Grit Liebscher, University of Waterloo
Over the past few decades, our understanding about the role of first languages (L1) in second/foreign language (L2) learning has been informed by an increasing body of research (cf. Turnbull & Dailey-O‘Cain, 2009; Daily-O’Cain & Liebscher, in print). Arguments have been made in favour of or against including or excluding first languages on the basis of cognitive, communicative, social and other approaches to understanding language learning and use (ibid.). In this context, this paper is taking a stance towards stronger consideration of identity-related approaches with regard to L1 use in the L2 classroom. The main premise of this argument is that by learning a foreign or second language, one is becoming bi- or multilingual, which allows for the construction of new subject positions on the basis of the development of one’s language repertoire, understood here as the sum of resources available to a speaker to create meaning in an interaction. These resources comprise not only the languages per se but also the interactional and discursive functions that linguistic and non-linguistic resources can afford. This includes, for example, ways in which code-switching (i.e. the alternation between languages) indexes discursive, cognitive as well as identity-related aspects (e.g. Auer, 1998). Focusing on these aspects, an analysis of interactions as discussed in this paper provides us with insights into the ways in which multilingual identity-in-interaction is a daily occurrence among multilinguals and learners in our language classrooms. It is hoped that analyses like these will lead to a better understanding of our learners as multilingual subjects and the ways in which we as teachers can create a supportive environment for this multilingual enterprise.
Theoretical approaches to identity and the L2 naming practice
In order to facilitate language learners’ adjustment to using a new language, teachers have commonly assigned language learners L2 first names instead of their given name to be used in language classrooms. These names were meant to be associated with new sounds, image –and identities–of the L2. This practice was meant as a fun way to help students with the experience of becoming someone else through another language. On the one hand, this practice may ease learners’ ways into creating new subject positions and help them try out the L2. On the other hand, the new name provides an illusion of detachment of the self as L2-speaker and an unnecessary separation of the self as L1 vs. the self as L2 speaker, i.e. an either-or: you are either English (with an English-sounding name) or you are German (with a German-sounding name). In the onion metaphor view of identity, this ignores the different layers of one and the same person. From a post-structuralist and discursive view of identity (e.g. Antaki & Widdicombe, 1998), this also ignores the ways in which identity is flexible and constructed in the interaction. Rather than exchanging one for the other, language learners can then be seen as coming to terms with new identities and shifting language repertoires.
The interactional analysis, on which this paper is based, thus adopts an approach to identity as momentarily constructed in the interaction rather than as a stable (e.g. Antaki & Widdicombe, 1998). This means that identities are constructed through discourse and everyday practice, which include the possibilities of creating identities-in-interaction or subject positions (Kramsch, 2009). At the same time, the analysis will show how individuals are trying to reconcile who they are and who they want to be by using certain discursive means in the interaction to create these subject positions. While the analysis has been inspired by and relies heavily on Kramsch’s (2009) ideas of the “multilingual subject,” it also adopts a framework of identity that is more strongly situated within interactional sociolinguistics and conversation analysis.
Within this interactional framework, positioning theory has been found to be a productive way to conceive of identity construction in the interaction (cf. Deppermann, 2013). According to this theory, positioning is the momentary indexing of affiliation to one or another identity category in the interaction (Harré & van Langenhove, 1991; van Langenhove & Harré, 1993). Such categories comprise Zimmerman’s (1998) discursive, situated and transportable identities, whereby the latter include national and ethnic identities. Positioning with regard to any of these arises out of the interaction: “One can position oneself or be positioned as e.g. powerful or powerless, confident or apologetic, dominant or submissive, definitive or tentative and so on” (Harré & van Langenhove, 1991, p. 395). The analysis presented in this paper then examines some of these ways, in which multilinguals, including learners, are positioning themselves and others in the interaction through the discursive use of their multilingual language repertoire. In order to make an argument for certain functions of this multilingual repertoire in the language classroom, in particular identity-related aspects, the next section summarizes previous discussions on the use of first languages in the classroom, including models on how to raise awareness about multilingual language use.
