Liminality and disinhibition in online language learning


  • Una Mary Cunningham Dalarna University



distance universities, higher education, e-learning, CMC, liminality, disinhibition, language learning, online learning, computer mediated communication,


The aim of this paper is to bring theoretical concepts from other areas of scholarly research to bear on synchronous online education in a cross-disciplinary effort to shed light on what is going on by introducing systems of thought from other areas. The liminality and associated communitas which are found in synchronous online learning environments are examined for their possible consequences for learning in general and language learning in particular. Like computer-mediated communication, liminality has been associated with disinhibitory effects. Lack of excessive inhibition has been shown to have positive effects on second language production. The position of the online learner as “neither here nor there” or perhaps simultaneously both here and there is investigated and discussed.


Author Biography

Una Mary Cunningham, Dalarna University

Una Cunningham is an Associate Professor in the English department at Dalarna University, Sweden, from January 2011 in the Department of Language Education at Stockholm University. Her research interests are in netbased learning and teaching, especially the learning of intelligible pronunciation in English as a second or foreign language. She has published three teaching books on the use of the Internet in schools, and has developed and taught classes in the language of electronic communication. She has been involved in distance education in various capacities since 1997. Her research has mostly been in various aspects of non-native language, particularly the phonetic characteristics and sociolinguistic consequences of foreign accent. These interests are brought together in her current and forthcoming work on oral communication between non-native speakers and between native and non-native speakers in electronically mediated learning environments.



How to Cite

Cunningham, U. M. (2011). Liminality and disinhibition in online language learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(5), 27–39.



Research Articles