Oral fluency and the repeated use of grammatical structures in immediate task repetition: Trigrams across deliveries

C.A.M. de Jong (Speaker)

Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


Immediate task repetition has been shown to support oral fluency in second language learners (e.g., Ahmadian & Tavakoli, 2011; De Jong & Perfetti, 2011; Nation, 1989). De Jong & Perfetti also showed that a training consisting of three immediate task repetition sessions resulted in increased fluency on a posttest. They argued that proceduralization of linguistic knowledge had taken place, resulting in lower demands posed on the formulator stage of the speech production processes (Levelt, 1999; Skehan, 2009). The effect of task repetition could not directly be attributed to repeated use of vocabulary items, since few words were shared between training tasks and the posttest task. Instead, it was suggested the effect may be grammatical. The present study examines whether immediate task repetition indeed elicits repeated use of grammatical structures. It does so by analyzing trigrams, which are sequences of either three words (lexical trigrams, e.g., the blue car) or three parts of speech (POS; e.g., det adj n), and are often used to analyze formulaicity (Simpson-Vlach & Ellis, 2010) or second language usage (Lauttamus et al., 2007; McCarthy et al., 2009). In addition, the study examines the effect of time pressure on the amount of repeated use.

32 adult high-intermediate ESL learners narrated a six-panel picture story three times at intervals of only a few minutes. Two groups were given different amounts of time to narrate their stories: one group was given 2.25 minutes for each delivery (constant time), whereas the other group was given progressively less time: 3, 2.25, and 1.5 minutes (decreasing time); this last condition is similar to the 4/3/2 procedure used by De Jong & Perfetti. Both lexical and POS trigrams were extracted from the transcripts.

Preliminary analyses show that immediate task repetition elicited a considerable amount of repeated use of trigrams across deliveries. On average 27 POS trigrams (e.g., det adj n) and 14 lexical trigrams (e.g., the blue car) were repeated across all three deliveries. In addition, 38 POS trigrams and 39 lexical trigrams were repeated across two out of three deliveries. As a result, on the third delivery about 30% of the POS trigrams was used for the third time, and about 21% of lexical trigrams.

Interestingly, the numbers of twice- and thrice-repeated trigrams was similar under constant and decreasing time conditions. This indicates speakers did not rely on recently used word combinations or grammatical structures specifically to cope with time pressure demands. Rather, repeated use seems to be a general effect or strategy in immediate task repetition. Additional analyses will show whether trigram repetition rates correlate with oral fluency measures. A future study will examine the effect of task repetition by comparing a condition of immediate task repetition with a non-repeating condition.
Period31 Aug 2013
Event titleEurosla 23
Event typeLecture