The role of first languages in the classroom
While the understanding of becoming bi- or multilingual when learning a foreign or second language is not a new insight, there has been a shift in recent years towards an awareness of this aspect and the role that first languages may play in L2 learning. Such shift has been initiated by e.g. Kramsch (1995) and Blyth (1995) who are conceptualizing the language learner as a budding multilingual whose model is the multilingual speaker. This contrasts with the notion of the language learner modeled on the monolingual native speaker of the L2, as criticized, for example, by Kramsch (1995) who has further pushed and developed the notion of the multilingual speaker in the L2 classroom (Kramsch, 2009, 2011). This criticism has also been reflected in the 2007 MLA report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages through the focus on “translingual and transcultural competence” and the Council of Europe’s (2001) Common European Framework of Reference for Languages’ focus on plurilingualism.
As indicated above, there has also been an increasing amount of research on the role of L1s in the language classroom as well as in other kinds of classrooms, including science and math (cf. Lin 2008 for a summary). Based on this research, the most important implications in conceiving of multilingualism in the classroom can be summarized as follows and forms the hypotheses for the analysis presented in this paper:
Acquiring or learning German (and other foreign languages) does not lead to becoming monolingual in German but to re-shaping language repertoires to position oneself according to certain contexts, situations, and discourses. Thus, the model for the German language learner is the multilingual person, not the monolingual native speaker.
This summary, and especially the notion of repertoire, help us understand the language classroom as a place where multiple languages are at work at once. Considering it anything else but a multilingual space in this sense would make it an artificial monolingual space. This view does, however, raise a number of questions: Which functions could or should first languages have in the classroom and who should (and who should not) use them? What does the use of first languages in the classroom do or imply with regard to identity construction?
Sparked by these questions, language practitioners and researchers have participated in a discussion over the last decades that has led to suggestions to address these questions, for example through proposals as to how much, when, why, and by whom first languages should be used in the classroom. Several positions have emerged over the years, which in brief are:
virtual position (named as such by Macaro, 1997): only L2 used by students and teacher
maximized position: as much L2 as possible, limit L1 use and avoid over-use (Turnbull, 2001):
optimal L1 use: positive and effective use of L1, as appropriate in different programs and contexts (Macaro, 2009; Turnbull & Dailey-O’Cain, 2009)
principleduse (Levine, 2009, 2011): making the learner aware of the functions of L1 as integral part of learning another language and of multilingual interaction
In light of the argument made in this paper, the virtual position clearly goes against the perception of a multilingual classroom. It corresponds to the perception of language learners as monolingual speakers. It is also the position that has received the most criticism within the debate on the use of L1 in the classroom (cf. Turnbull & Dailey-O’Cain, 2009). The other three positions have over the years helped to refine our understanding about the relationship between the L1 and the L2 in the classroom, though there has not been enough research to fully assess their merits and short-comings. One of the goals of this paper then is to contribute to a better understanding and an evaluation of these positions through the analysis of interactions inside and outside of the classroom.
Corpora and method
The following analysis is based on two different corpora: the first is the so-called German-Canadian corpus and the second is comprised by a variety of data with German language learners. The first corpus is based on interviews with German-Canadian bilinguals. It was created between 2007 and 2009 as part of a larger project on language, identity and space by myself and my colleague Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain from the University of Alberta. For this corpus, several individuals living in Canada answered a call for participation in interviews with German-speaking immigrants and their descendants in Canada. The interviews were conducted by a different German-English bilingual graduate student assistant in Waterloo, Ontario, and in Edmonton, Alberta. This corpus, which is not a classroom learner corpus, has been included in the discussion in this paper to show and argue that identity-related functions of language use are prevalent among multilinguals on a regular basis. This includes code-switching, i.e. the systematic switch between two or more languages within one interaction or utterance, which is not a weakness but typical for multilingual speakers (Li, 2000) and has been found to fulfill different functions, among others, contextual/ situational and metaphorical (Gumperz, 1982), communicative and discursive (Auer, 1995), and identity-related functions (Fuller, 2007). These latter functions include the discursive positioning of what kind of language speaker or user I am, a question that is equally addressed in the analysis of the second corpus.
This second corpus is based on intermediate and advanced German-as-a-foreign language classrooms in Canada. More specifically, one set of data has been published in Tiemer (2004) and was collected by her. The other set of data was collected by Dailey-O’Cain and comes from an advanced classroom that also had a focus on Applied Linguistics.
