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Avoidance Strategies

Avoidance is a common communication strategy that can be broken down into several subcategories. The most common type of avoidance strategy is syntacticor lexicalavoidance within a semantic category. Consider the following conversation:

L: I lost my road.

NS: You lost your road?

L: Uh,... I lost. I lost. I got lost.

The learner avoided the lexical item road entirely, not being able to come up with the word way at that point. Phonologicalavoidance is also common, as in the case of a Japanese tennis partner of mine who avoided using the word rally (because of its phonological difficulty) and instead opted to say, simply, "hit the ball."



Illustration 2.4 - Communication strategies (adapted from Dornei)


A more direct type of avoidance is topicavoidance, in which a whole topic of conversation (say, talking about what happened yesterday if the past tense is unfamiliar) might be avoided entirely. Learners manage to devise ingenious methods of topic avoidance: changing the subject, pre­tending not to understand (a classical means for avoiding answering a ques­tion), simply not responding at all, or noticeably abandoning a message when a thought becomes too difficult to express.

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