Grammatical structures and oral fluency in immediate task repetition: Trigrams across repeated performances

Nel De Jong, Philip Tillman

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In this study we examine to what extent words and grammatical structures are re-used when a speaking task is repeated with the same content (i.e., specific task repetition). We examine this re-use, which has been argued to support proceduralization and fluency development (N. de Jong & Perfetti, 2011), under both constant and increasing time pressure, and we investigate the correlation between re-use and fluency. The analyses are performed not only on individual words but also on trigrams, which are sequences of three words (e.g., the red car; here: lexical trigrams) or three parts of speech (e.g., det adj noun: POS trigrams), to capture grammatical structure. Thirty-nine adult ESL speakers completed repeated retellings of one to three picture stories. One group followed the 4/3/2 procedure (Nation, 1989), which involves three iterations with gradually increasing time pressure; for the other group the available time was constant. The extent of re-use of words and grammatical structures across task iterations was calculated using cosine similarity with tf-idf weighting (Manning, Raghavan, & Schütze, 2008), which adjusts for the frequency of words or trigrams, both within an iteration and across iterations and speakers. It was found that immediate task repetition had a strong effect on re-use at the level of individual words and trigrams, but increasing time pressure did not. The relationship between re-use and fluency was variable, but showed higher re-use for speakers struggling with fluency. We conclude that, if fluency development is to be stimulated by re-use of words and grammatical structures, it can be done with specific task repetition, whether under increasing time pressure or not.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLearning language through task repetition
EditorsM. Bygate
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9789027263780
ISBN (Print)9789027201133, 9789027201140
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2018

Publication series

NameTask-Based Language Teaching
PublisherJohn Benjamins


We would like to thank Martin Bygate and an anonymous reviewer for their insightful comments on this article. We are also grateful to Laura Halderman, Jon-Michel Seman, and Mary Lou Vercelotti for the dedication and effort they put into collecting and annotating the data. This work was supported in part by the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center, which was funded by the National Science Foundation award number SBE-0836012.

FundersFunder number
National Science FoundationSBE-0836012


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