For the analysis, excerpts from these data are chosen in which the use of first languages plays a role in the construction of identities and the creation of subject positions. Most importantly, speakers in all examples make use of their multilingual repertoire through code-switching, in some instances accompanied by metalinguistic comments. The analysis focuses on the role of code-switching as well as these comments for the ongoing interaction and in their effect for positioning. As indicated earlier, it is based on the framework of interactional sociolinguistics (e.g. Gumperz, 1964) that examines the turn-by-turn construction of meaning in the interaction.
5.1 Examples from outside the classroom
The analysis part starts with examples from the German-Canadian corpus. The interviewee in the first excerpt from this corpus is Nino, a second-generation German-Canadian who was born in Canada to German-speaking parents, and who now lives in Canada with his German-speaking wife. In the excerpt, he responds to the German-English bilingual interviewer’s question asking how much German he still has nowadays by telling the interviewer about a trip to Germany.
01 Nino: when we visit with our german friends in germany.
02 everybody speaks german and i just, (.)
03 if it's something sehreinfach, then I'll say it or else say t- to my wife
04 okay this is what I wanna ask and then we work back and forth.
In this largely English speech, the switch into German in line 3 indexes on a meta-discursive level what Nino is saying: he is able to say things in German if they are easy. We understand this switch as intentional and as supporting the speaker’s message, i.e. as a clever way to take advantage of the language repertoire. In terms of the identity-related function of this switch, Nino positions himself as someone whose command of German is limited but who is trying whenever possible to speak German, or at least to insert German phrases into his English, as in this case. In this sense, while the switch has communicative and discursive functions, it also has an identity-related function. Through this seamless switching from English into German and back, i.e. without hesitation, pauses or stumbling, he positions himself as a fluent bilingual, the more so as his German pronunciation has no trace of an English accent.
The second excerpt is from an interview with Peter, who was born in Germany and had lived in Canada for about 10 years at the time of the interview. He is talking to the interviewer about his life in Canada.
08 Peter: im zuge von german days hatten wer das mal gemacht
09 Int: hmm.
10 Peter: und son bisschen (.) ehm (.) tschuldigung. (..) eh nich unbedingt (.) eh reg
11 - also (.) reguLÄR [also wie heißt s- schön nochma also.
12 Int: [ja. ja. nicht regelmäßig?
13 Peter: regelmäßiggenau
At first sight, it is obvious that Peter uses more German than Nino in excerpt 1 but Peter also seamlessly switches to English in line 8, when he inserts the cultural borrowing “german days”. This positions him as a German speaker in Canada who is comfortable in both languages. In his following turn starting in line 10, however, Peter stumbles over the German word “regelmäßig,” which he cannot immediately recall (line 11), and seems to be mixing it up with the English “regularly”. He finishes his turn in line 11 by asking the interviewer what the word is that he is looking for. In doing so, he positions her as a greater authority on the German language than he himself is. The interviewer in line 12 then provides the more typical German word, "regelmäßig," but she does it as a question, preceding it with “nicht” and using question intonation. She is therefore accepting the authority Peter is granting to her by virtue of his positioning, but only reluctantly. In line 13, Peter then acknowledges that this is the word he was looking for. His subject position thus emerges as that of someone who is forgetting his German and has to relearn it. Whether this is a momentary forgetting or something that happens on a regular basis is not clear, but he certainly draws attention to it which indexes a certain pride in losing his German. He does, in fact, later on in the interview comment that he sees himself as someone who is forgetting his German. In this excerpt and the interview at large, he clearly marks himself as an attriter (someone losing one’s L1) through his identity-related language use. Thus, he positions himself as someone who is becoming more English-speaking and less German-dominant. In fact, his language use and the metalinguistic comments in excerpt 2 allow him to construct himself in terms of who he is and how he wants others to see him. It allows him the subject position of a migrant, and also of a language re-learner, as was evident when he appealed to the authority of the interviewer in this excerpt.
5.2 Examples from inside the language classroom
Research on multilingual interactions inside the classroom over the past few years has presented us with several insights about the functions of L1 (e.g. Antón&DiCamilla, 1998; Lantolf, 2000; Swain &Lapkin, 2000). It has also been found that students and teachers use code-switching that approximates functions outside the classroom (Dailey-O'Cain&Liebscher, 2009; Liebscher& Dailey-O'Cain, 2004, 2007), including those discussed in the previous section. However, the use of L1 in the classroom can clearly also function to support learning and, most importantly for this discussion, help construct subject positions.
