Language in Society

The interactive work of prosody in the IRF exchange: Teacher repetition in feedback moves

a1 Department of Speech Communication, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62901-6605,


This article examines the interactive import of prosody from a perspective of participants' orientation to talk in interaction, taking advantage of data from institutional discourse to focus on the prosodic packaging of recurring turn sequences of the same discourse activity. The analysis focuses on the third slot of a ubiquitous three-part classroom discourse sequence, the IRF exchange (Sinclair & Coulthard 1975), a site in which teachers make repetitive feedback moves following student responses. Examination of more than 25 hours of classroom discourse and more than 300 third-turn teacher feedback types uncovered a systematic use of prosody for these teacher repetitions that coincides with a teacher's positive assessment of the student response. Further analysis shows that more complex prosodic packaging is used by teachers in their repetitive feedback turns to index other interactive functions.

(Received July 22 2001)
(Accepted May 9 2002)

Key Words: Prosody; repetition; classroom discourse.