Long’s (1996, 2006) definitions seek to exclude such form-focused reformulations. To qualify as recast, the reformulation must occur in the context of message-centered communication. There is, however, an interesting difference between the two definitions offered by Long. Long’s (1996) definition states that a Recast rephrases an erroneous learner utterance while still referring to its pivotal meaning.
In a more recent work, Long’s (2006) definition requires that throughout the exchange, the focus of interlocutors is on meaning not on language as an object. The difference is crucial and probably reflects Long’s desire to exclude reformulation that focus on the meaning of a learner utterance but are clearly didactic (from the perspective of the person doing the Recasting) rather than communicative (i.e., they do not constitute an attempt to solve a communication problem) (Ellis & Sheen, 2006).
Hauser (2005) raised a different objection regarding the way Recasts have been defined and coded. He pointed out that definitions such as Long’s (1996) make reference to Recasts that maintain the meaning of the learner’s initial utterance. He suggested this is problematic because meaning, whether viewed as propositional content or action, is not established by the learner’s initial utterance but, rather, is “open to negotiation” and “emerges through the interaction” (p. 310); he also illustrated how this takes place. He concluded that coding practices based on the idea of maintaining meaning “obscure what is happening in the interaction” (p. 310).
However, Lyster and Ranta’s (1997) and Braidi’s (2002) definitions make no mention of meaning; they are based on purely formal criteria, namely that a Recast (a) reformulates and (b) corrects a preceding learner utterance. Thus, Hauser’s critique of the coding practices of Recast studies seems misplaced.
184.108.40.206. Theoretical Value of Recast
• Based on claims that children frequently repeat their parents’ Recasts during L1 acquisition, Recasts have been promoted as an effective type of feedback;
• Some researchers hypothesize that Recasts help learners to notice the gap between interlanguage forms and target forms, thus serving as “negative evidence”: (Doughty, 2001; Long, 1996; Long & Robinson, 1998).
220.127.116.11. Practical advantages of Recast
• Recasts provide supportive scaffolding that helps learners participate in lessons when the target forms in question are beyond their current abilities.
• Recasts are ideal for facilitating the delivery of complex subject matter (Lyster, 2002).
18.104.22.168. Disadvantages of Recasts
Recasts do not lead to any self- or peer-repair: when there is repair, the student can only repeat the teacher’s reformulation;
• In L2 classrooms, many Recasts can be ambiguous and therefore do not help learners to notice their mistakes (Lyster, 1998).
22.214.171.124. Ambiguity of Recast
Recasts Compete with Non-Corrective Repetition:
Teacher: What smells so good? Allen?
Teacher: Maple sap. That’s good.
Teacher: What do we call the baby of a hen? Nicole?
Teacher: Chicks. That’s good.
Recasts Compete with Signs of Approval
Teacher: What are orders? Yes?
Student: It’s, just like uhh *you say us*, ‘do this, do that’
Teacher: Exactly, it’s when someone tells us ‘Do that, go there, eat that’.
Teacher: A hole in which a rabbit lives, Patrick?
Student: A *din*.
Teacher: A den, that’s good. (Examples taken from Lyster, n.d.)
2.2.3. Different types of Recasts
One general finding is that recasts are more effective when they are intensive (i.e. repeatedly on the same linguistic feature) and when the target features are enhanced in some way (e.g.by of emphatic stress). This is tantamount to saying that recasts work well when they become a technique for delivering planned form-focused instruction. Of greater interest are those characteristics of incidental and extensive Recasts that promote acquisition. Such Recasts constitute what is natural and normal for most language learners. Understandably, given that these cannot be investigated experimentally but, rather, require careful analysis of data collected naturalistically, there have been very few studies that have investigated Recasts in this way to date (Ellis & Sheen, 2006).
According to Ellis and Sheen (2006), there are very few studies that have investigated the relationship between different types of recasts and acquisition. “Loewen and Philp (in press) investigated the relationship between Recast characteristics and scores on tailor-made posttests. The characteristics that they examined were linguistic focus, length of recast, segmentation (i.e. whether the recast repeated all or just part of the learner’s utterance), number of changes, and complexity (i.e. whether the corrective episodes were simple or complex, involving several turns).
Of these, only the feature concerning the number of changes predicted test scores: if the Recast made only a single change, the learners were more likely to get the right answer when tested” (p. 593).
In short, while there is clear evidence that Recasts can facilitate acquisition, there is still no clear picture of when they will do so. Learner factors, the nature of the targeted features, and the characteristics of the recasts help to determine, in complex ways, when Recasts work for acquisition and when they do not. If Recasts are intensive, focused, and individualized (as has been the case in laboratory studies), they are likely to be effective, yet so are other form-focused techniques (Ellis & Sheen, 2006).
2.2.4. Claimed Implicitness of Recast
The second problem is concerned with the claimed implicitness of Recast. The prevailing view is that recasts constitute an implicit form of negative feedback. Long (2007: 76) asserted that “implicit negative feedback in the form of corrective Recasts seems particularly promising”. In Ellis et al. (2006), the implicit corrective feedback in their study takes the form of Recast. So is the case with Ammar and Spada (2006), Long et al. (1998), and so on.
However, as pointed out recently by Ellis and Sheen (2006), Recasts are not always as implicit as Long (1996, 2007) claimed. For example, it might be argued that the Recasts used in Doughty and Varela’s (1998) study [see (2)] contain clear signals ,such as repetition and stress, which made their corrective force quite explicit.
Therefore, Recasts should not be viewed as necessarily implicit, but, depending on the linguistic signals that encode them, they should be taken as being more or less implicit or explicit. In Ellis and Sheen’s (2006: 583) words, “Recasts can lie at various points on a continuum of linguistic implicitness-explicitness”. The terms “explicit Recast” and characteristics of Recast “implicit recast” are only introduced by Sheen (2006: 388) after his study of the characteristics of Recast.
2.2.5. Research Rationale
To a large extent, the solutions to the afore-mentioned problems converge. Specifically, to solve the definitional discrepancy we