Code-switching in the classroom can look like in the following excerpt that is reprinted from Liebscher and Dailey-O’Cain (2004). It is from the advanced German as a foreign language classroom with a focus on applied linguistics at a large Canadian university. The teacher explicitly allowed German and English but uses German 90% of the time herself. The student in the excerpt (S2) is explaining receptive learning.
01 S2: man (.) muß nur (.) die formen (.) recognize? (.) wie man (.)
02 erkennt und verstehen aber nicht (.) selbst (.) produce it (.)
The student here seems to use code-switching into English to ease her way into German, especially since the English word precedes the German equivalent in both cases. This kind of use can be seen as a cognitive crutch (Zentella 1997) or a kind of self-scaffolding (Behrend, Rosengren, &Perlmutter, 1992). Lüdi (2003, p. 176) suggests that these kinds of code-switches into the L1 are used to avoid communication breakdown and to allow the student to continue holding the floor. Beyond these functions, the switch can also be seen as the student juggling her identities, and easing her way into becoming a multilingual speaker through making use of her full repertoire. As with Peter in the excerpt above, sounding out words is central in the pursuits to expand the language repertoire, and to position oneself as a multilingual speaker. In the excerpt, S2 is making all the efforts of pronouncing the German words, even though providing the German equivalents of the English terms does not add anything communicatively to her message. Rather, she draws on her English L1as a resource to move into new German-speaking subject positions.
Excerpt 4 below, taken from Liebscher& Dailey-O’Cain (2004), is from the same advanced German classroom as excerpt 3. The student’s code-switch enforces the construction of her subject position as a Canadian student writing English essays within the Canadian cultural context.
01 TR: im englischunterricht (. .) wenn sie (.) aufsätze schreiben
02 lernen (.) gibt es besondere regeln dafür?
03 oder kann man einfach schreiben wie man will
04 S3: regeln
05 TR: was für regeln
06 (2 sec)
07 S3: äh die struktur? des aufsatzes? muß man (..)
08 you know your introduction
09 your thesis statement the last sentence of the introduction (..)
10 and whatever else then
11 TR: okay? (.) also die struktur eines aufsatzes muß (.) besonders sein
The student’s code-switch into English in line 8 coincides with her description of the rules of English essay writing. These cultural experiences are connected to language here: the rules about writing an essay are from within the student experience as a Canadian student. This experience is then described in English in its connection to the Canadian context. Thus, the student positions herself as a Canadian student. In line 11, the teacher’s use of “okay” serves to acknowledge not only the content of what S3 said but also this subject position. However, the subject position is then partially challenged through the summary (as indicated through “also”), in which the teacher very generously, rather than specifically, summarizes the student’s previous turn. It is noteworthy that the teacher does not attempt a word-by-word translation, thus recognizing the specifics of essay writing in the Canadian context, and therefore not challenging the subject position the student is taking in formulating this experience in English. However, by using German for this summary, the teacher returns to the language learning enterprise of the classroom and helps the students ease into new subject positions that allow them to talk in German about experiences from their English-speaking world.
The next two excerpts come from the communicatively-oriented intermediate level German language classroom, in which English as L1 during class discussions was explicitly laid out as permitted in the course's syllabus. I am reusing this excerpt from Tiemer (2004) but provide my own analysis.The excerpt is from a partner activity in the classroom, were the students were asked to prepare a job interview role-play. The task at hand is for students to assign each other the roles of employer(s) and employee(s).
01 S7: ich auch? (.) und dann du bist die:-
02 S8: chef?
03 S7: ab- (.) arbeit(.)nehmer? (.) arbeitgeber?
04 S8: ar[beitgeber
05 S9: [arbeitgeber
07 S9: yeah ((laughter)) i know that’s so confusing
After a negotiation in German around the appropriate term to use for employer, which involves all three students, S9 switches to English for an aside in line 7, commenting on the difficulty of differentiating between the two German words 'Arbeitnehmer' (employee) and 'Arbeitgeber' (employer). In this comment, stepping outside of the role-play-preparation task momentarily, S9 addresses their struggle with words, expressing empathy with their difficulty in finding the right terminology. In using English, he highlights their subject positions as struggling language learners by resorting to the common L1, i.e. the language they are most familiar with and which may be seen here as the language of the in-group or the we-code (Gumperz, 1982). Using this language, rather than the L2, strengthens in-group ties and makes S9 speak with empathy from the perspective of them all as second language learners, thus allowing them to construct the subject positions they may need in order to have a positive learning experience.
The next excerpt below is from the same data corpus (Tiemer, 2004) but from the advanced German language classroom. It is similar to the previous excerpt in that a switch into English functions as an aside, stepping out of a language dialogue practice. The switch into English also helps to construct group identities as well as individual subject positions.
01 S3: wo arbeitest du?
02 S4: u:h icharbeite (.) bei [name of restaurant]
03 S3: o:^h! (.) [^REAlly?
04 S4: [yeah yeah
With the switch to English in line 3, S3 steps outside the current dialogue practice performed in German, emotionally expressing surprise and recognition after S4 named a particular restaurant in her dialogue part. In addition, her switch to English indicates a change in positioning, in the relationship to each other, evoking a different kind of identity than the one performing the dialogue in German. The positionings indexed in lines 1 and 2 are those of language learners rehearsing a dialogue in their L2. In contrast, in line 3, S3 shifts the subject position away from the dialogue practice in German. She appeals to their life outside of this practice by initiating a frame shift or different footing through the code-switch (Goffman 1974). This change in subject position also includes an increased interest in S4’s life through the surprise marker (“oh”) and the additional stress and intonation on “really”.
From a discursive point of view, the switch to English invokes a non-classroom positioning. Arguably, doing this through German may not have been possible to these students for proficiency reasons. However, using German may also not have created the same subject position from which to talk about genuine matters that lie outside the L2 classroom. While it seems disappointing from the perspective of the language teacher that students here have to “resort” to their L1, it is very plausible from the identity-related perspective of language use: students may index non-classroom contexts through their first language and make connections with their peers.
“Only German, please!” – this is a request likely heard and used (myself no exception) with all good intentions: we want our language learners to become better in German and we want to help them by encouraging them to use the L2. As we know, from a communicative as well as a cognitive point of view, using the foreign language will help with acquisition – there is no doubt about that. However, restricting this use to only the foreign language with the exclusion of the entire language repertoire may be artificial and limiting in several respects, including communicatively, cognitively, and identity-wise. More importantly, as argued in this paper, positioning plays an important role in how languages as repertoires are used inside and outside the classroom.
The discussion in the paper tried to give a glimpse into the multilingual German classroom and how it is affected by issues of identity and subject positioning. Considering the classroom as a multilingual space certainly means acknowledging and critically evaluating the functions of the first language(s), especially in ways in which they construct subject positions for both students and teachers.
From the discussion of the excerpts, it is clear that individuals, including language learners as well as other multilinguals, employ their language repertoire for certain purposes and functions. Positioning as a way to construct identities in interaction was seen to play a central role. These identities encompassed a fluent bilingual, language attriter, struggling but motivated language learner, role player, compassionate learner, and empathetic peer. In all cases, individuals used their multilingual language repertoire to index these identities, which is different from how a monolingual language user would be able to index them. The re-shaping of the language repertoire of these multilingual speakers has been evident in several ways: in one case the perception of attrition, i.e. losing the language, in others the gain of becoming multilingual.
The analysis presented above has shown that the L1 can be a useful and necessary tool in this process of becoming multilingual. It has also shown where the enterprise of becoming multilingual, i.e. practicing and using L2, may be lacking, namely due to the separation of identities as tied to one separate linguistic world vs. another – as in the L2 naming practice discussed at the beginning of this paper. This practice suggests that languages are associated with separate identities that come with different names for one and the same person, which makes it difficult for language learners to see their languages as repertoires within a unified whole. If we want to treat our students of languages as aspiring multilinguals, we need to communicate this unison through uses of their language repertoires that make sense to them. The naming practice, however, suggests to split this use into classroom use (‘speak German while you are German with a German name’) vs. out-of-classroom use (‘speak your first language while you are “yourself” with your original name’). One of the side effects is, arguably, that students may not use the L2 outside the classroom, since they do not see the name – and the new language, as part of this outside world.
In the excerpts discussed in this paper, this split was seen where the world of essay writing or the world of peer relations was the English-speaking world, and the world of role play was the German-speaking world, which corresponds to the split between in-class and out-of-class frames or between classroom and non-classroom identities. Getting over this split seems to be one of the most prevalent tasks for language learners and teachers to do in order to pave the road to multilingual identities. This concurs with Levine’s (2011) suggestion to minimize the distinction between we-code (L1) and they-code (L2). This suggestion means to make the they-code one’s own rather than associating it with the imagined, and, in fact, never to reach “Other”, the monolingual native speaker. Part of this process needs to be an increased awareness about code-switching in quite the natural ways in which bilinguals outside the classroom use it, as suggested through teaching a series of workshops in Levine (2011).
Of the four positions of L1 use discussed at the beginning of this paper, Levine’s principleduse seems to be the most productive. However, as a result of the discussion in this paper, an alternative to these four positions can be suggested as a rethinking of L1 and L2 use, not in terms of programs and activities, but in terms of situated subject positions. In order to ease students into their new multilingualism, they need to practice new subject positions in the L2 that they have commonly associated with L1 use. Thus, a continued investment of the class community in using the L2 is needed to increase the language repertoire, and to create affordances to try out new subject positions in the L2, ideally inside as well as outside of the classroom. Arguably, the reason why immersion contexts such as study abroad work so well for language acquisition is not merely the potential quantitative increase of L2 but the increased possibilities for new subject positions to be created in the L2. Ultimately, it is the subject positions that students have to learn to create anew with expanding their language repertoires through the learning of an L2. The teacher’s role in this process is one of tutor, of role model, and of designer of situations that help with the expansion of the language repertoire to help multilinguals to evolve. More research on this process and analyses of classroom interaction will help us gain further insights into this process to which this paper hopefully made a modest contribution.
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 This paper is based on a keynote I presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Teachers of German (CATG) in February 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, with the original title “StiefschwesterErstspracheoder Das Glück der Mehrsprachigkeit”. The conference had the special theme Multilingualism and German as a foreign language (Mehrsprachigkeit und Deutsch alsFremdsprache). I would like to thank the participants at this conference for their valuable feedback and comments during our discussions. My thanks also go to the anonymous reviewers of a first version of this paper for suggestions for revisions, which I have incorporated to the best of my abilities.
 Commonly, second language learning refers to context where the language is a local, often second official language, e.g. French or English in Canada. Foreign language is used with reference to contexts where this is not the case, e.g. German in Canada. More recently, L2 learning has been used to capture both contexts, especially when the distinction is not particularly relevant, as in my case, which is why I will use L2 through the rest of this article.
 The notion of the repertoire was developed by the sociolinguist John Gumperz (1960, 1964) to refer to the overall (linguistic) resources available to a person to construct meaning. From the perspective of the repertoire, all languages available to a person are considered resources for communicative purposes and to index certain meanings. For a most recent discussion of repertoire, see Busch (2012).
 Readers are no doubt also familiar with the peach metaphor. Both these metaphors are based on a modernist, essentialist view of identity as a true self with a stable inner core.
 Acquiring a first or additional language is associated with out-of-classroom experiences, while learning a language usually refers to formal instruction.
 For a more elaborate summary of this discussion than the one presented in this article, please see Levine (2011).
 For more information about this corpus, see e.g. Liebscher and Dailey-O'Cain (2013). We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for supporting this research with a grant for the project 'German identity in urban Canada: A qualitative and quantitative study of language and discourse' (SSHRC#410-07-2202).
 For earlier analyses o these corpora, please see e.g. Liebscher& Dailey-O'Cain (2004 and 2007).
 All excerpts are transcribed based on a simplified version of the standard transcription guidelines commonly used in conversation analysis as developd by Selting, Auer, Barth-Weingarten, Bergmann, Birkner, et al. (2009). These guidelines use standards that differ from regular orthography such as no capitalization except for stress marking. In several of the excerpts, words are bolded for emphasis.
 For an earlier analysis of this and the following excerpt, please see Liebscher (2013) and Liebscher& Dailey-O'Cain (2007).